Friday, February 20, 2015

The art of cinematic musicality...



Continuing with our Dolan Appreciation Week, we're going to discuss music in film for a moment.  A lot of directors have been known to use music as an emotional medium within the fabric of their storytelling, and Dolan is one of them.  Wes Anderson and Sofia Coppola are two that come to mind almost immediately.  It's only natural to want to use music in a way that evokes passion and the intended emotional response to a particular moment, because music is a very passion inducing art form.  Music, maybe even more so than any other artistic medium, reaches to the pit of a person.  It's a guttural response, and nearly always immediate.  A song can instantly take us somewhere, bringing such rich nostalgic memories.  A song can make, break or completely create a mood within our souls.

For me, Dolan is probably the best filmmaker working today to incorporate this aspect of filmmaking into his work.  He understands how to connect a song to a moment and make it mean something so much more than the stroke of obvious.  He can frame a moment with the right song, and the way he allows those songs to linger, to complete, to drape an entire scene is magical.

It's no surprise that he has recently directed a music video (I'm surprised that this is his only one).  It's a stunning composition of using the elements of the song itself to coat the imagery in every frame.


College Boy by Indochine

So, I wanted to highlight a scene per film that spoke to his incredible ability to use music in a powerful and progressive (in regards to storytelling) way.  I was fortunate, almost, that I could actually find four of the specific scenes I wanted to.  Unfortunately, with 'Mommy' being so new, there are VERY few clips available online, but it possibly works out for the best since the three scenes in particular that I wanted to use (because they are the most powerful) are incredibly 'spoilerish'...so this will do. 



Bang Bang by Dalida

This scene comes from 'Heartbeats', which was the very first Dolan film I ever saw.  This scene comes rather early on, and I still remember what I was doing and where I was when I saw this.  LOL, I was actually in my daughter's nursery, walking her to sleep and watching this on my iPhone.  Not the ideal place to watch a Dolan film, but I remember this scene just taking my breath away.  The way that it's framed is just beautiful, but the way that the music creates such a languid and almost airy bounce to the whole thing, giving this edge of seductive angst, is just remarkable, especially as the scene comes to a close and those slow motion kisses are given and the expression on Dolan's face (easily his finest 'acting' performance in any of his films) reads so much internalized energy.  It's a perfect companion piece to the scene itself and helps set up the tone of the movie perfectly. 


Noir desir by Vive le fete

Dolan's first film, 'I Killed My Mother', is a film full of ideas.  It's his least effective film, as a whole, but it is one of those films that is hard to fault despite it's aggressive and almost relentless visual presence because it's a film that is so rich with obvious talent and potential.  I mean, watching 'I Killed My Mother' you can instantly see where this young man's career is headed (where it went) and all the wonderful directorial choices that he makes that, with a touch of restraint, will make him (has made him) a true artistic auteur.  This scene is the one that has always stuck with me.  The use of music, the vibrancy, and the way the he is so intune with the rises and falls and expertly times his moments to happen along with the music so that these musical choices feel like a real part of the film and not a mere accompaniment.  They way that the juxtaposition of his character's abandonment, both good and bad, with regards to his relationships is beautifully composed within the nature of the song.  The reckless love, the reckless frustrations; perfectly timed and felt with every beat.


Santa Maria by Gotan Projekt

This whole scene pretty much changes the whole scope of 'Tom at the Farm', shifting gears from a generic thriller to a deeply disturbing physiological Hitchcockian homage.  I'll admit, this is all about the scene itself and more about the directorial exposition than the actual song choice, but really, the way that the song is worked (and the thematic punch it delivers) is all part of the scene, and it's brilliant.  This dance is swift and pungent, spiraling around the open room with such grace, and as Francis (Pierre-Yves Cardinal, in a tremendous performance) gives Tom an earful, gaps are filled in, intentions become clear and Tom's whole internal commentary starts to change.  This scene changes everything.


