Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Top 10 Uses of Existing Songs in Movies


Although none of the film's songs are on this list, this idea came to me while watching Sofia Coppola's wonderful 'Marie Antoinette'. There have been some inspirational cinematic revivals of existing songs throughout history, and here are my top ten.
**Note: Contains mild spoilers**

#10. The Crew Cuts - "Sh-Boom" (1954)
in "Clue" (1985)

Popularly referred to as "Life Could Be a Dream Sweetheart", this is one of the more memorably hilarious choices of music in the film. After a particular flurry of murders in the dark, the surviving members return from their respective rooms to the sound of this record skipping and then resuming. The bewilderment of the characters ties in perfectly with this -- why are they here? How have they gotten themselves into this mess? Fantastic.

#9. Edith Piaf - "La Vie En Rose" (1946)
in "My Summer of Love" (2004)

Translated as "Life in pink", this swooning song carries with it a foolish idealism and devotion that correlates with the themes of MSOL. Used towards the end of the film more appropriately, it is representative of the characters' ardent nature; their impetuousity and fearlessness when they get something into their heads. An ode to love and life.

#8. Karla DeVito - "We Are Not Alone" (1985)
in "The Breakfast Club" (1985)

The scene in the film in which the six adolescents let go of their social inhibitions and judgement, and collectively indulge in smoking pot, dancing, and generally exercising their teenage rebellion. The song is a statement that is indicative of the film as a whole, that people should not isolate themselves from one another, and is one of the few moments where the group are truly united.

#7. Judy Garland - "Over the Rainbow" (1939)
in "Face/Off" (1995)

A rare occasion when violence is seen through the eyes of a child. Adds an entire different dimension to what could have been a conventional action sequence, and gives us the perspective of the more passive characters, seen as possessions to be recovered. The victims caught in the crossfire. It makes the film seem harrowing and authentic despite its less than modest predictability.

#6. Nancy Sinatra - "Bang, Bang" (1966)
in "Kill Bill Vol. 1" (2003)

Such a simple and succinct song that typifies the bride's sentimental, yet rigidly unmoving attitude towards antagonist Bill. The Bride, as a character, bears a lot of rage, but releases it in the form of clinical, efficient violence. Her casual demeanor and tone is cool and classy, much like Nancy's sultry resignation.

#5. Syreeta - "Harmour Love" (1977)
in "Junebug" (2005)

The type of sweet and simple tune easily associated with Junebug's Southern bible-belt orthodox Christianity -- easy to listen to, and containing a valuable message. It's also incredibly infectious, and captures the simplistic essence of what the film tries to say about family values.

#4. The Jesus and Mary Chain - "Just Like Honey" (1985)
in "Lost in Translation" (2003)

There's nothing I've ever experienced at the cinema that quite tops Bill Murray's exit to this song. Like a dream sequence, the subdued muffling of this song an indistinct reference to being in disarray or transition. The experience and resigned wisdom of knowing where to draw the line.

#3. The Police - "Roxanne" (1979)
in "Moulin Rouge" (2001)

This song is given a flamboyant makeover from its mundane and dull existence, into a flourishing, passionate, energetic tango. The sort that mirrors MR's constantly racy, chaotic tone. A sequence filled with power, tension and theatrics that just wills you to don a red flower and flail your arms around in a dramatic fashion. Magical.

#2. Pat Ballard - "Mr. Sandman" (1954)
in "Halloween II" (1981)

This chirpy tune creates a weird, eery feeling thats contrapuntal genius makes you scream "But what next?!". A deliberately upbeat number playing on the idea of not being able to sleep, and used frustratingly appropriately throughout the film, almost as if to dismiss its world of terror and chaos as unavoidable normality.

#1. Vera Lynn - "We'll Meet Again" (1939)
in "Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" (1964)

Perhaps it's the history of Vera Lynn's "We'll Meet Again" that makes its presence in the film so perfect. A classic war tune, it tells of lovers parting as the man goes off to fight for his country. As Strangelove's apocalyptic finale becomes clear the song plays as the world crumbles to an end. A noble anthem that rules a line under the less-than-noble actions that litter the film, and a fittingly rousing farewell to a comedy of errors. The final mark of insanity.

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