Wars and Windmills

20 February 2009

Musaq and Philm II

Most of my posts as of late have been both lazy and orientated around music and movies. So, keeping with the spirit of the latter and forgoing the former I am posting a second of what is a favorite post of mine...certainly the most fun I have had on this here blog.

Allow me briefly to reiterate the intent of these posts. In the hands of the right director music and film are a seamless pairing. The right song can elevate what may be mundane and make it extraordinary. I am not discussing a musical score, that is a different beast, for these posts I am simply examining that one scene made better by that one song.

The Film: Children of Men
The Song: The Court of the Crimson King -- King Crimson
The Scene: Theo is driven into the imposing Battersea Power Station and the strains of King Crimson's The Court of the Crimson King swell and I'm floored. I'm so distracted by the music in this movie that the film seems to take on a surrealistic quality.

The Film: Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels
The Song: Liar Liar -- Castaways
The Scene: Easily consider the UK equivalent of Quentin Tarantino, Guy Ritchie’s film involving a high stakes card game gone wrong. Like Tarantino, the film has an excellent soundtrack as the tracks are well-placed throughout. One scene in particular involves a card game. It is shot simply with rotating camera views, slow-mo, and quick shots, but the use of the Castaways track takes what would have been a dull scene to preternatural heights.

The Film: Punch-Drunk Love
The Song: He Needs Me -- Shelly Duvall
The Scene: Barry (Adam Sandler) finally draws his courage and stands up to one of his sisters whom he constantly receives nothing but grief. It’s a moment of liberation, he has reached the point where he would no longer put up with his sister or any other malarkey life has thrown at him anymore. From that moment on, the track from Shelly Duvall plays through a wonderful sequence where he flies to Hawaii to see the one important woman in his life.

This song falls squarely in the twee category, and unless it was coupled with a magnificent scene in a film by the brilliant Paul Thomas Anderson it would have never garnered a second listen. This says something about the power found when good film is coupled with good music.

The Film: Once
The Song: Falling Slowly -- Glen Hansard
The Scene: Though slightly over played now I first heard the song when I saw the movie and can't shake it. Perhaps this shouldn't count since the music is the scene instead of being played over it, but when they sit down and Glen starts to play for her and she joins him it is something to behold; the paragon melding of the two mediums. Call me cheesy, but it was singular.

The Film: Layer Cake
The Song: Ordinary World -- Duran Duran
The Scene: This rather serene song is perfectly juxtaposed over a scene where a crazy drug dealer kicks the poop out of a fat bloke, before pouring hot tea over him. “As I try to make my way, to the ordinary world, somehow I will survive”...perfect.

The Film: Reservoir Dogs
The Song: Stuck in the Middle With You -- Stealers Wheel
The Scene: This is just a prime example of hearing a song during a scene and it forever being associated with that moment. Every time I listen to this song I cringe because I am instantly transported to that that moment when I first saw Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsden) torture his little police officer buddy. The result is the cutting of the aforementioned police officer’s ear and later being doused with gasoline -- all of this happening while Mr. Blonde dances along to this song. Horrific and brilliant.

The Film: Almost Famous
The Song: Tiny Dancer -- Elton John
The Scene: On a tour bus with a fictional band in 1973; emotions are down and stress levels are high, then Tiny Dancers comes on the radio and the mood changes culminating in everyone singing along. There you have a moment in cinema history that perfectly captures something that all of us can relate to in some manner.

The Film: High Fidelity
The Song: Dry the Rain -- The Beta Band
The Scene:
I will now sell five copies of the 3 E.P.s by The Beta Band.

Do it.

Rob pops the CD in and it begins to play... He stands there
with his arms folded, waiting. After a moment, a Customer

(re: music)
What is this?

It's The Beta Band.

It's great.

I know.

Too good.

The Film: The Darjeeling Limited
The Song: This Time Tomorrow -- The Kinks
The Scene: See for yourself (the song kicks in towards the end):

Bill Murray's cameo...the slow-mo...the colors...the whole scene is brilliant.

