Listening Through Cinema’s Best Soundtracks: Your Wednesday Morning Treat

A film’s soundtrack is a necessary component to the total sum. The best use of music in film is not when its manipulative but rather acting as a character of its own, helping bring to life the filmmakers artistic vision. And this year, we’ve been graced with some truly fantastic new soundtracks—from Shane Carruth’s complex ethereal wonder Upstream Color to Clint Mansell’s stirringly sensuous Stoker. So to liven up your Wednesday afternoon, I’ve rounded up the best film soundtracks floating around in their enitrety. So whether you’re in the mood to transport yourself into a delicate and gauzy Coppola world or the existential romatic longing world of Wenders, peruse our listen and see whar perks up your emotions. Enjoy.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Almost Famous

The Virgin Suicides

Trainspotting

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Requiem for a Dream

Upstream Color

A Clockwork Orange

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Nashville

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Pulp Fiction

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The Last Waltz

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The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

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Natural Born Killers

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Blue Velvet

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Paris, Texas

 

Punch-Drunk Love

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Waltz With Bashir

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The Graduate

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Schindler’s List

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Spring Breakers

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Amacord

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Fire Walk With Me

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Chungking Express

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Magnolia

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Elevator to the Gallows

Drive

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Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters

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Taxi Driver

 

Superfly

 

Mystery Train

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The Best Films to Watch Without Ever Leaving Your Bed This Week

I often wonder if people are simply watching films with the wrong muscle. So many people nowadays enter into a film looking to impress their analytic and intellectual eye upon the work, geared towards their own bent or marching in with an agenda, not allowing the heart to do its job. When making his pastel fever dream 3 Women, Robert Altman said that he wanted to create a film that was pure emotion, that when you walked out of the theater, it wasn’t the ideas you could articulate but the feeling that dripped off your skin. And that’s a sentiment I look for in whatever film I enter, giving myself over to what’s happening before me. But that’s not to say it works every time or that having a critical eye isn’t necessary or films should be void of detailed study and only exist in a realm of feeling, of course, but intellect is not everything. 

So what better way to truly allow yourself to succumb to a great film than from the comfort of your bed? And with an enormous wealth of films streaming at your fingertips, you’re now able to gain access to films that may not have made it into the cinemas near you. From some of 2013’s best films thus far, to classics sure to please any film fan, I’ve rounded up some of the best films to watch this weekend from beneath the sheets. Enjoy.

 

Stoker

As deliciously evil and thrilling as it is visually-rich and haunting, Park Chan-wook’s fantastical gothic thriller Stoker plays out like an erotic waltz with sinister intentions. As his first English-language film, the acclaimed Korean director has crafted a quiet kind of suspense that shows the graceful unraveling of an isolated American family….It’s a story about he inherent nature of evil, as well as the sexual awakening of a young girl when first tempted by the desirable. India’s coming-of-age is the undercurrent for this bone-chilling and stunning feature from Chan-wook and writer-actor Wentworth Miller. Staying true to Park’s strong affinity for character-driven tales and his arresting visual style,Stoker is also enhanced by its biting and beautiful soundtrack from Clint Mansell that acts as its own character in the film. (available on iTunes)    

To the Wonder

What’s best about Terrence Malick’s work is how so much of it exists in memory. Time flows with the spirituality of a dream and the scenes presented swim in and out of consciousness like the recollection of a feeling or image existing in an ineffable realm beyond words. And with the follow up to his examination of creation, The Tree of Life, Malick’s To The Wonder takes a poetic look at the hazards of love throughout our lifetime, equating divinity with feeling and compassion. Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko star as lovers that weave in and out of a relationship—from the hopeful and tender beginnings of their love in Paris to the detachment that comes upon moving to a rural town in America. David Jenkins said that Terrence Malick "doesn’t make films anymore, he builds cathedrals.” And as a sublime and beautiful companion piece to The Tree of Life, his latest emotional epic  tackles the same questions of existence as his last film, but this time through the eyes of love and the confounding complexities within ourselves that hold us captive and barricade us from connection to our own spirit and that of others. (available on iTunes)    

 

Before Sunset

At one point in Before Sunrise, Jesse begins to admit that in the months leading up to his wedding, he couldn’t stop thinking of Celine. He would see her everywhere, all the time, always in New York—especially once folding up an umbrella and entering a deli on 13th and Broadway. But she was off living in Europe somewhere, so he knew he was crazy. And of course, Celine then tells him that she was actually living in New York at that time—on 11th and Broadway.  It’s a small moment but an absolutely heartbreaking one—knowing that their lives could have been entirely different had he just glanced out of the car window again to see if it was her, knowing that this person whom he met once, yet possessed him so completely as an intangible longing inside him, was in fact right under his nose— and he never knew it. They never knew it.  But yes, that’s is just one of many painfully wonderful and sob-inducing moments in Richard Linklater’s transcontinental love trilogy. And since Before Sunrise’s premiere in 1994, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke have been our Celine and Jesse, playing out the epitome of rare requited love thwarted by time and space. You watch these films, and for all the tears you cannot help but shed, you’re always left with the pangs of hopefulness. It excites something in you and tickles your heart to know that somewhere on a tram in Europe, your ideal soulmate could be pensively starring out a window wondering if there’s something he’s missing. (available on iTunes)    

 

