Friday, December 21, 2007

On the Subject of Movies

Since I have entered into the real of movie criticism, let me scream one thing. Soundtracks are important to me. I am easily manipulated by the movie score, background music, and the like. I am also easily put off (see my comments in the last post about the annoying typewriter thing). One thing that really gets my goat is the failure to be cautious in the use of music not composed for the current movie.

In "The Year of Living Dangerously," for example, (one of my favorite movies in the '80s) took place around the year of 1965 (or is it 1967?), when Suharto seized power from Sukarno in Indonesia. In the movie, there's a great scene in which Billy/Linda Hunt (the only performer to win an Oscar for playing a character of the opposite gender, which portrayal was not of a cross-dressing sort) is bandaging a wound Mel Gibson has sustained during a riot. S/He puts on a well-used vinyl disk and asks Gibson to listen to the power. (It's mystical and haunting scene that is the center of the movie for me.) And the recording is one of R. Strauss' "Four Last Songs" (the best music ever written for voice -- specifically, soprano -- and orchestra) sung by (to me, the then-unknown) Kiri te Kanawa. I fell in love with the voice and music and rushed out to find the recording. (Years later I met and was hugged by Dame Kiri, something that may never have happened but for hearing her in "Year." We remain good friends to this day -- oh, wait; the hug happened, but the friendship is "in my dreams." Alas!)

Well, lo and behold!, the te Kanawa/Andrew Davis recording had not yet been made in the year of the Suharto coup. I think it came out the next year (1968). Well, now that sticks in my craw every time I see the movie.

Unfortunately, the same thing happened in "Atonement." In one mooning-love-sick scene, Robbie/McAvoy re-plays a famous duet from "La Boheme." Per the credits, the singers are Jussi Bjoerling and Victoria de los Angeles, both sublime singers (on what is arguably the best recording of the opera). Well, that recording was not made until years later than the period portrayed, either. So here's another anachronism that will jump up to bite me whenever I see this movie again. It's great that they didn't use a contemporary divo and diva, but come on, there are older recordings they could have glommed on to.

Internet Movie DataBase lists "goofs" apparent in movies. I wonder whether I ought to suggest this on both. (As it is, they highlight that the credits misattribute which Song te Kanawa actually sings. Maybe I should add to that.) A little research won't cost a studio/filmaker that much in the scale of things. (Can you imagine showing a car that hadn't been produced until years after the action-period? No one would let that pass. So why the music problems?)

For curiosity's sake: Anyone know of similar problems with other movies? I tend to stick to the opera-like repertoire, of course, so I'd be pretty much deaf to other anachronisms.

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