The Film: Apocalypse Now
The Song: The End -- The Doors
The Scene: As the eerie guitar line begins to creep in, there is a slow motion long shot of a rain forest in Vietnam. The chop from the helicopter blades can be heard slightly, and we can see shadows of them flying overhead. Just as Jim Morrison sings the opening line, “This is the end”, the canopy explodes in flames. In my opinion it is one of the most amazing shots ever recorded on film. Still the brilliant use of this opus doesn’t end there. As it progresses into a brain-quelling mash of organ, tambourine and tribal drums, we are treated to a few glimpses into the mental state of Captain Ben Willard (Martin Sheen). Based on what we see from him, it certainly feels like the end, but it’s really only the beginning.

The Film: Cool Hand Luke
The Song: Plastic Jesus
The Scene: One of the best scenes from one of the best movies. Paul Newman as Luke sings this just after he finds out some terrible news. His fellow prisoners file to the back of the room as to afford a modicum of privacy so Luke can grieve. As he plays his voice breaks over waves of emotions that he tries to choke down. The song was perhaps one his mother sang to him as a child; whatever it's significance it is an ideal choice for that scene. Paul was a master.


  1. "this time tomorrow" in darjeeling is amazing- i agree with you there. the timing is perfect and really hits home the opening sequence. it's one of my favorite music/scene pairings.

  2. To this day anytime I hear "Stuck in the Middle with You" I cringe as well. It was so effective I can't even create new associations, even fifteen years later.

    Judging by Layer Cake and American Psycho, pairing a feel-good tune with a torture scene seems like a winning formula.

  3. i'm hopping back on here in the next few days and posting some thoughts. i didn't want you to think that i was willfully neglecting such a stellar posty. things are juts popping in Ohia right now.

    soon. thanks for this, too...reminds me to see layer cake again.

  4. Darren, are you sure you didn't miss your calling in life? I love your blog because you always do lists which reminds me of John Cusack in High Fidelity. Loved this post.

  5. Mostly I just want to say that I love your new header. I just sat for 3 minutes watching it, wondering what other picture would come up, and how you found the perfect font to match it. Serious Kudos for that masterful savvyness.

  6. Darren,
    Where are your hyper intelligent friends that have actually seen all of these movies with their insightful and witty comments??

    This is too good a post to go without some serious banter.

    You know who you are.

    Dan mentioned the topic, but I always thougt that Pulp Fiction had a great soundtrack. It was almost eerie to pair feel good tracks with violence.

  7. A fine list Darren, I just watched Children of Men again and can't seem to get it out of my head, great stuff. If I was to add anything to the list it would be "Head Over Heels" from Donnie Darko, which is for me a near perfect pairing of this musaq and philm you keep talking about. Also for some reason every time I see the title of the post I can't help but to think "Flim Springfield".

  8. Scott: I addressed Donny Darko in my first Musaq and Philm post, i agree wholly that the majority of that soundtrack is a perfect pairing with the goings on of that film.

  9. Hi, Darren. Long time fan, first time caller.

    So in Reservoir Dogs, the whole dancing thing is strange but I find the ear removal stranger. Is it just my Christian upbringing or does ear removal instantly hearken anyone else to Judas's betrayal in the garden?

    So when that song comes up, there's this strange Christian/mob/upbeat thing going for me, which makes the whole thing doubly weird.

  10. Akk, right you are Darren, it just goes to show that I'm about as good a blog reader as I am blog writer.

  11. this are all excellent. I had forgotten about "Ordinary World" from Layer Cake...it is a good combination, but i'll be derned if that scene doesn't make me a little queasy.

    I know I made a similar comment on your first post about Layer Cake, but I also really enjoy the scene where they are rocking out past the English countryside and the Cult is blasting.

    And Lock Stock has too many to name, right? Police and Theives, 18 With a Bullet---OH---what about in Snatch when...wait...HERE. The Strangler's Golden Brown [Language/Violence Warning...not sure of everyone's sensitivities]. Such a great tune and a perfect marriage of film/song.

    Some others that came to mind as being extra good are scenes from Vanilla Sky (Freur's 'Doot doot' and Sigur Ros), Big Lebowski (Kenny Rogers' 'Just Dropped in to See What Condition My Condition Was In'), Lost in Translation (My Bloody Valentine 'Sometimes'). Also, I don't remember if you mentioned Elliott Smith's 'Needle in the Hay' from the Royal Tennenbaums, but if you didn't, it was probably just because it goes without saying.

    Anyway--this is a great post. You still got it. Tell me what to blog about, please.