Prince Avalanche

As a minimalist character study in an isolated and absurd environment, David Gordon Green’s latest film, Prince Avalanche, takes the buddy comedy genre for a spin, strips it bare, and gives it feeling. Starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch as an unlikely duo sequestered in the fire-ravaged woods of Texas, the film grows on you as it unfolds. We watch the men deal with the psychological hurdles of heartbreak and existential dilemmas, as they’re not only forced to confront that which they detest in one another, but also in themselves. ..Taking place in a strikingly beautiful landscape, the film examines two lost and bizarre men working together as highway road workers painting lines down vacant road who spend the summer of 1988 away from their lives in the city. Rudd’s Alvin carries a quiet intensity as the seemingly more mature of the two, who longs for his solitude and true experience in nature while dealing with the frustrations of his fading romance. Playing his foil, Hirsch’s Lance is the goofy younger brother of said girlfriend, whose presence comes as a nuisance to Alvin with his oft idiotic and childish behavior. And although simple in structure, there’s a surreal and mystical tone to the film that lives in the glowing skies and remnant ashes scattered through the woods. (available on iTunes)    

Spring Breakers

Sure, Spring Breakers has an easy allure: sex, drugs, violence, and gun-toting saccharine-sweet Disney stars in bikinis. But there’s more to Harmony Korine’s neon-fueled rite of passage tale than meets the bloodshot eye. Like a candy-coated nightmare, Korine gives a raw portrayal of what at first appears to be a fun and breezy ride filled with sparkles and the promise of escape from life’s mundane ennui, butSpring Breakers cuts deep and goes dark and filthy into places that frighten, mystify, tantalize, and thrill with a mix of pure pleasure and pain. Like a scratched album stuck on repeat, Spring Breakers follows four college girls who rob a diner a in order to fulfill their escapist fantasies of heading down to St. Petersburg, Florida for a debaucherous once-in-a-lifetime vacation. But when their beer-soaked and sexually charged trip goes sour, it’s rapper and drug and arms dealer Alien that comes to their rescue. And that’s when the nefarious story really kicks in as the world becomes much more rough and dark. With the tone of a haunted pop song, the film evokes something physical, leaving you in a trance that’s both erotic and dangerously chilling. It’s entertainment with a bullet, cinema with a bite of fantasy—it’s fizzing and bursting to the surface with color and entirely intoxicating. (available on iTunes)    

 

Mulholland Drive

The movie is hypnotic; we’re drawn along as if one thing leads to another–but nothing leads anywhere, and that’s even before the characters start to fracture and recombine like flesh caught in a kaleidoscope. "Mulholland Drive" isn’t like "Memento," where if you watch it closely enough, you can hope to explain the mystery. There is no explanation. There may not even be a mystery…There have been countless dream sequences in the movies, almost all of them conceived with Freudian literalism to show the characters having nightmares about the plot. "Mulholland Drive" is all dream. There is nothing that is intended to be a waking moment. Like real dreams, it does not explain, does not complete its sequences, lingers over what it finds fascinating, dismisses unpromising plotlines. If you want an explanation for the last half hour of the film, think of it as the dreamer rising slowly to consciousness, as threads from the dream fight for space with recent memories from real life, and with fragments of other dreams–old ones and those still in development…This is a movie to surrender yourself to. If you require logic, see something else. "Mulholland Drive" works directly on the emotions, like music. Individual scenes play well by themselves, as they do in dreams, but they don’t connect in a way that makes sense–again, like dreams. The way you know the movie is over is that it ends. And then you tell a friend, "I saw the weirdest movie last night." Just like you tell them you had the weirdest dream. (available on iTunes)    

 

The Place Beyond the Pines

Spanning fifteen years, The Place Beyond the Pines unfolds along three brooding story lines—the tale of a motorcycle stunt rider who begins robbing banks in a desperate attempt to prove he can provide for his child and the woman he loves, the story of an intelligent but eager rookie cop who goes after him, and how the consequences of their actions are passed down into the blood of their sons. But one of the most fascinating elements ofPines is how expansive it feels—emotionally and cinematically. By the last moments of the film, you find yourself completely satisfied, feeling as though you’ve truly engaged in the richness of a narrative and were able to be a voyeur into another lifetime. The Place Beyond the Pines penetrates deep into the woe of its characters as they wrestle with what plagues them internally and the inability to confront and change the world around them. Dealing with themes of generational impact, how lives mysteriously intertwine, and the way one moment can effect an entire legacy, Pines is an epic journey about fathers and sons that’s kinetic and full of life yet teeming with secrets that linger in the air like ghosts. It’s a haunted drama that draws you in slowly as the story unfurls piece of piece, taking you on a ride through Cianfrance’s moody and harrowing tale. (available on iTunes)    

 

Mud 

But not wanting to make a simple getaway film about a man on the run, Nichols thought about young boys finding Mud, and who those boys were. "A girl had broken up with me and I was feeling defeated and pained," he admits. "I started thinking, yeah, what if this kid’s going to get his heart broken and there’s this guy who always gets his heart broken, but for some reason always keeps coming back. All the sudden I had what ended up being the core of the story." And that core being love–first, unmerciful love. "A lot of the time we look down on that young love we had and think, oh wasn’t that cute or puppy love and all, but its kind of the fiercest love there is," he says. "You don’t have your hands up yet, which makes the fall so hard because you’re fully committed to it, you’re all in. And oh man, it hurts."…But what rings true with all the male characters in the film is inverting standard ideas of masculinity. Nichols takes the southern male mentality and exposes its "endearing" weakness. "I wanted to make a romantic film about the male point of view of love, and I don’t think that happens a lot," he says. He takes these hard men, whether it’s Mud, an outlaw, or Blankenship, a reclusive older man, and shows their vulnerability and their devotion to love. "They might be men who don’t feel comfortable sharing their feelings but they have all those thoughts, they have all those feelings, and we treat them like humans, like the real people that they are, and we don’t need to fit them into a stereotype of masculinity." (available on iTunes)    

