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great film music

03/09/2010

films I recommend for their musical interest

 

If you like interesting and varied music, there are some gems for you to enjoy in these favorite films of mine …

 

Les Mis girl

 

Les Misérables (UK, 2012)
To be honest, musicals are not really my genre and this film's story and sets are as depressing as the title suggests - but the dialogue, all in sung verse, is so well crafted that you're quickly drawn in.  Recorded live on set, the songs are diverse and at times moving, like 'Bring Him Home' and 'I Dreamed A Dream', which made Susan Boyle famous overnight.  As expected, Amanda Seyfried's singing is a gorgeous as she is beautiful.  Surprisingly, so is Anne Hathaway's, who won a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress.  The film has won 24 international awards so far and is worth seeing for the moving songs at least.

 

One Day (UK, 2011)
A romantic tale of two college friends who, after many failed attempts, eventually find true love in each other. Jim Sturgess is convincing as the failing playboy, Dexter and Anne Hathaway, aside from a dubious Leeds accent, is adorable as the blossoming Emma. The film’s moral sub-plot is that shallow hedonism doesn’t pave the way to happiness. Beautifully filmed in Edinburg, London and Paris this enjoyable film is enhanced by the simple yet evocative score by Rachel Portman.

 

One Day

 

Robin Hood (UK/USA, 2010)
In this fresh re-telling of the famous medieval story, Russell Crowe is Robin and Cate Blanchet is Marian, both acting their parts most convincingly.  The filming, plot and acting are all seriously more realistic than previous variations on the theme, making it an enthralling watch.  There's a delightful scene where Robin and Marian share a courtly dance in an open-air celebration in the woods at night. The music that accompanies that dance may only be a few seconds long, but is exquisite and an artistic highlight to an excellent film.  Nominated for two awards, this Robin Hood is the second highest grossing medieval movie at the box office.

 

Slumdog Millionaire (UK, 2008)
Based in the depressing slums of Mumbai, this film works on several levels. The clever but improbable plot is underpinned by a darker indictment of corruption in Indian administration. The upbeat soundtrack compliments the fast-moving story and  has won a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, two Academy Awards, and two Grammys, although I found the production aspects of the music to be crude in places. My favorite song is the delicate and haunting Latika’s theme, which is a calm counterpoint to the high-energy score.  

 

Once (Ireland, 2006)
Set in the poor backstreets of modern-day Dublin, this low-budget film follows the blossoming friendship between an Irish singer/songwriter (played by Glen Hansard) and a Czechoslovakian pianist (played by Markéta Irglová) - both musicians, not actors. Sensitively handled and hugely enjoyable the music and songs, written and performed by Hansard and Irglová are part of the main plot, not just in the background. Their song Falling Slowly received an Academy Award for Best Original Song and the soundtrack as a whole also received a Grammy nomination.

 

The Motorcycle diaries (Spain, 2004)
1952 was a formative year in the life of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara as he travels with his friend across South America on a dilapidated old Norton 500 motorcycle, which they christened The Mighty One. The poor over-laden bike doesn’t survive the constant tumbles of the dirt-track roads but makes for some comic interludes in an otherwise serious statement about the poverty of the people they meet along the way. The majestic scenery is beautifully complimented by Gustavo Santaolalla’s atmospheric score. The film has won many awards including Academy Awards for Best Achievement In Music and Original Song and the album of the music won a BAFTA for Best Film Music.

 

Motorcycle Diaries

 

Japanese story (Australia, 2003)
Toni Collette stars as a guide to a Japanese business man on a geology trip to the Australian outback. They have an affair and he suddenly dies in a swimming accident. His wife flies in and discovers evidence of the affair. How his wife reacts to both the death and the affair gives insight into the stoic formality of Japanese culture. This is an odd film that you will probably only watch once but the soundtrack by Elizabeth Drake has Japanese overtones and is hauntingly beautiful, especially the track Chinsagu No Hana.       

 

Songcatcher (USA, 2000)
Loosely based on the work of Olive Dame Campbell, founder of the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina, Janet McTeer plays Dr Lily Penleric, a Professor Of Musicology who stumbles across a treasure of beautifully preserved Scottish and Irish ballads in the Appalachian Mountains. Set at a time before the industrial revolution brought modernity to these isolated communities, Dr Penleric finds herself in a shocking lesbian love affair. Great scenery and beautiful natural singing by the talented young Emmy Rossum in the character of orphan Deladis Slocumb, make this film a must for anyone interested in British folk songs. Look out for a cameo appearance of a mountain dulcimer played by Don Pedi.

 

Shine (Australia, 1996)
With a captivating performance by Geoffrey Rush as a pianist with mental health problems, this film is based on the real-life story of David Helfgott. Helfgott wins a concerto competition by brilliantly playing the difficult Rachmaninoff 3rd Piano Concerto but then suffers a breakdown, related to his difficult relationship with his father. As well as the powerful plot, there’s lots of piano music to enjoy from The Troggs to Beethoven.

 

The English Patient (USA, 1996)
Starring Ralph Fiennes as Hungarian geographer Count László Almásy (the English patient), this is a powerful drama set in World War II. Fiennes’ character is badly burnt from a plane crash in the Sahara Desert and he is now being cared for by a Canadian nurse (played by Juliette Binoche) in an abandoned building in Italy. The story unfolds in flashbacks in the Count’s last few days and features the statuesque Kristin Scott Thomas as Katharine Clifton in one of his memoirs. This complex film has won nine Academy Awards and six BAFTAs, including an Academy Award for Best Original Score and a BAFTA for Best Music. Some recorded music is also featured, including the exotic eastern-European sound of Marta Sebestyen and The Muzikas.   

 

Brassed Off (Britain, 1996)
Pete Postlethwaite, Tara Fizgerald and Ewan McGregor star in this competition-of-brass-bands story at the time of the coal pit closures. Dramatic and depressing, the bleak plot is uplifted by the fantastic playing of the Grimethorpe Colliery Band. Despite many adversities, the band win the final in the Royal Albert Hall with a superb performance of Rossini’s William Tell Overture and then go on to play Elgar’s Land Of Hope And Glory as they pass the Houses Of Parliament. The irony and pathos will make you both smile and cry.

 

Brassed Off

 

Riverdance (Ireland, from 1981 - stage show available on DVD)
Riverdance started out as Timedance, a short interval show in the Eurovision Song Contest with music written and performed by Irish folk band Planxty. It became a stage show and eventually ended up on Broadway in 2000. Now a well-known showcase for Irish formation dancing with an exciting Irish-sounding contemporary score, it shows the inclusion of Spanish and tap-dancing influences into the Irish form. What’s special is that, interspersed between the up-tempo dance tunes, is a lovely Uilleann bagpipe solo and some atmospheric choral singing.

 

My Fair Lady (USA, 1964)
A latter-day version of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion played out by the stubbornly English Rex Harrison and the beautifully vulnerable Audrey Hepburn. This light musical film won eight Academy Awards but Hepburn doesn’t actually sing in the film, she was dubbed by Marni Nixon. If this film of popular classics seems an odd choice for my selection, listen again to the beautiful melody of the song On The Street Where You live - timeless. 



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