Giorgio Moroder’s soundtrack for Paul Schrader’s 1980 movie about a highly sought after male escort played amazingly by Richard Gere is perfection.
Just as the movie portrays high living, sophistication but with a gritty menacing underbelly, so does the music. Tracks Night Drive, Palm Springs Drive and Night Drive (Reprise) all effortlessly convey a decadence which is a perfect way to usher in such a decadent and affluent decade such as the Eighties. But they also convey just how incredibly tough this new era was. There are sometimes movies and pop songs that capture the zeitgeist of the time at which they’re made and this movie and it’s soundtrack encapsulate this to a tee.
But there is also room for more avant-garde fare with The Apartment being experimental but not feeling out of place on the album.
But the best song on the album is also one of the best singles ever released. Blondie recorded Call Me especially for this movie with the version on the soundtrack being longer, more epic in scope and even with an extra verse. Debbie Harry was the perfect choice of singer for a soundtrack that ushers in this exciting new decade. Debbie would also lend her vocals to the soundtrack of another masterpiece the following year, John Waters’ Polyester. Now THAT soundtrack needs to be released!
Moroder’s score for American Gigolo was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.
My first Book of the Week is The Film Handbook by Geoff Andrew and published in 1990.
This is a book that lists a MASSIVE range of auteurs and directors, gives a potted history of their film career so far and then names selected highlights from their filmography that every film fan should see whether they are a casual viewer or a serious cineaste.
Sounds basic doesn’t it? But that’s the beauty of this book. The other thing I love about this tome is the fact that it introduced me to the work of many directors I had never heard of before. It’s scope is huge with prominent and obscure directors from many different countries getting the recognition they so rightly deserve but very rarely do. The same can be said regarding ‘cult’ directors with there being no film snobbery within the pages of this book. Which is perfect for this website!
There’s also an introduction by a certain Mr Martin Scorsese who voices the opinion that the book is indispensable even if he disagrees with Andrews’ opinion on some directors and films. And so, if this book is held in such high esteem by Mr Scorsese, it must be bloody good!
This weeks Poster of the Week goes to the classic sci-fi nightmare that is Westworld from 1973.
There are so many brilliant images here that sum up the movie- the iconic image of Brynner’s demented robot gunslinger, the technician sat in front of a bank of monitors and control panels, the technological font used for the film’s title, the tagline that has indeed gone worng…
And whilst we’re at it, take a look at the similarly brilliant posters for the film’s sequel Futureworld, (loving this tagline too) and Westworld’s Japanese and Belgian posters. All gorgeous.
This week’s soundtrack chosen to be recommended for all you lovers of film excellence is Carter Burwell’s genius soundtrack for the Coen Brother’s 1984 masterpiece Blood Simple. Their modern take on a Texan film noir has the perfect musical accompaniment with the music on this collection.
The simmering, brooding action of the movie is matched by the simplistic and poignant soundscapes on offer here. This soundtrack features the best use of simple but effective piano music since John Carpenter’s Halloween.
The gorgeous title track, the multi-layered Chain Gang, the marimba heavy build of Monkey Chant…all of these tracks are stellar and I’m so glad that they were finally released on record 3 years after the film’s release. Paired with the similarly excellent music for the equally excellent Raising Arizona on the same album, this makes this album an essential addition to any self respecting film music fan’s collection.
And whilst you’re at it, don’t forget to download It’s The Same Old Song by The Four Tops which unfortunately isn’t on this collection but features prominently in the movie.
I’ve uploaded the audiobooks for two John Waters books onto YouTube.
Shock Value from 1981 is here whilst Crackpot from 1986 is here. Both are classic texts and extremely funny. Listen to ‘How To Become Famous’ on Crackpot to listen to Waters laughing at how outrageous his own text is.
I’ve decided to add Book of the Week to the already existing Soundtrack and Poster of the Week. I think I’ll publish these every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Theres been a delay in any more essays and analyses of films as I’m working on an essay that has already ballooned to over 10,000 words and it’s not even finished yet. I don’t wanna jinx it so I won’t announce which film it’s about but you won’t be disappointed. This film has been derided as either one of the worst films ever made, a camp car crash of a movie, or (and this is the worst criticism you can ever give a movie) ‘so bad it’s good’ *gag*. It’s none of these and in fact in my mind it’s one of the best pieces of High Art ever made.
This week’s Poster of the Week is one that is framed and adorns one of the walls in my flat! It’s artist Brian Bysouth’s extraordinary poster for the 1976 ‘body switch’ comedy Freaky Friday.
The attention to detail is amazing with several scenes and characters from the film being depicted and drawn so well!
I’m so glad that a film that is now seen as a family viewing classic that effortlessly captured the goofy 70’s zeitgeist of it’s time should have a poster drawn with such love and imagination by an artist such as Bysouth. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if I saw this artwork outside a cinema back then and didn’t know anything about the film, I’d instantly venture inside to investigate further which is one of the effects of great film artwork.