The King of Marvin Gardens 

  One of the most downbeat movies of the time, it features Nicholson as the deeply depressed, anti-charismatic David Staebler, who earns a modest living telling miserable tales about his family in the early hours of the morning on a Philadelphia FM radio station. He’s lured at the height of winter to the once grand, now decaying New Jersey resort of Atlantic City by his estranged brother, Jason (Bruce Dern). This fast-talking, ever hopeful wheeler-dealer and con man is involved with gangsters in a dicey project to buy a Hawaiian island and turn it into a casino…The movie is a flawed masterpiece full of menace, surreal moments and obscure dialogues, with the city photographed in all its desolate, decaying beauty by László Kovácscorrect, who also shot Easy Rider andFive Easy Pieces. Probably the greatest sequence has the four main characters recreating the Miss America pageant in the desolate, deserted Convention Hall. Marvin Gardens (a misspelling by the game’s creator of Marven Gardens, a township south of Atlantic City) is a yellow property on the Monopoly board. The movie is best viewed alongside Louis Malle’s masterly Atlantic City, shot a decade later while the town was in the process of getting a multimillion-dollar facelift. (available on iTunes)    

Reality

With all the charisma and machismo of Fellini and sprinkled throughout a Bunuelian surreality, Italian director Matteo Garrone’s Reality is a bizarre and compelling character study of a man possessed by an elusive fantasy. As the follow-up to 2008’s Gomorrah, Garrone crafts a brightly colored satire of capitalism and celebrity obsession set in the hyper-real world of reality television—juxtaposed by the crumbling facade of Naples. Scored by the brilliant Alexandre Desplat,Reality tells the story of a Neopolitan fishmonger, Luciano, with an natural affinity for entertainment—his larger-than-life personality both charming and excessive. But when his family and neighbors urge him to audition for Grande Frattello—the Italian version of Big Brother—his life begins to spiral out of control. After his successful audition, Luciano eagerly awaits a call from producers, growing more and more intoxicated with the idea of fame and what being on the show could mean for himself and his legacy. He becomes increasingly more consumed by the possibility that his mundane life will be replaced, not only with glamour of celebrity, but with a dream-like sense of wonder and immortality. The upbeat and comedic tone that permeates the first half of the film begin to grow darker and more psychological as we see Luciano unravel into a delusional world of his own. (available on iTunes)    

 

The Artist is Present

Yes, this is life and this is truth. I’m just trying to choose the important things. I’m 65, so I think at least 10 or 15 years to establish something that can stay without me is important. My life is about the work. Suffering purifies you and focuses you and compliments you. Art history is full of suffering. Tell me any art made from happiness, I don’t know. And the movie has really done a good job because people are touched. In Germany we had Germans cry, that’s not easy to do! But I think it’s just honest. And I think that comes across through the film. Mike was with me for one year shooting all this material so I think it does a good job of showing to the public what performance means; it’s not just some hocus-pocus form of art  that nobody gives a shit about, it’s something else and it’s an important form of art and not always mainstream. For me it’s a contribution to performance art, so for the other young artists coming my way there can be some space….Now in the theatre piece, it’s everyone—the comical Marina and the vulnerable one and the one who is so wounded. It’s a piece about my life, and there are so many things I’m ashamed of and playing my life on stage every single day. Every day I cry to be ready [so] I can to go through this one more time. It’s so important to actually stage the most painful time of my life and give that to other artists, because it’s all we have. And just like a mirror, I want to be an example and everyone can project their own life into this. And the Artist is Present film is like that too. If you have a dream or aim anything is possible. (available on iTunes)    

Blithe Spirit

In fact, there has never been a film that captures the theatrical qualities of Coward at his peak, for the simple reason that live performance is a minimum requirement for fully bringing out those qualities. Coward’s great comedies do not hinge on plot, and their much-vaunted wit is mostly a matter of tone and rhythm. Their structures primarily create occasions for setting actors against one another on a stage; ideally, the audience watching a Coward play should feel that they have been granted entry to an exclusive party where even the nastiest quarrels and the most sullen insults become magically entertaining. The very title of Present Laughter—the exercise in farcical self-portraiture that preceded Blithe Spirit—suggests that necessary ingredient of physical presence. This is not to say that Lean’s film of Blithe Spirit is a failure but that Lean clearly recognized the limitations of Coward’s preliminary instruction: “Just photograph it, dear boy.”…Lean’s film becomes almost by default a supernatural fantasy in a way the play is not. Onstage, Elvira is very much there, even when Ruth cannot see her; in Lean’s editing, Elvira goes in and out of visibility, depending on point of view, automatically creating a multilayered sense of space. The séance scene is filmed as if it were a genuinely ominous affair, effectively enough that, for a moment, it becomes so. This has an interesting effect on our perception of Margaret Rutherford, as the medium Madame Arcati. Rutherford’s inspired performance is one of the great comic turns on-screen, as it apparently was onstage, but here she projects something that seems to go a bit beyond the part as written. (available on iTunes and Hulu)    

 

Brief Encounter

"Nothing happens" is hardly a motto for movies today. But at the end of the second world war, when cinemas were packed, desire on the screen was fabulously (and sometimes hysterically) inflamed by self-denial, shyness and censorship. It’s an open question, of course, but consider the possibility that movie romance, and its dream of desire, were stimulated by the various controls that blocked abandon. Those devices include our innocence. In 1945, there wasn’t a hint of irony or parody in the film’s pounding Rachmaninov score (the second piano concerto, played to the hilt by Eileen Joyce)…Today, the set-up begs for satire. But Brief Encounter has survived such threats, because it is so well made, because Laura’s voiceover narration is truly anguished and dreamy, because the music suckers all of us, and because Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard are perfect. I realise, "perfect" seems dangerously prim and old-hat, an ultimate proof of hopeless gentility. But that’s not fair. Howard could be a wild man – as we know from his later work – and you feel recklessness and revolution as a wind tugging at him. (available on iTunes)    

