Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Robbery in Public

Since the kind folks at Univeral Music bunged me a copy, I'm listening to the soundtrack to Michael Mann's Public Enemies, and enjoying it quite a bit more than I did the film. It kicks off with a fantastic Otis Taylor blues track called "Ten Million Slaves", which makes the biggest impression of any of the music cues in the movie, with its restlessly strumming banjos and electrifying air of anything-goes fatalism. You can't really go wrong with the three Billie Holiday standards, either -- "Love Me Or Leave Me", "Am I Blue?", and "The Man I Love" -- though I admit that I'm going through a serious Billie phase at the moment, and that her vignettes of rapture and abandonment speak far more eloquently in their own right than the film's underpowered love story (with its own gal called Billie).

If there's a dismaying aspect to the disc, and to Mann's music choices generally, it's the progressive neutering of Elliot Goldenthal, one of the friskiest, most challenging composers in Hollywood in the mid-to-late 1990s, here coerced into a level of musical "borrowing" you'd more often find in a Ridley Scott or Alan Parker picture. The biggest influence is Hans Zimmer's Thin Red Line score -- Mann even gives him a thank you in the end credits, and we now know for damn sure which temp track he used while editing the stand-out woodland chase sequence, because Goldenthal trots out a compressed but unmistakable variation on Zimmer's justly famous "Journey to the Line", with its peeping, metronomic backdrop and thick strings layered on down in the lower registers.

It serves the sequence, and for anyone else this would be a solid score, but I consider it a great shame that the man who laid on the scary liturgical awe of Alien³, the sweeping operatics of Interview with the Vampire, and the peekaboo baroque riffs of Titus -- who even produced compelling stuff for In Dreams and Sphere (Sphere!), of all films -- has been hired to perform this musical equivalent of a cuttings job, culled from a far more limited artist's best work, to boot. I get on my high horse about directors falling overly in love with their temp tracks/Rolling Stones intros (you know who you are) but there's really no point hiring someone as gifted as Goldenthal if you're going to tie his hands this way -- the music just ends up as another frustrating, half-cooked element of a film that barely seems bothered about realising its best potential. Perhaps this matters less in the grand scheme of things, but it also makes for the only Goldenthal disc I own where he provides less than half of the cues and that's plenty.
Grade for the whole CD:

Monday, July 27, 2009

Chatting up the Noughties

There's no one I like talking movies with more than Nick Davis over at Nick's Flick Picks, and I'm delighted to be doing this in a semi-regular way now for online publication. Here are the first two of a series of discussions we've got planned, in each case plucking a movie from the beginning of the decade and seeing how it holds up. Danny Boyle's The Beach didn't, or at least not too well; but we found heaps to say in favour of Spike Lee's Bamboozled. I've been slow getting round to post these links, but will aim to be a bit more on the ball for subsequent instalments... stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Parsing Antichrist

(With apologies to, y'know, poets):



Automisogny. We're not talking about


Cars not liking women, but a mother driven


To make a witch of herself, one that can’t feel or screw with feeling;


Monstered by therapy and her man; monstering back


In Tarkovsky’s Mirror image of a woodland refuge. No joke.


“Chaos reigns,” declares Now-Notorious Fox, grandiosely


Perusing his own entrails – like much else it scores


An admiring laugh, for this film’s serious (and only half not)


In its midnight fairytale logic


Advancing in actual careful strides


Through phases of spurious “healing”, aftershock, and… yikes.


From the snowglobe opening – I sensed


From the kid’s very expression (malicious, as he plummets


And destroys them) that Lars was onto something


Solaris-ish and yet pure Lars. No joke. I can’t dismiss this, for it is


Obscene calligraphy in mist (Anthony Dod Mantle,


You can totally keep that Oscar now) 

and above all MENTAL ON PURPOSE. A—