I actually think John Carpenter is as great a musician and composer as he is a film director.
A great example is his amazing soundtrack for his 1980 masterpiece, The Fog. Just as the film was a traditional ghost story rooted in the past but taking part in the present, his soundtrack completely conveys this.
There are the pianos and synths present on his scores for Halloween and it’s sequel but there are also musical nods to the past representing the timelessness of the campfire story being told to us as it plays on the screen. In fact, the starting story by John Houseman told to the assembled children around a fire on the beach makes an appearance as the first track on the soundtrack.
But it’s also worth noting how Carpenter conveys the concept of the fog within the music. There is the recurring motif on some tracks of air being released and spreading out. The way the fog moves is also represented on some tracks with a sense of it gliding through the music as a living, breathing malevolent being (the start of the epic Antonio Bay especially demonstrates this).
I felt like I have grown up with this soundtrack as I bought the Varese Sarabande edition in 1994 when I arrived in London to study film analysis, the 2000 Silva Screen edition which featured even more tracks not present on the previous edition but it is the 2012 Silva Screen edition which is the most complete edition you can buy. It contains cues not used on the original album all of which are great and the whole album is also remastered.A lot of these cues were used on the Special Edition DVD which was released in the early 00’s.
An essential soundtrack to an essential film, The Fog is an example of Carpenter firing with all six guns.
An iconic soundtrack for an iconic movie, Krzysztof Komeda’s score for the 1968 classic Rosemary’s Baby broke so many rules just like the film itself did.
Firstly, the lead track ‘Lullaby’ had the audacity to take a piece of music traditionally used to soothe a child to fall asleep, completely subvert it and imbue it with an added layer of more menacing intent. In the context of a film about the birth of Satan’s baby by the unbeknownst Rosemary Woodhouse after her husband Guy has sold his soul in order to further his acting career, the lullaby as a piece of music and concept has been completely reappropriated and for evil means.
The film’s score conveys the narrative’s descent into all things demonic with easy listening tracks such as ‘Christmas’ from the calmer start of the movie nestling shoulder to shoulder with other more unsettling tracks on the soundtrack’s tracklisting.
The horror of what Rosemary will go through after she has become pregnant as she suspects that all is not as it should be and that darker forces are at play are also effortlessly represented through the film’s music. The flute playing of ‘The Coven’ and the warped, deranged sonics of ‘Expectancy’ and ‘Panic’ perfectly convey the horror of Rosemary’s term and brings to mind the scenes she starts to crave raw meat and walk through New York traffic as if in a trance. This is until we get to the full-on craziness and unhinged horror of the track ‘What Have You Done To It’s Eyes’ with Rosemary finally getting to see the being she has given birth to. Just as Rosemary can’t believe the full horror of the infant she sees for the first time (with the audience never seeing what she sees) we get a taste of her revulsion and shock through the discordance of the track suddenly assaulting our ears.
And then when she protests the fact that her offspring is being rocked too violently and takes over only to visibly fall in love with her child, the title track Lullaby starts playing again. A truly unnerving scene accompanied by the perfect track.
The dark side of motherhood perfectly sonically executed by Komeda, this is an example of a horror film needing a perfect soundtrack to fully realise it’s vision. Thankfully this happened.
I recommend to you the La-La Land edition of this soundtrack with the original tracklisting being augmented by bonus tracks used in the film but not finding their way onto the original album. This is all killer (pun not intended) and no filler.
I was 14 and the exact right age to watch Taxi Driver for the first time. The perfect movie about alienation being watched by a moody teenager who felt completely alienated.
I would regularly venture from my hometown of York to the bustling neighbouring city of Leeds and it was on my next excursion after seeing Taxi Driver that I sought out the UK quad poster in a film memorabilia shop called Movie Boulevard (unfortunately long gone). The perfect movie (it’s still my favourite film to this day followed by John Carpenter’s Halloween and John Waters’ Female Trouble) had to have the perfect poster. And it did.
Lead character Travis Bickle walking down a New York street, completely alone in one of the biggest and busiest cities in the world. The tagline ‘On every street in every city there’s a nobody who dreams of being a somebody’ is one of the poignant and apt in film history.
It’s strange how a film and it’s iconography can take on a life of it’s own. The ‘You talkin’ to me?’ line is one of the most quoted amongst cineastes and the general public alike but is also misunderstood and misinterpreted when taken out of context. Stills from Taxi Driver have also been taken out of context and made into posters to be hung on teenager’s walls. Strangely they seem to dwell solely on Travis holding guns which is alarming. I’m glad the studio made UK quad emphasised the loneliness aspect rather than the macho/firearms angle.