Match Point

One reason for the fascination of Woody Allen’s "Match Point" is that each and every character is rotten. This is a thriller not about good versus evil, but about various species of evil engaged in a struggle for survival of the fittest — or, as the movie makes clear, the luckiest. "I’d rather be lucky than good," Chris, the tennis pro from Ireland, tells us as the movie opens, and we see a tennis ball striking the net – it is pure luck which side it falls on. Chris’ own good fortune depends on just such a lucky toss of a coin…Let us talk instead in terms of the underlying philosophical issues. To what degree are we prepared to set aside our moral qualms in order to indulge in greed and selfishness? I have just finished re-reading The Wings of the Dove, by Henry James, in which a young man struggles heroically with just such a question. He is in love with a young woman he cannot afford to marry, and a rich young heiress is under the impression he is in love with her. The heiress is dying. Everyone advises him he would do her a great favor by marrying her, and after her death, inheriting her wealth, he could afford to marry the woman he loves. But isn’t this unethical? No one has such moral qualms in Allen’s film, not even sweet Chloe, who essentially has her daddy buy Chris for her. The key question facing the major players is: Greed, or lust? How tiresome to have to choose…Without saying why, let me say that fear also enters into the equation. In a moral universe, it would be joined by guilt, but not here. The fear is that in trying to satisfy both greed and lust, a character may have to lose both, which would be a great inconvenience. At one point this character sees a ghost, but this is not Hamlet’s father, crying for revenge; this ghost drops by to discuss loopholes in a "perfect crime." The movie is more about plot and moral vacancy than about characters, and so Allen uses type-casting to quickly establish the characters and set them to their tasks of seduction, deception, lying and worse. Meyers has a face that can express crafty desire, which is not pure lust but more like lust transformed by quick strategic calculations. Matthew Goode, as his rich friend, is clueless almost as an occupation. Emily Mortimer plays a character incapable of questioning her own happiness, no matter how miserable it should make her. Scarlett Johansson’s visiting American has been around the block a few times, but like all those poor American girls in Henry James, she is helpless when the Brits go to work on her. She has some good dialogue in the process. (available on iTunes)    

Alps

"Alps" is a film peculiar beyond all understanding, based on a premise that begs belief. It takes itself with agonizing seriousness, and although it has the form of a parable, I am at a loss to guess its meaning. Yet I was drawn hypnotically into the weirdness…"Alps" is the new film by the Greek director Giorgos Lanthimos, whose "Dogtooth" shook up Cannes in 2009. That was the film where control-freak parents contain their children within a walled garden and further isolate them from the world by teaching them the incorrect words for things. A Lanthimos film is like a test tube for life, in which the activity depends on what specific ingredients have been introduced. Although "Alps" is provocative and challenging, it is so completely self-contained that it has no particular emotional payoff. There is no greater world in which to evaluate its contents. When mourners are comforted by therapists who propose to represent the loved one, you’d think deep feelings would be stirred up. But "Alps" has the effect of a sterile exercise. (available on iTunes and Netflix)    

Cinema Paradiso

Tornatore’s movie is a reminder of the scenes in Truffaut’s "Day for Night," where the young boy steals a poster of "Citizen Kane." We understand that the power of the screen can compensate for a deprived life and that young Salvatore is not apprenticing himself to a projectionist, but to the movies. Once that idea has been established, the film begins to reach for its effects, and there is one scene in particular – a fire in the booth – that has the scent of desperation about it, as if Tornatore despaired of his real story and turned to melodrama. Yet anyone who loves movies is likely to love "Cinema Paradiso," and there is one scene where the projectionist finds that he can reflect the movie out of the window in his booth and out across the town square so that the images can float on a wall, there in the night above the heads of the people. I saw a similar thing happen one night in Venice in 1972 when they showed Chaplin’s "City Lights" in the Piazza San Marco to more than 10,000 people, and it was then I realized the same thing this movie argues: Yes, it is tragic that the big screen has been replaced by the little one. But the real shame is that the big screens did not grow even bigger, grow so vast they were finally on the same scale as the movies they were reflecting. (available on iTunes and Netflx)

Emily Wells on Creating ‘Mama Acoustic Recordings’ + Watch Her Beautiful New Video for ‘Darlin’

Multi-instrumentalist, singer, producer, and all-around wonderful human being Emily Wells has emerged in recent years as a fascinating new talent whose work is a varied array of musical wonder. Mixing everything from classical instrumentation with synth beats to hip-hop loops and acoustic folk songs, Wells not only produces her own music, but has been in high demand from artists and filmmakers around the world. Most recently, she collaborated with the iconic and brilliant Clint Mansell, for the soundtrack to Park Chan-wook’s Stoker

But Wells’ latest effort is the stripped-down and bare acoustic re-imagining of Mama, her 2012 record release. This time around, Mama Acoustic Recordings takes the original tracks and revisions the structure of the album, breathing a raw and honest new life into the album in a way that’s as fragile as it is powerful. Today, we’re pleased to premiere a stunning new video for the acoustic re-visioning of her song "Darlin."
 
The delicate and lovely track soars with her ethereal voice and sparse guitar, creating a melancholic moment shown through the black-and-white video work of  Ruben Woodin Dechamps and Bat On Ball Creations. In addition to premiering the new video, I also had the chance to chat with Wells about her affinity for the inspiration of strangers, the freedom of her new album, and our mutual literary hero, Richard Brautigan.
 
Did you grow up playing music as a kid?
I played violin, started when I was four—one of those kids—and learned pretty much by ear for the first few years. Then I began to pick up other instruments along the way and started writing my own music, but I was very much a classically-trained little guy.
 
