Muse by Craig Ranapia


Lights, Camera, Music!

What's better than Fritz Lang's reconstructed and restored classic Metropolis on shiny DVD or BluRay disc (from Madmen)?  If you're in Auckland tomorrow at 8pm (Saturday, November 12) the answer is seeing the film with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra performing Godfried Huppertz's score live.

You can get a taste of it's batty Wagnerian glory here, and robo-Maria's crazy-making Ho O' Babylon coochie dance (it makes sense at the time) is all kinds of political incorrectness, but the kind of crazy they just don't do anymore. 

How many other chances do you get to support great cinema and a fine local orchestra in one go?


But in the fine Public Address tradition of gratuitous You Tube abuse, I asked myself this question: If music has charms to soothe the savage beast, what does it take to chill out an over-caffenated cinephile.  Here's my random selection of things that excite me in the dark.


1. 'The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)' from The Empire Strikes Back (1980) by John Williams.  If you were in any doubt that Darth was a bad (if wheezy) mo-fo, Williams at his most gloriously bombastic removed it.  Like a disturbingly enjoyable Force-choke to the nuts.


2. 'Main Title' from North By Northwest (1959) by Bernard Herrmann  With a list of credits book-ended by Citizen Kane and Taxi Driver, it would be easy to fill a top ten with cues just from Hermann's scores for Alfred Hitchcock.  Vertigo (1958) is arguably the greatest work either did, and Psycho (1960), for better and worse, the most influential.  But for my popcorn money, this relentless comic thriller of mistaken identities is the most fun.  Hermann's lets you know exactly what you're in for from the get-go.   

(It ideally needs to be seen over Saul Brass' title sequence, but all the posts on You Tube have the embedding disabled.)


3.  'La passerella d'addio' & 'Sarghina Rumba' from Otto e Mezzo [8 1/2] (1963) by Nino Rota  Rota is another film composer who could fill out any top ten (or 100) by himself - and there's no shortage of material to choose from in his more than 150 credited scores.  8 1/2 may be a three ting circus of Felini's fears, memories, fantasies and neuroses but Rota always makes sure you've got something to dance to.



4. 'Sunrise for Orchestra' [Suite from The Quiet Earth (1985)] and 'Saturn Rising' by John Charles. The most memorable image from Geoff Murphy's homegrown post-apocalypse was the sight of Bruno Lawrence going buggy in a camisole - and looking damn hot while doing so.  But John Charles' score is equally memorable.

And whoever decided to dilute the impact of the final image (which Charles makes all the more dreadful) by slapping it on the poster needs to be shot. Often.


5. 'Song For The Unification Of Europe (Julie's Version)' from Three Colors: Blue (1993) by Zbigniew Preisner A moving and formally intricate finale to a meditation on loss, grief and moving past it through art, or an over-rated load of pretentious foofy-tosh?  I say the former, but the Three Colors trilogy is at least worth arguing about.


6. 'Typewriter Tip Tip Tip' by Shankar Jaikishan & Hasrat Jaipuri from Bombay Talkie (1970)  Before 'Merchant-Ivory' became shorthand for the airless heights of 'heritage' literary cinema and cocks and frocks angst, they made this affectionate but pointed parody of Bollywood melodramas - which, in real life, are even less likely to have happy endings.  (And before you ask, no the blonde English woman is not Felicity Kendall but her sister Jennifer.   Felicity worshippers should track her debut in another Merchant-Ivory production, Shakespeare Wallah, loosely based on her family's life as jobbing actors in India.)


7. 'In Dreams' by Roy Orbison from Blue Velvet (1986)  While I intellectually prefer scores to soundtracks, the only rule is to make it work.  Which David Lynch does with this scene that doesn't actually have much to do with anything but still makes my flesh crawl for reasons I can't explain.   Even more disturbing or thrilling, according to taste, a 25th anniversary edition has just been released in the US with 50 minutes of long-thought-lost deleted scenes. Meep.



8. 'Bathe in The River' Mt Raskil Preservation Society (ft. Hollie Smith) from No. 2 (2006)  There's a long long list of films you can only wish were as good as their soundtracks.   Toa Fraser's adaptation of his own (excellent) play didn't survive the transplant from stage to screen.  Don McGlashan's in blue-eyed Pasifika soul, sold by Hollie Smith like her life was at stake, is another beast entirely.

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