Monday, November 14, 2011

Synthesized Accompaniment

I watched The Long Good Friday again about a month ago for the first time in years. I had forgotten how much movie music from the late seventies and early eighties relied so heavily upon pop-oriented synthesizer sounds, regardless of whether they fit the mood of what was on the screen or not. Listening to the opening and closing themes of The Long Good Friday, it seemed downright odd to choose such music for a gangster film until I thought of other eighties movies, like To Live and Die in L.A. and Manhunter, that also have heavy-handed synthesizer pop loudly ushering in the closing credits, despite wrapping up tragic loss or disturbing violence just moments before.

The funny thing is, watching the closing scene (several times over, no less), all I could think was, "Thank God!" I mean, seriously, there comes a time when you're just thrilled that every goddamn score under the sun in the late seventies/early eighties didn't sound like another John Williams rip-off.  The pop music may sound odd given what it's playing behind on the screen but it's such a signifier of its time and place, I wouldn't change it for the world.

Oh yeah, and this guy?

Damn!  Honestly.  Just, damn!


Peter Nellhaus said...

Two words: Tangerine Dream.

Greg said...

I love Tangerine Dream. I have the soundtrack for Sorcerer and listen to it quite often, actually. For me, their sound was never cheesy sounding or overly pop-oriented but atmospheric and moody (which, by the way, the theme for The Long Good Friday is anything but).

bill r. said...

I put this up on Facebook a while ago, so you may have seen it, but I remember reading Stephen Hunter's review of UNLEASHED, with Jet Li, and Bob Hoskins as the villain, and Hunter said that Hoskins couldn't be taken seriously as a villain because he was too cuddly. To this day, I do not know which Bob Hoskins movie Hunter saw to give him that impression. MONA LISA, maybe.

As for synth music, I don't generally mind it in contemporary set films, like THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY, TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A., etc., but I really dislike it when they're used anachronistically, as in THE BOUNTY or GALLIPOLI. I hate those scores, even though I love the films. The one exception I can think of is MERRY CHRISTMAS, MISTER LAWRENCE. It's set during WWII, but that's a good synth score. David Bowie's presence probably opens the door for it.

Mr. Peel said...

To bring in a contemporary, non-crime film--EDUCATING RITA. Just terrific. Holds up great. Caine and Walters are wonderful. has this almost unbearably grinding early 80s synth score that has dated horribly and seems designed to make the ears bleed whenever it plays. Aside from that it's a pretty great movie.

Greg said...

Bill, anyone who's seen this movie knows that Hoskins is easily believable as a gangster. He's a great actor, easily believable as pretty much any character because he's so damn good!

I like the scores for Gallipoli and The Bounty, by the way. Vangelis doesn't get all 80's disco sounding so it seems to work, for me at least.

Greg said... has this almost unbearably grinding early 80s synth score that has dated horribly and seems designed to make the ears bleed whenever it plays.

Well, the score for The Long Good Friday isn't as bad but it has dated pretty badly which, ironically, makes it more appealing to me now.