Thursday, April 5, 2012

The 100 Best Uses of Songs in Movies pt. 4 (of 10)

We're not even halfway yet, and the number of times I've seen the dreaded YouTube "embedding disabled by request" buzzkill is rising exponentially.  While I try to find ways around it, in some cases it's simply impossible.  So, of course, trailers and fan-made montages must be subbed in sometimes.  Is what it is, I guess.  This week's features little of that, but a TON of potential spoilers.  The first pick set the tone, and the rest fell in line as surprisingly...heavy.  Emotionally, musically, thematically; all of it. I guess that means next week needs to be all teen flicks and comedies.  Catch up on the rest of the list here.  


31. "Staralfur" / Sigur Ros
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
(SPOILER) In Wes Anderson's love it or hate it The Life Aquatic, we embark on a madcap journey of marine revenge.  Yet, while the film is rife with absurd moments and playfully old school effects, it has a hefty dose of family tragedy.  As the whole motley crew crowds in to catch a glimpse of the sought after Jaguar Shark, Anderson employs an out of character SIgur Ros track as a beautiful, wrenching dirge for the recently deceased.  It couldn't be better.

32. "Harmonielehre: Part III Meister Eckhardt and Quackie"  / John Adams
I Am Love (2010)
(SPOILER) Tilda Swinton and director Luca Guadagnino built I Am Love partially around pre-existing John Adams compositions.  While neither knew the composer at the time - and held out little hope of using the music to score their film- they stuck with it.  Luckily for all of us, Adams authorized the usage and gave the film the tremendous, bigger than life score it deserves.  In context, this final scene is one of my cinematic favorites, and the score just drives it home.  It kills me every time I see it and serves, for all practical purposes, as an essential how-to crash course in reaction shots (though watching it on YouTube isn't really the way to see it).

33. "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" / Richard Strauss
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
There are few things this iconic.  People who haven't seen 2001 know the reference, people who didn't get the film at all (that's the majority) still recognize it in an instant.


34. "The Sound of Silence" / Simon and Garfunkel
The Graduate (1967)
I know, right?  It feels almost like a cheat.  But, remember, while it owned on the soundtrack, "The Sound of Silence" wasn't written for the restless ennui of Benjamin Braddock.  It just seems as though it was.  Because it's EXACTLY CORRECT.



35. "Lacrimosa - Day of Tears" / Zbigniew Preisner
The Tree of Life (2011)
This is one of those YouTube montages that isn't the real thing, but does include parts of it.  From this, you can get an idea of the natural sorcery occurring on screen in Malick's creation sequence in that gorgeous interlude jammed into Tree of Life.  I can see how some find it overwrought, but....damn.   


36. "The Ride of the Valkyries" / Richard Wagner
Apocalypse Now (1979)
A second appearance!  You knew it was coming! The horrors of war, impressively brought to you by Francis Ford Coppola: young dudes, helicopters, Wagner, and a village in "the middle of nowhere."  This is what a great combat scene looks like.  


37. "Tristan und Isolde: Prelude" / Richard Wagner
Melancholia (2011)
A series of barely moving tableaux serves as our introduction into the lilting, poetic end of the world within Melancholia.  It's recent, yes, and the images have significantly more power than the score does, but imma argue its place on the list.  Melancholia is a small film built off of small relationships yet set within the context of a large scale, universal event. In stealing a Wagner opera and using it as the score, Lars Von Trier effectively sets the film's tone.  This is a tragedy, a romance, a big, grand event in prim packaging.


38. "Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Opus 46: 
IV. In the Hall of the Mountain King"   / Edvard Grieg
M (1931)
In a chilling use of leitmotif we learn to identify a whistled version of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" with Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre), a killer of children.  Before he appears, we know he's present.  We hear him lurking in the shadows, just off screen.  It's positively creepy, yet with a strange, fairy tale quality that transforms the dismal nature of the film into something wholly other.


39. "Rhapsody in Blue" / George Gershwin
Manhattan (1980)
Woody Allen introduces us to the New York he truly does love, giving us a stumbling character voice over matched to black and white street shots of the city through the seasons.  It's remarkably simple, and in some ways "Rhapsody in Blue" seems almost too obvious.  Yet, you know, that could be part of the whole magic trick.


40. "The Sorcerer's Apprentice (L'apprenti sorcier)" / Paul Dukas
Fantastia (1940)
ALL of Fantasia could easily be included on this list, yet, for some reason it's easy to forget it completely. Fantastia is less a film than a full-cycle of animated music videos, the crown jewel of which is the oft-repeated Sorcerer's Apprentice starring the one and only Mickey Mouse.  Don't kid yourself.  It's wonderful.

5 comments:

  1. I never really noticed I Am Love's soundtrack, I was so absorbed by the film. But it is incredible, and suits it perfectly, now that I've heard it properly.

    The scene from Tree of Life can seem too epic when put together with Lacrimosa, but while watching the film I thought it made sense, in context. I guess one has to get in the mood for The Tree of Life in order to actually feel it, and regard that song as great combo with the scene.

    I found the Melancholia sequence + song terrifying! In the beginning is just plain creepy, with the still images and all, but towards the end is apocalyptical, in a realistic way, hence, frightening.

    All great choices, I must say, nicely done!

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  2. Thanks! Yeah, with 'I Am Love' the music adds so much, but it's almost like this hypnotic undercurrent within the film. There are scenes where it really stands out (the stealing of the book, for example), and moments where it disappears into the background. The end, though, is like the perfect marriage between the two.

    And I agree, you really do have to be in the mood for The Tree of Life, but once you're there Lacrimosa works beautifully.

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  3. Once again, utter brilliance. Keep these coming, they occupy at least an hour of my work days!

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    Replies
    1. Haha, that's the ultimate goal of the internet, I suppose! If I've given you a good waste of time, I guess I've succeeded in my endeavors...

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