10 Great Directors and the Composers They Couldn’t Live Without

The Criterion Collection’s must-have box set of the month is The Essential Jacques Demy, but that title may not be entirely accurate — it’s also, in many ways, the Essential Michel Legrand, since all but one of the set’s six films (the weakest one, natch) were made by the French filmmaker in partnership with musical legend Legrand. And Demy and Legrand’s frequent collaborations are far from unusual; throughout Hollywood’s history, distinctive filmmakers have paired with composers who were well matched to their style, and been loathe to work without them. Here are a few of cinema’s most memorable director/composer partnerships:

Jacques Demy and Michel Legrand

Total films: 10
Most memorable collaborations: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg; The Young Girls of Rochefort; Lola

One of the joys of the Criterion Demy box is watching the Demy/Legrand partnership evolve, from incidental music and a song or two in Lola to the operetta-style Umbrellas to a full-on, intricately choreographed Hollywood-style Cinemascope musical extravaganza in Young Girls. Throughout their fruitful collaborations, you can see the filmmaker and the composer bringing out the best in each other (the challenging and heart-wrenching music that accompanies Umbrella’s bittersweet conclusion), and doing their best to cover each other’s flaws (Legrand strains to make something emotional out of the phony happy ending of Bay of Angels). They achieved a rare unity: Legrand’s music is the sound of Demy’s images, and vice versa.