After previously revisiting high-school and looking forward to our robot future, it’s time to return to the present. Neil Brand’s informative three-part series entitled Sound of Cinema – screened on BBC4 over the past few weeks and still available on iPlayer – provided an obvious discussion point for this week’s Film Club. Within it, he looked at subjects including classical orchestral accompaniments, James Bond theme-tunes through the ages, pop culture influences, and the future of scores & soundtracks given the arrival of advanced technology.
Just this week in fact I remarked upon the importance of a particular track in Saw, not only in and of itself, but also how it acts as an audience cue in every subsequent sequel. What songs, scores and soundtracks in film really make an impact? What are your favourites? Two contributors each give us a double-dosage of classic musicals, whilst another manages to cover a John Williams classic, Tarantino’s approach and two greats; one recent cult film, the other a horror mainstay. My approach focuses on modern scores and memorable scenes, whereas the final view looks at just one composer, and provides us with Film Club’s first agreement so far! Is it Hans Zimmer, James Horner, Howard Shore or someone else? Read on, my friends.
We know that talking about these greats is going to make your ears salivate, but fear not, for the relevant pieces are embedded for your listening pleasure. So kick back with Film Club #3 and some of the finest sounds in the history of cinema.
The Shining is essentially an exercise in atmosphere and tension, and the music – made up of classical compositions and eerie, string-heavy horror motifs – goes a long way to supplying the claustrophobic, dizzying atmosphere. Try watching it without sound and see how it works.
John Williams is probably the world’s greatest living composer and of his many scores, Star Wars is perhaps the best. Classically influenced, Star Wars’ music is rousing, iconic and perfect for the space opera tone.
Tarantino soundtracks are always amazing, and Kill Bill perhaps best represents his buffet-sample style of filmmaking, taking pieces from every genre and style and reworking them with a grindhouse/spaghetti Western/Morricone flavour. It’s post-modernism in music form.
Finally, Drive stands out in recent memory for its dreamlike, almost Lynchian score and fantastic synth heavy-soundtrack, a throwback to the 80s and perfect for the LA crime noir theme.
From Moulin Rouge! to Up to Juno: picking a favourite soundtrack is truly a little tricky. From my not so distant youth The Lion King for me has a soundtrack that I cherish. From The Circle of Life in the opening sequences to Mufasa’s death and then all the way to Can You Feel The Love Tonight there is nothing I don’t love about it. Who doesn’t love a good Disney soundtrack though? Even if it does make you cry a little.
It would be foolish not to mention further the Moulin Rogue soundtrack. With a specific look at Elephant Love Medley which includes a vast array of songs from Your Song, to the original track Come What May, Baz Luhrmann really does know how to put a soundtrack together! And let’s not forget that it brought us Lady Marmalade, the song that provides us with a charming french sentence!
An area that’s almost impossible to narrow down – I’m practically crying at the number of scores and soundtracks I’ve had to miss out – but I decided to focus on, in my opinion, one of the best composers working today.
John Murphy’s name might not be familiar but his music almost definitely will be. It’s been featured in countless adverts, TV shows and trailers, especially In the House – In a Heartbeat from 28 Days Later and the emotionally stunning Adagio in D Minor from one of my favourite films of all time, Sunshine, both directed by Danny Boyle.
Variations of these also feature in his brilliant score for Kick-Ass, which matches the film’s loud, tongue-in-cheek nature perfectly, as seen in the rousing Flying Home. Murphy’s compositions are always fresh yet accessible through the flawless marrying of modern and classical instruments in a way that is moving, profound and awe-inspiring.
In Bruges comes to mind here, with the instantly-recognisable score proving to be a superb choice in accompanying the on-screen comedy and drama. It also turns to On Raglan Road by The Dubliners at the right moment when lyrics are needed to move the music to the forefront.
One of my favourite individual tracks, now used everywhere, was first used by John Murphy in Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, though it’s the slightly-altered Kick Ass version that I first became familiar with – and enjoy a little more – particularly because of the gripping and emotional action scene that complements it.
Gattaca, another brilliant sci-fi film, has the immortal track The Departure from Michael Nyman attached to it. It’s haunting and yet somehow uplifting, providing the catharctic kick needed after the incredible journey the film represents. But it’s with a more uplifting ascension that I choose to end with, via the superbly stirring Letting Go from Super 8. This will make your soul soar:
I have chosen two films – one is an out-and-out musical, and the other might as well be! I spent my teens listening to both soundtracks non-stop, whilst perfecting my dance moves. Both films are love stories and are set in the same era – late 1950s/early 1960s.
Grease tells the love story between Danny and Sandy at Rydell High, and Dirty Dancing tells the love story between Johnny and Baby at Kellerman’s holiday resort. Both films feature sweet innocent young women leads chasing the bad boy in town and winning his heart after proving their worth.
Both films are modern-day versions of Cinderella – the ultimate wish fulfillment – but the reason why I love both films is because both soundtracks are filled to the brim with the most amazing songs that you can have the time of your life singing and dancing along to at home!
So there we have it – a difficult shortlist to create given the wonderful options on offer. What have we missed out? And who, from the five above, is your winner for this week? Let us know!