How did you transition into the kind of music you’re playing now?
I went far away from the violin. As you’re growing you’re figuring your sound out and learning, so it became a lot more experimental and kind of electronic. I tried a lot of different stuff and then I came back around to the violin and I was like gosh, I really know how to play that thing better than anything else. And with the advent of looping medals and all that it really made a difference. I was never going to be an orchestra member, that didn’t really appeal to me, but I love the sound of ensemble strings and string arrangements in general. My mind writes and works in that way naturally. So yeah, then I was just building on that and utilizing the violin more as a writing tool and a performance tool.  So that’s how it evolved.
 
What are you drawn to for inspiration when making music?
I’m a voracious music listener and collector. African music has influenced me—there’s no direct sonic correlation obviously but it’s something I care a lot about.  I’ve been collecting records over the years but I also love the blues and I love rap. I kind of go through my stages of what I’m into. And also, my environment and the city I’m in has a huge impact on the music that I make. I think that’s one of the reasons why I keep returning to New York, it’s such an inspiring city, mostly because of the people. And it’s even the people you’re not having direct interaction with, but rather the people you are existing in the city with—whether it be walking on the street or riding on the train or whatever. I can’t deny that as being a huge, huge influence on me as well. I was hanging out in Portland when I wasn’t on tour last year and I wasn’t experiencing that same energy, so I think that’s part of what made me come back here. 
 
Do you see a lot of live music while you’re here?
I really love watching live jazz but I’ll go to a show at Glasslands or Knitting Factory or whatever too. 
 
So why did you choose to do an acoustic re-working of Mama?
It really wasn’t an intentional thing, and I certainly wasn’t planning on releasing it or recording all the songs. The original album got a little delayed in release and by the time the record came out,  a few months later when I started recording the acoustic. So there was kind of a large gap in the experiences discussed on that record and the present. The record is about an incredibly rough time and an incredibly harsh breakup, but that’s what the root of it is so when you have some time yo can process it and you know, time heels all wounds or something. I enjoyed approaching these songs a little more gently and a little more honestly. 
 
Was it different playing the album this time around?
I wasn’t getting wrapped up in the production, this was like deeply honest, and perhaps the fact that I thought I would never release it helped me to be that way. It wasn’t for anybody else. And I’m not a guitar player or anything but it was so simple—just voice and guitar. I’m kind of like that too, I’ll get on something and then have to see it through.So by the time I got to the end of recording the songs, I thought maybe I’d print up a small pressing of it, but I sent it to my label to get their blessing and they really loved it and wanted to release it. So I was like well, okay why not. But it certainly was no grand plan, it was just something I did.
 
And you’re currently working on a film about Richard Brautigan? I love him. He’s quite possilbly one of my favorite humans who has ever existed.
Me too! That’s amazing. It’s either people are like, "who is that?" or say, "I’m obsessed!"  I like that. People who know him really know him. While working on the film I voraciously read everything Brautigan’s written and was interacting with that work as a musician. So I was  just responding to the experience of being baptized in Richard Brautigan. 
 

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Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra: Cinema’s Sonic Bad Omens

Last night I rewatched Morvern Callar, Lynne Ramsay’s 2002 film about a young woman (played by Samantha Morton) who, following the suicide of her boyfriend, goes on to use his money and his unpublished novel to make a better life for herself. It’s an astounding film, full of dark moments and moody songs and plenty of shots that would make for an excellent Criterion Collection cover, if the people in charge of the Criterion Collection line-up were into this sort of movie. (Wink wink, nudge nudge, etc.). But what struck me is that it included a creepy little song from Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra, which is a particular trend I love about recent cinema.

The above clip showing the protagonist heading into her dead-end job at a supermarket features Hazlewood and Sinatra’s "Some Velvet Morning," a particularly odd and moody song which you can hear in its entirety below.

Here is what I have convinced myself: hearing Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra in a movie is BAD NEWS, because something rough is about to happen. I won’t spoil Morvern Callar for you. But to put it in perspective: both last year’s Killer Joe and this year’s Stoker featured a Lee Hazlewood / Nancy Sinatra song on its soundtrack. Nothing worked well for the folks in those movies, to be honest. 

See the Official First Poster for Spike Lee’s ‘Oldboy’ Remake

Fresh off the heat of his English-language debut—the thrilling and seductive Stoker, we’re reminded that director Park Chan-wook’s most acclaimed and beloved film is finally going to have an American remake of its own. But hese days, it’s difficult to get excited about the incessant remakes and Hollywood adaptations—but when it’s Spike Lee, we’ll make an exception. And with the new retelling of Director Park’s Oldboy, we’ll see Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, and Sharlto Copley in a film penned by Mark Protosevich.

Described as both "provocative and visceral," Lee’s adaptation will see Brolin as  an advertising executive who is abruptly kidnapped and held hostage for 20 years in solitary confinement. When he is inexplicably released, he embarks on an obsessive mission to discover who orchestrated his bizarre and torturous punishment only to find he is still trapped in a web of conspiracy and torment. And now, FilmDistrict has released the official new poster for the "Spike Lee Joint" that showcases the 20 marks for 20 long years. 

Oldboy will hit theaters October 11th, so in the meantime check out the poster below and brush up on the original to get yourself acquainted.

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Feel First, Intellectualize Later: An Interview with Legendary Composer Clint Mansell

A symbiotic relationship between composer and director has always been of massive importance when creating a work that’s not only momentarily visceral and dynamic but has the staying power of something truly cinematic. And if there’s any modern composer that truly knows how to penetrate films with sonic accompaniment that haunts, excites, and transcends, it’s visionary English maestro of emotional sound, Clint Mansell. With an affinity for twisted psychological intensity, his compositions work like a drug to suck you into the world of the film and hit you straight in the gut—even with his most elegant melodies teeming with an undercurrent of unease and desperation that makes us cling to each note with pleasure. 

