Monday, January 31, 2011

Please Look Now!

I've been toying for some time now with the notion of doing one of those Youtube videos that are all the rage with the kids these days. Decided for my first effort on a tribute to Nic Roeg's Don't Look Now, which I wrote about here a few months back as part of my classic scenes series. Its inspired imagery was half the battle won, of course, even before I started, so picking the right soundtrack was the real task. I finally went with the My Bloody Valentine-inspired Babelonia by School Of Seven Bells, a suitably mysterious, gothic sound with appropriate lyrics about fractured time. I'm reasonably pleased with the end result, for a first effort anyway, especially as it took me six hours to figure out how to upload it! Hope you like it.

John Barry (1933-2011)

With the death of John Barry yesterday the film world has lost one of its true greats. In an era of fine composers Barry's unique versitility and class stood out, from low-budget cool to Hollywood pizazz, he could do it all, usually better than anyone else. So here, in tribute, are five of my favourite pieces of Barry magic.

His first soundtrack and what a way to start, the opening of Beat Girl (1956) sees him capture the heady excitment of teen rebellion way better than the film does. Music so cool it makes you wish you were in that packed cellar club for real, dancing like a hipster loon.

His most famous work will always be the main James Bond theme, but he composed many fabulous pieces for all the Bond films. The one I keep returning to is Piz Gloria Escape/Ski Chase from possibly my favourite Bond film On Her Majesty's Secet Service. It's sinuous, atmospheric and thrilling all at once. Try listening to it while doing the washing up and even that mundane task will suddenly be infused with all the glamour of international espionage. Honest.

His main theme for the British epic Zulu (1964) showed he could do blockbuster bombast with the best of them, producing a rousing piece suitable for tales of heroic sacrifice, bloody battles and the wide open spaces of the African veldt.

And then he could do this, practically the polar opposite, the main theme for Midnight Cowboy (1969), music so wistful and feather-light it sends the listener into a reverie, evokes complex feelings of melancholy and somehow expresses all the burning hope and disappointment of the American Dream while making you want to gaze out windows and contemplate the passing world.

And just for good measure, he proved he could master the TV theme tune and inspire a generation of electronica musicians in the process, with this classic for The Peruaders, music so unique and innovative, moog-moody and exotic it should really have been soundtracking something far greater than this larky, lightweight vehicle for Roger Moore and Tony Curtis. Honestly, it's like Beethoven doing the theme music for bloody Spooks. He was just so ahead of the field by then, could compress so much into a few minutes of music, few filmmakers could match him. Genius.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Classic Scene #26

'Ring out the old year, ring in the new, ring-a-ding-ding.'
What better way to start another year than with that line sighed by Miss Kubelik near the end of Billy Wilder's The Apartment, the words hollow with derision for the lies of festive hope, the final flourish mocking the flip verbal smartness of the executives at Consolidated Life, the heartless ease with which they seem to pass through life, leaving girls like Fran Kubelik in their wake. Wearing that paper crown over her blankly disappointed face she seems, briefly, like the loneliest person in New York, her heart soured forever.
But then that wonderful smile slowly lights up her face, sweet with release, as the drunken crowd mindlessly sing 'we'll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.' And then she's running, in one of the most purely happy shots in all of cinema, her face blissful in the breeze, running towards C.C. Baxter, towards fruit cakes and card games and the kindness she deserves.