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ALEX COHEN, host:

And now, a film that came out a few weeks ago. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" stars Brad Pitt as a man who ages in reverse. The film opens with the story of another man who builds a giant and unusual clock.

(Soundbite of movie "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button")

(Soundbite of motor)

Unidentified Man: It's running backwards.

(Soundbite of clock ticking)

Mr. ELIAS KOTEAS: (As Monsieur Gateau) I made it that way, so that perhaps the boys that were lost in the war might stand and come home again.

COHEN: "Benjamin Button" is up for five Golden Globe Awards this Sunday night, including best score. Yesterday, I had a chance to chat with the man who wrote that score, Alexandre Desplat. The score, he told me, is a bit of a musical palindrome, inspired by those opening scenes.

Mr. ALEXANDRE DESPLAT (Film Composer): As I was watching this clock going backward and forwards, I thought, let's try and find a little hook, a theme, but not a long theme, otherwise you would lose track of its structure. So, I worked on a few notes that could be just played forward and backwards.

COHEN: Could you play us that hook forwards?

Mr. DESPLAT: I'll try.

COHEN: And then backwards.

Mr. DESPLAT: I'll try.

(Soundbite of piano playing one melody)

Mr. DESPLAT: And backwards is...

(Soundbite of piano playing one melody)

Mr. DESPLAT: Just hear the theme going up and then going down. And at the end of the movie, we have - it goes down - that was in D major and the movie just goes down to D minor.

(Soundbite of piano playing complex melody)

Mr. DESPLAT: That's it.

COHEN: When you first came up with that, it must have been - I'm picturing a light-bulb moment, where you thought, that's brilliant; this is perfect for this film. Did you know it would work?

Mr. DESPLAT: You never say to yourself it's brilliant.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DESPLAT: You always have to keep in mind that you are a worm(ph)...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DESPLAT: That you have to do something even better each time, because not only it's going forward and backward, but it also has to match the story and the character, and make sure that it fits the picture. It has to glue.

COHEN: When I saw this film, I must say, I didn't hear this idea of the music going forwards and backwards.

Mr. DESPLAT: I hope so. I hope you didn't do. I hope.

COHEN: Why is that?

Mr. DESPLAT: I know you shouldn't hear it. It's just - it would be too obvious if you would hear it. If you go too much in the kitchen...

COHEN: And see how the sausage is made?

Mr. DESPLAT: You might not appreciate - maybe not the sausage, but the sauce or the, you know, the mix of ingredients; you might lose some of the discovery and the charm and the taste. It's got to be a bit secret.

COHEN: One of the themes of "Benjamin Button" is the relationship between Brad Pitt's character and Cate Blanchett's character, and they're never quite able to meet romantically except for a very brief period. How do you capture that musically in a love theme?

Mr. DESPLAT: Well, that was really hard. That was one of my main concerns I had, was that the moment where they actually have a physical relationship happens only twice in the movie, because the movie is a long story. We follow their relationship since they're children - he's an old man, but she's a child - and they grow up and they split, and they don't see for many years, and they're together again. But the problem is that before I could not play the love theme, because they were children. How do you play love theme between a child that looks 60 and a young girl that - who is eight years old? It's a bit - you know, you can't do that. Doesn't work. So, I really had to wait for this very moment. So, the theme had to be simple, recognizable in a blink. So, remember, there's a guitar doing a little repetitive...

(Soundbite of piano playing one melody)

Mr. DESPLAT: So, it merges from that and...

(Soundbite of piano playing two lines of melody)

Mr. DESPLAT: And slowly, we build...

(Soundbite of piano playing complex melody)

Mr. DESPLAT: As they have this kind of honeymoon, we see them on a boat, on a sailboat, and swimming. It's the best moment of their lives. At last, they are together, and they're in love.

(Soundbite of piano playing complex melody)

Mr. DESPLAT: Something like that. My fingers remember. And it comes again the second time, when they make love for the last time, like a goodbye. So, when you hear this thing again - this guitar.

(Soundbite of piano playing one melody)

Mr. DESPLAT: You'll understand that, that they're going to connect again.

(Soundbite of piano playing complex melody)

Mr. DESPLAT: So, it comes only twice. It's very tricky.

COHEN: Alexandre Desplat, composer of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," thank you so much.

(Soundbite of piano playing complex melody)

Mr. DESPLAT: My pleasure.

(Soundbite of piano playing complex melody)

COHEN: More to come on Day to Day.

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