After departing from Pop Will Eat Itself in the mid-1990s, Mansell has been proving his tremendous ability to create a potent soundtrack, working with myriad directors from Darren Aronofsky to Duncan Jones, breathing life into their creative visions. And since the release of Aronfsky’s debut feature Pi, he and Mansell’s work have become synonymous with one another’s—intwined in such a way that one’s images conjure up the other’s sounds, while one’s sounds evoke a very specific movie of the mind. And as one of the most simpatico working relationships in the world of film today, the two have shaped many a vision together—from the iconic paranoid and heartbreaking score for Requiem for a Dream, to the classically harrowing sounds of Black Swan, and the music to come for the upcoming Noah

So although we’ve become quite accustomed to hearing Mansell’s sound in one very specific world over the years, it’s interesting and thrilling to see him lend his talents elsewhere—as he has recently with his incredible work on Moon and Stoker. And in a very rare treat, this week Clint Mansell will take to the stage at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle to play his first New York City performance. Live with a string quartet, full band, and video projection Mansell will be playing songs from Stoker, as well as a taste of everything we’ve grown to love and obsess over him for from Requiem for a Dream, to The Fountain, to Moon, and back around. 

A couple weeks ago, I got the chance to chat with Mansell about composing from gut feeling, the joke of 21st century filmmaking, and how mood’s overarching effect.

So do you find that live performance translates well to your music? Is performing something you still enjoy from your past when that was such a large part of your work as a musician?
I always enjoyed playing live when I was younger. But the experience of playing live, in a lot of respects, is a youthful thing. It’s sort of pleasing to me—and probably my family members—that I found a way to re-enter the live environment but doing it somewhat age appropriately without having to shoehorn myself back into a pair of leather pants to rock the house, you know? 

And it’s a wonderful space to perform in.
We played a church in London a few years ago and it was beautiful. Churches just have an ambiance of their own. With film music, there’s a lot of long quiet passages—which is not really what people usually go to gigs for, so it may require sitting down and being a bit attentive, but obviously a church would really lend itself to that, so I’m really looking forward to it. I haven’t played a gig in New York since 1996 when I was part of something called Night of Nothing at Irving Plaza where I was a guest member of Nine Inch Nails for a few songs.

What originally struck me about your music is how psychologically rich it feels and how it transports you into the mental landscape of its characters so fully. How do you go about building these worlds of sounds for the films you score and do you have a certain process?
I’m not very analytical really; everything I do is based on gut feelings. I just spend a lot of time with the film and with the characters and allow it to consume me, I suppose, and completely absorb it so that you’re thinking about it on a subconscious level. A lot of the films I’ve done have tended to have a main character who is driving the story whose journey I have to support. Black Swan was probably an example of that. This character was totally obsessed with her work and getting the role, but the fact that it’s a ballet, that music would have haunting her and taunting her the whole time. You know what it’s like, the first thing in the morning you might hear a record on the radio, and you can’t get it out of your head all day. So I thought well, if you imagine that the music is actually part of what you’re doing and you’re listening to it all day, it will drive you insane. To a degree, it’s very similar to what I do. I listen to the same bit of music over and over again. I see my stuff as a very Burroughs type approach.

Like cutting-up of the work?
Yeah, I like to write a piece and move it to a place where it wasn’t written for—which is not exactly a revolutionary idea but it does bring in an element of chance, so things occur that you wouldn’t naturally gravitate towards or wouldn’t have occurred to you. You can get these ideas in with like a very violent scene but with music that’s very beautiful—you can juxtapose and it gives you so much more than just the one note of: oh here’s sex, here’s violence, here’s a kiss; you musically can bring in other layers. You can build up an idea of who these people are. My job is to embellish the universe that the filmmaker is trying to create with this story and images and performance; everything I do has to be true to that world. You don’t want something to happen musically to take you out of the movie. So I’ve constantly got to find my way into these characters’ heads and be aware of the fact that if something doesn’t ring true that I’ve got to do something about it. Like in the film Double Indemnity, Edward G. Robinson is an insurance claims adjustor guy and he can spot something’s off with an insurance claim because he gets this little man that gives him indigestion— that’s kind of what it’s like.

Do you tend to use the character as the musical conduit for the story? Like in Requiem for a Dream, there’s the song "Marion Barfs." A lot of the songs from that film sound like they’re scoring the entire scene or the specific chapter of the story but a song like that sounds like its scoring from her insides. 
I don’t think I would analyze it that deep really because it’s really a gut thing, it’s an emotional thing. I think the application of intellect, that comes after the fact—for me, anyways. I just respond to something and so I don’t know if I think about it in that linear kind of way.

Well that’s the best way to enjoy a film: to experience it and feel it first, then intellectualize later.
When I first get a film I watch it and watch it and then I kind of jam to that picture, just very rudimentarily on a piano whilst watching it. And believe you me, it’s very unmusical at that point. But what I’m getting is rhythm and momentum from the performance and feel like I can just respond to what’s going on emotionally and  build from there and get deeper and deeper. You can go in and color-coordinate, find out how these scenes fit together and do that on an intellectual basis. But I always tend to come from the emotional side—which is a gift and a curse. It may not always be the right way to go but you know, that’s how I do it. 

The beginnings of your career, playing with Pop Will Eat Itself, etc., that was a very different musical world than you’re in now. Did you make a conscious effort to move into scoring or was it more of an organic progression that happened from meeting Darren [Aronofsky]?
It was a completely fortuitous chain of events. I’ve always loved film, I’ve always loved film music, but my choices of what I like in film music are probably quite different. I come from more of John Carpenter, David Lynch school of film score appreciation and you know, John Williams, no offense but that’s not really my thing. So I was always interested in stuff like The Parallax View with Michael Small’s music—minimal really but really evocative. I also grew up watching cowboy movies with my dad and those have great rollicking scores to them as well. But then in my late teens, early 20s is when I discovered cinema of a lesser known nature, Blue Velvet, Betty Blue, etc. stuff like this. Those films all have much more interesting musical senses to me. To this day, I wouldn’t give you a round of drinks to what the score to Die Hard 5 is, I mean who fucking cares—no offense to anybody working on—that but who cares?

