CineFix is back after a long hiatus with a brand new list highlighting the 10 best uses of music in movies, instances where music is used inside the film to further the plot…but not musical numbers or scores. There’s actually a word for this if you want to forgo a rip on your Word-of-the-Day Calendar: Diegetics. Within this concept are a whole lot of extremely specific uses for music in films: music provided by characters in a scene, contrapuntal scoring (or music provided to underscore a scene wildly out of sync with that particular scene’s gravity; think The Mickey Mouse March in Full Metal Jacket or the closing number from The Life of Brian), songs character choose to play that help define that character (ex: Peter Quill dancing to “Come And Get Your Love” in Guardians of the Galaxy), and a whole bunch of more esoteric musical film categories. Diegetics, people.
Diegetic sound. Sound whose source is visible on the screen or whose source is implied to be present by the action of the film: voices of characters. sounds made by objects in the story. music represented as coming from instruments in the story space ( = source music)
We recently lost a great director in Milos Forman and, while he left an impressive list of works, nothing approaches his accomplishment in Amadeus. The biopic of Mozart is a showcase for two things: Mozart’s music and the role F. Murray Abraham was born to play: Mozart’s composing rival Salieri. Some actors only get to be iconic in one role. That’s the case with Abraham, who has gone on to do some fine character work, but nothing that touches Salieri. The only thing worse than being bad at something is being very good at what you were born to do and sitting in the shadow of a legend. The high points of Amadeus are the scenes between a feeble, mad Salieri in an asylum conversing with a priest. They serve to connect the audience to the ongoing narrative of Mozart’s short life, and they become increasingly more menacing and unhinged as Salieri rails against God for turning his back on him and making Mozart his messenger through music. The composer gone mad ends the film absolving the other inmates having dubbed himself “The Patron Saint of Mediocrity”.
Serenade for Winds in B-Flat Major is my favorite piece of Mozart’s and the one Salieri chooses to try to explain what made Mozart’s music so transcendent. Hundreds of years since his passing, and Mozart is still the greatest composer of all-time. Even if you don’t think you know Mozart’s music, by the end of the film you realize how much you actually do and how much it still serves as the soundtrack of the human race. Salieri lived long enough to see his own works forgotten. Amadeus resembles its subject in 100 years from now, people will still watch this film in wonder and delight, both because of the music that inspired it and the brilliant film craft that wove an epic biography around it.
Music makes or breaks a film. We’ve talked about movie scores before and how vital they are to the success of a film. Today, let’s turn it around and look at what happens when movies look at music. How big a part of your daily life is music? This whole list came about as a side effect of a seven hour drive I had to make yesterday, the entirety of it spent yodeling to a vast library of songs (to be fair to me, it was not as bad as yodeling….it was getting very raspy though in the last two hours). Continue reading Top 5: Music Movies→