Colorblind by The Counting Crows

I know that I'm reeling at the moment from complete 'Mommy' infatuation, but I'm going to go on record saying that this is probably the very best example of film-to-soundtrack composition I've ever seen.  Every song fits so naturally into the flow of the film and the storytelling elements that I can't help but feel so strongly connected to every single moment here.  Now, this was not my initial choice of scene to feature.  The moment we see Steve perform On ne change pas for his mother and Kyla or the moment he sings Vivo Per Lei in the karaoke bar or the moment that Wonderwall changes EVERYTHING or all of the feels that Experience delivers to us were all VERY high on my list, but sadly this is the only clip available online.  Still, this moment, in the context of the film, is so beautifully composed and representative of the deceptive depiction of Steve's freedom.  The juxtaposition of the tone of the song with the obvious energy running through Steve's body (notice how he's rapping on his skateboard, a complete contradiction to the song we are hearing) help create a complete portrait of this young man's reality without really telling us anything.  I hate that this clip cuts off the scene (it's twice as long), but this gives you a glimpse of what this film has to offer.


Fade to Grey by Visage

The entirety of 'Laurence Anyways' was such an experience for me, but this single scene is, for me, the greatest musical moment in cinema.  Everything that Dolan represents as a visionary director can be spotted here, and he uses such dynamic energy to such expert fluidity.  Within the context of the film, this scene marks so many realizations, at least for Fred, and so giving her this 'moment' allows the reality of her crushing relationship to sink into her veins and establish a new identity in the audience.  You can sense the shift in her; this diva turned victim turned survivor, and it takes such languid movements from one extreme to the next.  The sequence is so effective and undeniably memorable.  One of the best cinematic moments of all time.

12 comments:

  1. Nice choices! Bang Bang by Dalida is a great moment, I think my fav song from that film is Pass This On by The Knife.
    Dolan is a genius at putting music with film, agree he knows how to create a mood. Laurence Anyways is his best soundtrack for me, Fade to Grey by Visage is awesome. There's another dance scene with The Funeral Party by The Cure which always stayed with me. Also love A New Error by Moderat when the clothes fall out of the sky. The slow motion sequence with If I Had a Heart by Fever Ray is quite haunting too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I could have easily done a Top Five only using moments from Laurence Anyways...it's such a marvelously etched out film. The Moderat scene with the clothes was my second choice, but the Fade to Grey scene, for all the reasons I mentioned, was my clear #1. I would have done a Top Ten had I been able to get ahold of more Mommy clips, but since I could only use the one, I decided to make it one clip per film.

      The reasons I chose Bang Bang is mostly because it was the moment that I noticed Dolan as a director. Like I said, it was my first Dolan and I still remember the exact moment I saw that scene...it just stuck with me so hard.

      Thanks so much for the comment :-D

      Delete
  2. What an amazing post -- I love what you've done here. I am saving the link. I will come back and read it after I've seen a couple of Dolan's film.

    One of many reasons I enjoy reading blogs so much -- part of my education as an emerging film buff. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My goal this week was to bring Dolan to the attention of the masses. He's such an important filmmaker, and so I wanted to dedicate this week to spreading the word and gaining him more interest. I can't wait to hear what you think of his work once you have a chance to watch some.

      Delete
  3. Excellent post! I love your write with the intro of a scene and the music and how well the music goes with the scene.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! This was a really fun post to write, to be honest.

      Delete
  4. Very nice post. Haven't seen any of his films, but this has me very intrigued,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you check him out. He's such an incredible talent!

      Delete
  5. He used Visage's "Fade to Grey" in one of his films? Fuck yeah!! Yet, I'm sad about that because Steve Strange died a week ago as he was the vocalist for that group.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's one of my absolute favorite cinematic moments in the history of cinema.

      Delete
  6. Great post! Heartbeats was my first Dolan film as well. Love his use of music in that scene, as well as the ones from Laurence Anyways and Tom at the Farm. I didn't watch the others, though. Waiting to watch them for the first time when I see the films. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks bro! I can't wait for you to see Mommy...the use of music in that film is remarkable.

      Delete