Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Advanced Movie Making 4678-II

I saw the fantastic Darjeeling Limited on Friday night and I think I figured out Wes Anderson's trick for setting the vibe of his films. And this is it:

The Kinks.

I'll explain.

It's a credit to both their genius really. One made great, largely undiscovered, and now vintage music while the other just has a good ear for it and matching it to good picture.

I mean, the Kinks wrote such wonderful tunes and I think most would agree they were way underrated and had such a unique sound and were, well, such dedicated followers of fashion. Not to mention they're a huge influence on everyone from the Jam to Blur to Oasis to Franz Ferdinand. I think their problem was they had to compete with a couple other bands named the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Tough one, that one.

But the genius of Wes and soundracks is that he digs deep. He digs in and he finds those lost gems. The ones way past "Lola" and "You Really Got Me." And then he builds around them. The Darjeeling Limited magically used both the sad leaving song "This time tomorrow", the quirkily sweet "Strangers", and the nifty little rocker "Powerman." The rest is mainly Indian sitar music (some quite good) and obscure ballads (see the lovely "Where do you go to my lovely?". But he digs well. In fact, the guy dug so deep he managed to part me with a cool $12 to buy the whole soundtrack 'cause those Kinks songs don't really show up anywhere else. Except record stores, of course. Too bad they're not open.

I think alot of making films like his—ones that are so intertwined with music it really becomes as important to the story as the actors (and it should always be that way, me thinks)— is sort of like when you make a playlist. After you get the first few tracks in place you start to set a tone, a vibe for the mix or the playlist or the party or whatever. That's when you start genre-hopping and pull out obscure French songs and Brazilian guys who do Bowie covers in Portugese and Eliot Smith songs and, of course, those beautiful, between the buttons Rolling Stones songs like "I am waiting" in Rushmore and "She Smiled Sweetly" and "Ruby Tuesday" in The Royal Tenenbaums tent scene. And in this movie he built an incredible scene (using one of his wicked good set change/dolly pieces, of course) to the Stone's "Play with fire." It was crazy good.

One of my other favorite Wes Anderson stories is how he and Owen Wilson were either driving to or from LA from Austin during the making of Bottle Rocket and listened to old cassette tapes and cobbled together what is really a great soundtrack for a small independent.

But it really comes down to the Kinks. At least this time.

Now that I think about it though, you can't tell me that HP "Pictures" spot wouldn't have been half of what it was without that Kinks song.

You gotta admit, they've got a vibe.


Blogger Bryan said...

So true. Anderson's made casual Kinks fans out of every hipster in America. A few years ago I was part of a Stones vs Kinks argument (on the Stones' side), but have slowly grown into bigger fan. After this movie, I'm on the verge of hording their entire back catalog.

5:30 PM  
Blogger Howard said...

I think it was after Rushmore that I thought “this guy’s not just taking what he can get, he’s going for a feel.” He totally got me back into the Stones with that one, Bowie with "Life Aquatic", Kinks with this one.

But the beauty of Wes’s movies is they really are kind of suspended in time a lot like the music he uses. No one wears the latest fashions, very often they wear very dated clothes, they drive old cars and listen to vintage music very likely on a turntable. I mean, in this movie when Schwartzman hits his iPod it’s a little jarring.

And I’ll always argue Stones over Kinks or whoever. Come on. I got in a Zeppelin v. Stones match the other day at lunch and thought to myself “I love Zeppelin like the next guy but come on.”

6:29 PM  

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