Well it’s completely different. With someone like Angelo Badalamenti, his music is like a character of its own in Lynch’s films.
Absolutely. Filmmaking, by in large in the 21st century, is a joke I think. It’s all basically the same thing designed to get 15-year-old boys to part with their money. So that was never really of interest to me. I spent a lot of time listening to music and movies that I was excited by and when I met Darren, these are the things that we bonded over really. He was getting the money together to do Pi and he had no real musical connections to people, and we were introduced through mutual friends.

Were you working down at Nothing Studios with Trent [Reznor] at that point?
No, I was living in NY at the time. If Darren had known someone with film experience, he may have preferred to go with someone with chops—but having said that, knowing Darren maybe he wouldn’t have either. You’d think that if you were making your first film you might want someone with experience opposed to some guy who was a long-haired alcoholic in a rock and roll band. 

But if you share a sensibility then that’s important.
We bonded over these different elements of filmmaking that we were excited by, and we were very fortunate in a lot of ways on Pi because it meant that we had no industry or nobody butting their noses in telling us what to do. We had time to figure out what we were doing, and originally Darren wanted to use pre-existing electronic music for Pi and I was just going to write a main theme, a snappy title. But then because he had no money and no real contacts, he couldn’t get a hold of the music and the rights, so every time they lost a piece I basically had to write the piece to replace it. And by doing that I needed up scoring the whole film. And by doing so, Darren and I figured out what we liked without anyone telling us we couldn’t do it this way or that way. We just didn’t know. Even when we did Requiem, we just didn’t know. We were just doing what we liked and that’s an invaluable, invaluable experience. 

Do you miss that sense of freedom?
To be honest, I still have a huge awareness over the fact that I don’t know what I’m doing and honestly, I think that’s an absolute benefit. Sometimes when I meet with a director, I tell them that the biggest ability for me is having the time to get it on, because you start off the film and it’s like a huge blank piece of paper and you’ve got all these choices and you make one or two and certainly your options have narrowed hugely. But that kind of vulnerability, I don’t know if people like that, they seem to like the sort of I’m here to solve all your problems! 

But that music, I’m sure would be pretty void of any authentic feeling.
Of course, it’s bullshit. You know how the movie industry works, people aren’t into vulnerability or actually having an emotional connection to something, they like trousers stuffed to the gills with confidence. I think that’s why we have so many poor products. And obviously I’ve scored a lot of films now, so I do have some knowledge about the process, but the feelings aside, to start every film is like, what the hell are we going to do with this? My most successful movies—and by successful I don’t mean box office, just my own personal preferences—are the ones that I’ve had to try hard and dig deep to find things and challenge myself. I mentioned John Williams earlier, I couldn’t do what he does; if someone said, we really want a John Williams or Hans Zimmer type, well, you better get someone else. I can do what I can do but I’m not a musician, per say, I’m not classically trained musician. I noodle around on piano and guitar and I have to find the emotional moment. I look for the moment in the story where everything comes together that’s bigger than all of those parts are, these moments of transcendence that just elevate you somewhere else. 

So yes, aside from working with Darren, you’re very selective about the films you take on. How do you go about choosing a project and how early on are you brought into the process?
It’s got to have to be something that appeals to me, something that makes me think I’d connect to the story. And there’s a time for everybody where you might just need a job, of course, but the one’s you’re really excited about like when I first read the script to Moon. It blew my mind—why aren’t scripts like this every day? It just had everything I love: isolation, loss, memory issues, just so intellectual while being deeply emotional. And you know, that’s exactly what I am looking for. I’ve been very fortunate in as much as a lot of my work has had a life outside of the film it’s been written for, which have afforded me the opportunity to not have to jump at every job that’s come my way. There was a time that I did so that I could learn my trade really, but in doing so, I also found the things that I don’t like or can’t do and areas where I can shine. Stoker was very much like that. 

And that was such a stunning soundtrack, but sonically that entire film was just mixed so well.
The sound of the film is just incredible. The balance between the sound design, the score, and the dialogue is just so finely tuned and elegant. I would never have thought to put any of my work in an elegant category but just everything on the film is just beautiful. That all comes from the director and their sensibility. Before I’d gotten offered the Stoker job I’d actually withdrawn from scoring for a while, because after Black Swan everything that was coming my way was crap. The film was successful, so bigger films that want to be successful think they can use you now because you have this proven hit factor or something. No, it doesn’t work like that and I was getting all these rubbish films. And I knew I was going to be doing Noah with Darren and I thought I’d just explore some other things for a while.

Where do you look to draw from for inspiration?
Music in general really. I definitely go through love/hate relationships with music. Sometimes I can’t bear to hear it and other times you just want to play it all day. That’s the fantastic thing about music for me: there are no right and no wrong answers, it’s just what it is and it’s people’s expressions of themselves and their feelings and you don’t when yesterday’s cacophony is going to be today’s sweet melody because you’re in different moods and different times. Again, I like this sort of Burroughs thing of random experience and if something happens to fall into your lap. There’s great music out there. It’s really that simple, I suppose. Some days everything works like a charm and other days it sucks; so, obviously my own moods play a big part it in.

So did you start working on Noah?
Yes, I haven’t been on it that long. I had written stuff in advance just based on the script and I went to Iceland to the shoot to just get a few for things. I’ve just been chipping away at it.

