March 11, 2012

Bloody Good Music

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Wes Anderson. David Fincher. Sofia Coppola. If these names look familiar, it’s probably because you saw them in my last two columns. (Seriously though, if my columns were the only places where you have ever seen those names, that’s just sad.) Their purpose in my columns was to support my argument that film and music coexist; one just cannot happen without the other. I praised Anderson’s use of British Invasion tunes, Fincher’s dark and twisty collaborations with NIN’s Trent Reznor and Coppola’s infatuation with dreamy French pop. What’s not to love?

But I cannot help but kick myself for disregarding perhaps the most ingenious mastermind of pairing gloriously fitting soundtracks with his iconic films. The man himself: Quentin Tarantino. How could I not have included him on my list of musically-inclined filmmakers that spanned a total of two whole columns? How could his name have slipped my mind? What was I thinking?!

Fret not, Tarantino fanatics, for here I will dedicate an entire 755-word column to the living legend and the most excellent musical moments in his movies. There are certainly lots of them; I mean, how can you say the guy’s name and not think of the dance contest in Pulp Fiction set to “You Never Can Tell?” Or the scene in Kill Bill Vol. 1 with the Japanese all-girl group rocking out before the yellow-clad Bride slashes anyone and everyone who gets in her way? Both are unforgettable scenes, and unfortunately it would probably take any writer weeks to do such a tribute justice. Narrowing my favorite Tarantino musical moments down to just three choices was grueling, since each of his films contains no less than several memorable soundtrack choices. But for the sake of space and time (a girl’s gotta sleep at some point), I’ll rank my three favorite musical moments in Tarantino’s unparalleled body of work.

3. Inglourious Basterds: David Bowie Meets WWII. Leave it to good ole Tarantino to pair Bowie’s 1982 collaboration with Italian producer Giorgio Moroder (known for his controversial disco soundtrack for the 1984 re-release of Metropolis) against a montage in his 2009 bloodbath. “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” accompanies a tense sequence that documents the hours leading up to a gory rampage disguised as a movie premiere attended by none other than Hitler. The sequence follows Mélanie Laurent’s scorned Shoshanna Dreyfus as she conspires her revenge on the Nazis that murdered her family, as Bowie’s robust voice booms over disco beats and synths. “See these eyes so red / Red like jungle burning bright,” Bowie howls; with these haunting lines, we know that Shoshanna will stop at nothing to exact her vengeance and is out for one thing and one thing only: blood.

2. Kill Bill Vol. 2: Uma Rises From the Dead. “Ok, Pai Me. Here I come.” And with this immortal line does Uma Thurman’s Beatrix Kiddo, a.k.a. The Bride, karate-chop her way through a wooden coffin where she’s buried alive by a former ally. After breaking free from her shackles, The Bride uses what her Master taught her and swiftly breaks out of the coffin and crawls to the surface in probably one of the most badass scenes ever on film. Tarantino, a notorious film geek, brilliantly pairs one of his idols, Spaghetti Western composer Ennio Morricone and his song “L’Arena” with The Bride’s miraculous getaway. From her silent scheming to her upward trek through the dirt, the eerie whistling, rich strings and vibrant horns all build to a roar until we see The Bride’s hand shoot up from underground towards the night sky. Then, naturally, she moves on to her next victim.

1. Pulp Fiction: “Don’t you hate that?” “What?” “Uncomfortable silences.” There was absolutely nothing uncomfortable about this iconic scene from Tarantino’s magnum opus that featured a young raven-haired Thurman and a suddenly cool again John Travolta in a 50s throwback diner. The discourse between Thurman’s Mia Wallace and Travolta’s Vincent Vega just goes to show that even though Tarantino is most praised for his intricate dialogue, he has an equal knack for letting music speak for the characters when they run out of things to say. Electric guitar master Link Wray’s three legendary chords fill the void of the conversation break as his “Rumble” rattles over the white noise in the restaurant. Instead of sharing dialogue, Wallace and Vega share intense stares as their sexual tension blisters with each violent, distorted strum of Wray’s guitar. If this scene alone doesn’t prove Tarantino’s worth as the king of contemporary American cinema, I don’t know what does.

Original Author: Sydney Ramsden