Some Brief Questions About the Movies

One of the best things about films–both good and bad–is that they inspire us to inquire. We ask while watching them: Did it really have to happen that way? Or maybe: What’s with the lighting in that scene? How does so-and-so get out of that scrape? We’re always exploring this universe. There always are questions that come up during the course of a picture.

Recently, I began to wonder if the ones I’m asking while watching certain flicks are the same as those being posed by other viewers. Perhaps we’re all thinking similarly … or perhaps not. In that interrogative light, here are my latest musings, as unattached to each other as they may be:

Does anybody really like the character George Berger in Milos Forman’s film version of Hair?

Which is more disturbing: The discovery in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia that Gasim, the man T.E. Lawrence saved from death in the desert, has murdered another man, or Michael Corleone’s lie to his wife Kay in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather about killing his sister’s husband?

Would Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus be a heckuva lot better without Alex North’s excruciatingly bombastic score?

What would have happened in Kenji Mizoguchi’s The Life of Oharu if the eponymous character had rejected the advances of her suitor at the beginning of the film?

Where did Antoine Doinel go at the end of Francois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows? How about Kevin at the end of Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits?

Couldn’t Louis Mazzini just have gone back into the prison to retrieve his memoirs at the conclusion of Robert Hamer’s Kind Hearts and Coronets?

I’m just wondering. How about you?

 

 

Setter’s ‘Spectives: Pitching the Prowess of Classical Music

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613The best thing The King’s Speech ever did was remind people that Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony is a brilliant piece of music.

Yes, it’s a good movie. Well-scripted, well-acted. But without that majestic second movement boosting the oratory at the end, it’s just another serviceable biopic.

Which leads me to wonder why filmmakers don’t use the strains of the immortal Ludwig van—or, for that matter, any great classical composer—more often.

Sure, that second from the Seventh had a precedent—John Boorman’s confused and often frustrating sci-fier Zardoz. And there’s no shortage of Beethoven in A Clockwork Orange.

But there’s a host of cinematically appropriate works out there by classical masters, and it’s a marvel that Hollywood hasn’t mined this trove thoroughly.

Schubert lieder. Stravinsky ballets. Brahms symphonies.

Boorman at least had the right idea, and his use of Wagner’s Parsifal and Götterdämmerung in his Arthurian epic Excalibur made up for his Zardozian miscues. Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola also hit the mark with their application of Cavalleria Rusticana in Raging Bull and The Godfather Part III, respectively. Even Woody Allen rang true with all that heady S. Prokofiev in Love and Death—though it assuredly was in homage to the master musician’s collaborations with Eisenstein.

I want to see more directors do this. There’s plenty of classical pieces out there that can have a symbiotic effect: enhancing a motion picture considerably while renewing interest in the music. It would be deserved interest, too, and perhaps save these works from being confined solely to connoisseurs’ quarters. Plus, it would expose more folks to these compositions, sell more soundtracks and prevent people from thinking Alex North’s scores should’ve replaced the tunes in films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Would every film have the impact The King’s Speech had? No. But it would be a smart beginning, and the potential benefits are significant.

As long as Hollywood doesn’t get its hands on any Mahler symphonies, that is.