Well, I’m very excited for that one. But are there any favorite films you’ve worked on, ones that particularly allowed you to explore something new?
I tend to always like the later stuff I’ve done because I’m always just thrilled to have gotten through another film and actually had some meaningful music involved in it. But I did really enjoy Stoker and I just finished a film called Filth. But probably The Fountain and Moon are amongst the favorites of my own—but you’re kind of always hoping the next will be the best one.

I also always loved how your music works so well in the films and with the characters but it also can have a life of its own separate from the work. Personally, I listen to the Requiem soundtrack when I need to calm down, which is probably odd but I love it.
Does that help?

I must be pretty anxious if that’s going to relax me.
So it’s like the equivalent of giving hyper active kids Ritalin or something.

Precisely.

From Carruth to Kubrick, Here’s What You Should Be Seeing This Weekend in New York

Well, it’s finally Friday and before you retreat to your bed or bar, it’s probably in your best interest to hit up a few of the wonderful films showing this weekend first. If you missed last night’s screening of Upstream Color at Lincoln Center, don’t panic, there’s still another showing before it’s theatrical release next Friday. And if you’re still deep into the IFC-induced Kubrick craze, what a better time to see Room 237, which is screening at multiple theaters this weekend alongside The Shining. Today also marks the premiere of Derek Cianfrance’s tragic epic The Place Beyond the Pines, which is certainly not to be missed. In addition, some of your other favorites from Leviathan to Stoker are still playing, as well as a sprinkling of classics from Hitchcock to Godard. I’ve rounded up the best films showing around the city for you to peruse and enjoy.

 

 

IFC CENTER

Room 237
The Shining
Robocop
The We and the I
The Holy Mountain
Leviathan
Welcome to the Punch
Gimme the Loot

 

Landmark Sunshine

The Place Beyond the Pines
Stoker
The Sapphires
The Manson Family

 

Musuem of the Moving Image

2 or 3 Things I Know About Her
Le Boneheur
Fata Morgana

 

Nitehawk Cinema

Spring Breakers
Raising Cain
Girls Just Want to Have Fun
Requiem for a Vampire

 

Film Society Lincoln Center

Upstream Color
Our Nixon
Roon 237
Stories We Tell
The Shining

 

Film Forum

Dial M for Murder
The Gatekeepers
Eden
Easter Parade

 

Lincoln Plaza Cinema

Beyond the Hills
Ginger and Rosa
Hava Nagila

From Kubrick to Korine, Here’s What You Should Be Seeing Around New York This Weekend

In the coming weeks everything from Upstream Color and Room 237 to The Place Beyond the Pines and Simon Killer will finally see their theatrical release. But in the meantime, this weekend is so packed with incredible films screening all over the city, there is absolutely no reason not to try and indulge. There’s IFC’s massive Stanley Kubrick retrospective, showing all 13 of his feature films from The Killing to Eyes Wide Shut, Film Forum’s beautiful print of Heaven’s Gate, and many, many more. So if you’ve had a long and hellish week and need nothing more than to escape into a dark anonymous theatre and sink into a another world, this is the perfect time do so. And after all, what else are weekeends for? So to get you prepared for what’s in store, here’s a roundup of the best films playing throughout the city. Enjoy.

 

 

Musuem of the Moving Image

Trash Humpers
Viridiana
Fuses, with The Bed and Fly
Titicut Follies

 

 

Film Forum

Heaven’s Gate
M
Eden
The Gatekeepers
Young Frankenstein

 

 

IFC Center

A Clockwork Orange
2001: A Space Odyssey
Gimme the Loot
Killer’s Kiss
Leviathan
The Holy Mountain
The Shining
The We and the I
Top Gun
The Killing
Lolita
Eyes Wide Shut
Dr. Strangelove
Beyond the Hills

 

 

Landmark Sunshine

Citizen Kane
The Sahppires
Stoker
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Upside Down

 

 

Nitehawk Cinema

Streets of Fire
Spring Breakers
Freaks
Stoker

 

 

Film Society Lincoln Center

From Up on Poppy Hill
My Brother the Devil
Mon Oncle
ND/NF Shorts Program

From Xavier Dolan to Matteo Garrone, Here’s What You Should Be Seeing in the City This Weekend

David Lynch once said, "In film, life-and-death struggles make you sit up, lean forward a little bit. They amplify things happening, in smaller ways, in all of us. These things show up in relationships. They show up in struggles and bring them to a critical point."  And that’s the joy with seeing a movie, we’re allowed to fall into another world that both allows us to escape but also informs our own hidden desires.  And this week, if you’re looking for an emotional or psychological trip into the world of another, there are plenty of great movies to dive into around the city. From Xavier Dolan’s beautiful and brutal debut feature J’ai tué ma mère (I Killed My Mother) to Andrzej Zulawski’s bone-chilling Possession, here’s what you should be seeing around the city this weekend

IFC Center

My Amityville Horror
Raiders of the Lost Ark
The Other
Beyond the Hills

Anjelika Film Center

Reality
The Monk
No
Ginger & Rosa

 

Sunshine Landmark

Upside Down
Reincarnated
Batman
Stoker

BAM

Possession
Nosferatu the Vampyre
The Tenant
The Gatekeepers

Museum of the Moving Image

Horse Feathers
Man with a Movie Camera
Julien Donkey Boy
The Blood of  Poet with Un Chant d’Amour

Nitehawk

Weird Science
Body Double
Dead Man Down
Poltergeist III

Village East Cinema

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Greedy Lying Bastards
Quartet
Searching for Sugar Man

Cinema Village

Vanishing Waves
The Silence
K-11
Clip

Film Society Lincoln Center

Jackie Brown
Foxy Brown
Scream, Blacula, Scream
Escape from LA
A Conversation with Pam Grier

MoMA

J’ai tué ma mère (I Killed My Mother)
Le météore (The Meteor)
Blackbird
Krivina
Laurence Anyways