The band’s robbie robertson called director Martin Scorsese a frustrated musician, with good reason.
THIS week, The Wolf Of Wall Street comes to Malaysian cinemas, telling the story of a stock broker (Leonardo DiCaprio) who gets tangled in the worlds of corporate banking and the mob. It’s the latest epic from legendary film director Martin Scorsese, the man responsible for classics like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas and The Departed.
In addition to being riveting films, Scorsese’s works include some of the best and most creative uses of “source music.” That’s a movie industry term for music that was not created specifically for the film. While director Steven Spielberg often works with composer John Williams to create original orchestral scores for his movies, Scorsese is more likely to soundtrack his music with tunes that already exist. In most cases, that means rock and roll.
The American director wasn’t the first person to use rock music in the movies (that practice started almost as soon as rock and roll became popular in the 1950s), but Scorsese might be the best at it. His films are littered with unforgettable sequences set to some of the greatest music in rock history: songs by The Clash, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan and – most notably – The Rolling Stones.
Yes, Scorsese and the Stones are as intertwined as the director and Robert DeNiro (or, these days, DiCaprio). Scorsese has employed dozens of Rolling Stones tracks in his movies, using them to underscore regret, fear, excitement, violence and more. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards kick in on the soundtrack and these scenes come to life. In 1973’s Mean Streets, DeNiro makes one of the best entrances in screen history, set to the jagged riffs of the Stones’ Jumpin’ Jack Flash. He wobbles into the bar, coated in red light, with a woman on each arm and it’s clear to the audience, here comes trouble. He’s used the Stones’ apocalyptic
no less than three times in his movies ( Goodfellas, Casino and The Departed). The third time proved to be the charm, as Scorsese intertwined a howling Jagger with a nasty Jack Nicholson to create the appropriate sense of foreboding in the opening scenes of The Departed. Of course, Scorsese’s catalogue of films isn’t limited to simply using the Stones’ tunes; he helmed a concert film starring the band, the expertly shot Shine A Light, in 2008.
The Band’s Robbie Robertson once called Scorsese a frustrated musician, which is evident by the amount of music documentaries he’s directed, including ones focusing on Dylan, Beatle George Harrison and The Band. The Last Waltz, a movie that depicts the final concert for the original lineup of The Band, is a lovingly crafted tribute to live rock and roll. I remember watching it as a teenager with my father and him telling me, “Watch the musicians’ eyes. It’s how they communicate.” Sure enough, The Last Waltz showcased the intimate interplay of a great group. Because of this (and many more qualities), it’s the best concert movie of all time.
Scorsese brings that sort of crackling energy to every film, often by way of rock and roll. Sometimes it’s right from the opening credits – The Ronettes’ famous stutter drumbeat from Be My Baby that opens Mean Streets or The Dropkick Murphys’ blaring I’m Shipping Up To Boston in The Departed. Sometimes the music amplifies the exuberance of a scene – Warren Zevon’s Werewolves Of London enhances the cocky attitude of Tom Cruise as he has his way with a billiard table in The Color Of Money and The Crystals’ And Then He Kissed Me gallops along with an unbroken shot through the Copacabana nightclub as Ray Liotta enjoys the perks of being a mobster in Goodfellas.
Sometimes the music brings a nervy edge to the scene (The Clash’s rampaging Janie Jones in Bringing Out The Dead) or a sense of inevitable tragedy (both The Animals’ House Of The Rising Sun in Casino and Derek and the Dominos’ Layla in Goodfellas are the soundtracks to a slew of murders).
For all of these – and many other – examples, Scorsese has been an enormous influence on new generations of filmmakers who use source music in their movies: notable directors that include Quentin Tarantino ( Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained), Wes Anderson that when done in excess, Blunt risks the danger of coming across like a sad puppy, as evident on tracks such as Always Hate Me, Blue On Blue and Miss America (which sounds like a carbon copy of Lana Del Rey’s Video Games).
Obviously, no one in their right mind would have the heart to kick a sad puppy. It’s just really unfortunate that Blunt doesn’t enjoy that kind of immunity. ( Rushmore, Moonrise Kingdom) and Cameron Crowe ( Say Anything, Almost Famous). Anderson has even said he used a Stones song in his first film because of Martin Scorsese.
Although Scorsese has inspired his share of directors, he’s not ready to pass on the torch quite yet. After all, The Wolf Of Wall Street has drawn glowing reviews as well as speculation that it might land some Oscars. I don’t know if it will live up to the hype, but I can guarantee I’ll go home from the theatre with a few more songs and images burned into my memory. Pants, a manufactured pop project called Valli Girls and a theme song for an American animated television series called ... wait for it ... Trollz.
But as far as pop accessibility on Haim’s debut studio album is concerned, it began and ended with a song called The Wire. With airy melodies and a kiss-off line like “I just know that you’re gonna be ok anyway”, the track’s a guaranteed fixture for any self-respecting female indie music festival-goer.
The rest of Days Are Gone is an amalgamation of songs that bring to mind a time of shoulder pads. Or if we’re talking in the rock ‘n’ roll sense – an era of mullets.
And while we’re on the topic of fashion, Vogue sums it up best when it dubbed Haim’s music as “stripped-back nu-folk-meets-nineties-R&B-pop sound”. On tracks such as Falling and Go Slow, the semblance of music from the cassette years is uncanny.
Consisting of three spunky twentysomething sisters – Este, Danielle and Alana Haim – along with drummer Dash Hutton, the band’s debut is rife with revivalism of bygone music that will get the yesteryear crowd cheering. And thanks to their status as the latest cool kids on the block, younger fans might jump on this nostalgic bandwagon, too.
Wild horses: Martin Scorsese (centre) has a penchant for making edgy movies, quite like how the rolling Stones has worked at crafting its music. — aFP