Setter’s ‘Spectives: Integrity? Don’t Make Me Hum

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613So I’m watching Frances Ha. All of a sudden, this lilting music tickles the soundtrack.

“Hey,” I say. “That sounds like something from King of Hearts.”

Sure enough, it was. Snatched directly from the Philippe de Broca movie. In fact, the film’s main melody popped up numerous times during the proceedings.

Needless to say, it didn’t help me enjoy this rather tiresome Noah Baumbach flick any more than I already did. But there was another issue: It was distracting. I kept thinking about Hearts and how good it was. How much I wanted to see it.

Is this what Baumbach wanted when he was making Frances?

Unfortunately, this problem isn’t relegated to one movie. The Artist used a passage from Bernard Herrmann’s score for Vertigo, and I was confused about that, too. Started thinking about the latter flick as I was watching the former.

Bad, bad strategy for any filmmaker.

This goes past un hommage. It’s irrelevant. It’s sampling music from scores past and using it in other contexts. When a great score is applied to a film, it’s associated with it. You can’t pull the two apart. If you try, you bring up connotations that shouldn’t be there. Do directors want to do that?

I’d think they wouldn’t. Would Wagner want you thinking about Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro while you were watching Parsifal at Bayreuth? If you admitted that to him, he’d probably get all 19th century on you. (He was mean enough as it was.)

Unless it’s parody, a film should focus on itself. Otherwise, a movie loses its credibility. It breaks that fourth wall of sound, and the audience becomes aware of it. Directors shouldn’t want that. It’s jarring, not immersing.

I say unto filmmakers: Let’s keep-eth old scores where they are-eth. And commission new ones for your movies … or use tunes by a great composer that lack cinematic context. Something borrowed just makes me blue. Something different, however, may well be music to my ears.

Skip’s Quips: Silent Running (of the Mouth)

Blog Sketch 082813Raise your hand if you thought The Artist would usher in a new era of silent, black-and-white movies.

OK, I didn’t, either. But I can’t say I wasn’t hoping. We need a little dose of the past to get us schlepping toward the future, and a retro attitude toward the cinema wouldn’t hurt. It certainly didn’t for M. Truffaut and other members of la Nouvelle Vague.

True, The Artist was a standout—not perfect, but clever and entertaining … like some of the best silent movies. The worst, however, are akin to any other lousy film: awful. Just because something’s silent doesn’t mean it’s good. Or vice versa.

Still, the film showed that the genre could be revitalized for a new audience, with a novelty value transcended by a smart script and direction. The question is, will a few more irises and wipes make for self-conscious cinema? They’d have to be incorporated organically to avoid affectation, and that’s a tall order. Skilled directors need apply.

I’d suggest starting a dialogue about this, but I think I need a title card.