The movies are the culmination of all the arts, presented to us in one (sometimes) magnificent whole. There are aesthetics and spectacle, literature and word play that emphasise the charisma of performance, all accented and heightened to heady perfection with the power of music.
Alter any one of these aspects and you will change the vibe of a film, but change the music and you have a different beast altogether. The funniest slapstick pratfall of a comedian can become a moment of painful tragedy given the right tune. The effects can be subtle, gently guiding you to really live the emotion of what lies before you or it can smack you over the head, forcing you into whatever emotion thinks you must experience.
There are so many fine soundtracks, Jaws, Black Cat White Cat, China Town, The Harder they Come and The Man with the Golden Arm to name a few. But the three below, I feel go beyond the mould of film music and become something else.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
A classic film with a classic sound track, the culmination of the “dollars” trilogy and very much the best of the lot and arguably one of the best westerns ever made, be they spaghetti based or otherwise.
The opening theme, which I heard way before I saw the film, has all the elements of the film wrapped up into one package. The adventure, the humour, the violence and the grand quest are all packaged neatly into Enrico Morricone’s main theme . It works as an amazing advert for the film, how can you hear the music and not want to see the film?
Alongside the eclectic and rousing main overture there are some beautiful and touching moments, such as Death of Soldier but it is the final two pieces the ‘Ecstasy of Gold’ and ‘The Trio’ that really do it for me. Twin works which flow into each other, logging the resolution and conviction of the characters as they head towards their final destination and ultimate fate.
The music builds the tension and drama of the final sequences into a majestic finale that rewards and satisfies the audience in a way most films cannot even hope to equal.
The score also works outside of the film, try listening when you’re out and about or just lolling about at home, find how the themes of the film rise in your blood and compel you to glory and manly things! It does me anyway.
I am not a huge fan of the film, it’s OK but I feel that has been elevated to a position up and beyond its actual achievements, of a film. Basically, it looks good and Ridley Scott creates an intriguing model for Earth’s future that is certainly atmospheric but I also think the plotting is derivative and cheesy. But that’s me and I will say it’s better than Star Wars.
The music though is something else. It doesn’t really have the impact on the film in the same way Morricone’s work does in the Good the bad and the Ugly, though it does the job well enough.
It is when you listen to it as an actual piece of music, does it really come to life.
It is a beautiful work, dark, romantic and evocative of a time passed but with the driving and electro stylings of the Greek keyboardist, it is unmistakably futuristic. Very much like the film, which is an old fashioned story wrapped up in silver jumpsuit.
Due to a Vangelis withholding his permission to release it, resulting in many bootlegs and cover versions coming onto the market, the soundtrack nicely mirrors the myriad of versions of the film that have been released.
The Long Goodbye
While it is very hard to actually pin down a number one favourite film, Robert Altman’s take on classic film noir is always one that springs to mind. Combining Hollywood’s, classy Golden age with the creative risk taking of the 1970’s, it was always going to be a winner (it is also marks one Mr Arnold Schwarzenegger’s debut).
John Williams has written more famous scores than this, little films like Jaws, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark and more recently at the age of 81, Lincoln.
However, his playing round with the idea of what a film score is, in The Long Goodbye is what really makes me hard and horny.
Reflecting the locations, characters or the mood of hero, Phillip Marlowe (Elliot Gould), Williams gives us different versions of the titular song.
For example, at the supermarket buying cat food we get a muzak rendition, in a lounge bar it is the silky tones of Mel Torme. There is also a hippy chant version, a classic orchestral score, an instrumental and many more. Marvellous. It might sound like a trite or conceited thing to do but it’s fascinating listening out for the different arrangements. It’s like ourselves, aren’t we all different versions of the same tune depending on where we are and who we’re with? I, for instance am always a pretentious dick.