Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ten transcendent film music moments

Over at the Guardian’s arts blog, film critic Peter Bradshaw writes about the power of musical moments in non-musical films. He cites Rocky running up the steps in Philadelphia to Bill Conti’s Gonna Fly Now as a classic example, before suggesting ten other favourites. Just for fun, here’s ten of my favourite musical moments in non-musical films, in no particular order:

Zulu: Men of Harlech
A hundred Welsh soldiers are surrounded by thousands of chanting Zulu warriors, facing certain death. The soldiers respond by standing shoulder to shoulder and singing Men of Harlech as the Zulus charge – a transcendent moment amidst the butchery and brutality of battle. Makes you proud to be Welsh, even if you’re not.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
: Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want
In a film stuffed full of 1980s pop, the non-stop hit parade pauses to appreciate some fine art during a memorable montage set in a Chicago museum. This funny, romantic and moving sequence is accompanied by The Dream Academy’s instrumental version of Morrissey’s most plaintive lyric. Did you get the pointillism?

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: Sempre Libera
Proof that this cult, camp classic is not all about the hits of Abba. Guy Pearce preens and pouts in a gigantic show perched precariously atop a tour bus while miming to this glorious aria from Verdi’s La Traviata. In a film shot through with splendid visuals, this moment is operatic melodrama as its finest.

Shaun of the Dead: Don’t Stop Me Now
A brilliantly choreographed sequence as Shaun and friends beat a zombie to death with any weapon at hand, all in time to Queen’s toe-tapping tune. You’ll never listen to this pulse-pounding piece of pop perfection in the same way after seeing how it appears here.

She’s Having a Baby: This Woman’s Work
A largely forgotten John Hughes comedy about suburban yuppies in the 80s [who’d have thunk it] becomes greater than the sum of its parts when Kate Bush appears on the soundtrack. She sings about the trials of motherhood as surgeons operate to say the life of a pregnant mom. Watch this without tears and your heart is stone.

Room With a View: O Mio Babbino Caro
Merchant Ivory’s lush adaptation of the E. M. Forster novel has got it all: Florence as a scenic backdrop; an English comedy of manners; and all the heaving bodices you could want. Add this aria from Puccini’s opera Gianna Schicchi and the heart swells, overcome by the romanticism of it all. Ahh, Florence…

Heat: God Moving Over the Face of the Waters
Moby’s twinkling, trance-like track accompanies the finale of this Michael Mann movie as De Niro and Pacino play a deadly game of cat and mouse at LAX. Proof that synthesiser’s don’t have to be the kiss of death to a soundtrack [unlike the badly-dated music in Lewis Gilbert’s otherwise wonderful Educating Rita].

Children of Men: Fragments of a Prayer
British composer John Tavener provides much of the score for one of last year’s most haunting films. It’s his music that accompanies an incredible tracking sequence as Clive Owen’s character rescues a woman carrying the first baby born for nearly 20 years, getting out of a war zone. Mesmerising and moving, yet so simple.

Trainspotting: Lust For Life
This choice is almost too obvious, but sometimes the obvious choice is also the right one. Iggy Pop’s heart-racing anthem to excess opened the Brit film, immediately communicating the movie’s sense of urgency and hunger. Lust For Life showed how one well-chosen song can set the tone for an entire movie.

Say Anything
: In Your Eyes
Peter Gabriel’s loves song provided this early Cameron Crowe picture with one of the most romantic moments of 80s cinema: John Cusack as Lloyd Dobler, standing outside the home of his estranged girlfriend, serenading her by playing this song at full volume on his ghetto blaster. Can’t see that working with an iPod.


Optimistic_Reader said...

Nice choices. The Moby track from Heat has always been one of my favourites too.

Paul Crilley said...

that bit from Shaun of the Dead is absolutely classic.

Chris (ukscriptwriter) said...

Your Say Anything suggestion will be close to the top of may list.

I used to watch that film over and over when I was in my teens, probably because I fancied the arse off Ione Sky. Did you ever see "The Rachel Papers? I saw her in a whole new light after watching that film!

Anyway, back on topic: The most powerful music in film to me is the score to Last of the Mohicans. Can't beat it.

Good Dog said...

If you're going to mention Heat, and then with Chris bringing up The Last of the Mohicans you should mention all of Michael Mann's early films.

Starting with Thief, then on to The Keep and Manhunter, The Last of the Mohicans and Heat, one of his trademarks was a climactic, dialogue-free engagement between protagonist and antagonists in which bloodshed ensued.

The showdowns in Thief and The Keep were accompanied by Tangerine Dream on the soundtrack, while Manhunter had Iron Butterfly going mental on the stereo with In-A-Gadda-Da-Vidda when Will Graham took down the Tooth Fairy.

Now that should be on the list!

Matthew Cochrane said...

Weird little fact: most of the music from Last Of The Mohicans is based on a theme composed by Scottish musician Dougie MacLean for use in an exhibition about Loch Ness. It's called The Gael and it's available on a CD called The Search.

My own favourites are probably things like Blade Runner, BT's score for Monster (which I've not actually seen), and Robyn Miller's soundtracks to the computer games Myst and Riven. Of course, the music from Birdy, The Last Temptation Of Christ and Rabbit-Proof Fence all have a certain quality...

Tom said...

I too would have gone for Moby’s God Moving Over the Face of the Waters, alongside Elliott Smiths’s Needle in the Hay from The Royal Tenenbaums.