Saturday, April 23, 2011


For those 13 of you at anthology film archives tonight who wondered why there was a guy in the front row bobbing his head (pause) to a silent movie...allow me to explain...
On the train ride over to anthology film archives to watch Dziga Vertov's experimental/silent film documenting 1920's Russia; 'A Man With A Movie Camera' (a film that was re-scored a few years back by the awesome jazz group; Cinematic Orchestra), i thought to myself; "this is gonna get boring as shit real quick. i don't care if its a free screening for members." I think ever since that pinksmoke article ("old movies sucks") came out, I've had a bit of a cynicism towards older movies, especially "classic" or culturally important older movies. Don't get me wrong, i know that 'Man With A Movie Camera' is a film that was way ahead of its time and revolutionized the documentary/fiction hybrid style that would later be explored by filmmakers like; William Greaves (Symbiopsychotaxiplasm) & Chris Marker (La Jette)...but there isn't even a soundtrack to the original man with a movie camera (let alone, no dialogue). Almost 2 hours of silence is a bit much (...or a bit less depending on how you look at it). Then i thought about the pink floyd/alice in wonderland mash-up as well as the dj shadow/akira mash-up, and decided id leave my ipod on while the film was playing and see if the random songs that played in my headphones went along with the movie. I wasn't expecting any amazingly synced up moments or anything like that. I just thought it would be a fun little experiment to keep me interested in the movie. So i picked a playlist on my ipod that was geared more towards chilled out/slow-ish/lounge type songs.

The order of songs that played (at random) went...
1. Sonic Youth - 'Beauty Lies In The Eye', 2. Cranberries - 'linger', 3. Sonic Sum - 'Sara-inge', 4. Jill Cunniff (luscious jackson) - 'calling me', 5. Gordon Lightfoot - 'Beautiful' (*used in vincelt gallo's brown bunny), 6. Red Hot Chili Peppers - 'My Friends', 7. Handsome Boy Modeling School - 'Sunshine', 8. Red Hot Chili Peppers - 'Pretty Little Ditty', 9. eDIT - 'Twenty Minutes', 10. J Dilla - 'Stop', 11. Mogwai - 'Take Me Somewhere Nice' (*used in larry clarke's wassup rockers), 12. Fiona Apple - 'Sullen Girl', 14. Beastie Boys - 'Ricky's Theme', 15. Jungle Brothers - 'Brain', 16. Sage Francis - 'Inherited Scars', 17. Commodores - 'Nightshift' (*used in claire denis's 35 shots of rum), 18. Vincet Gallo - 'Honey Bunny', 19. Jan Jelineck - 'On The Lake', 20. Massive Attack - 'Black Milk', 21. Louis Logic - 'The Great Divide', 22. Dwele - 'Melodies', 23. Portishead - 'Numb'
Now, naturally some of these songs didn't go with the movie AT ALL, but some worked surprisingly well. In this blog I'm going to point out the songs that worked together quite well with the images i saw on the screen...

Cranberries - Linger
I was very disappointed that the first song; Sonic Youth's 'beauty lies in the eye' (one of my favorite songs) didn't work, so i desperately wanted the next song to work...and it did. Watching the old grainy/black & white 'man with a movie' while the cranberries's song played, made me subconsciously relate it to the grainy/black & white feel of the cranberries video that always comes in my head when i hear this song (in fact, i think i like the video more than the song). Aside from the visual aspect, this song just "worked" with the scenes while the song played.

Sonic Sum - Sara inge
Wow, 2 songs in a row. This was much different than the cranberries song. It was easy to block out the lyrics in 'linger', because the lead singers voice kinda seemed like an additional instrument, whereas rob sonics lyrics on sara-inge really stood out. But in some strange cosmic way, some of Rob's lyrics matched perfectly with the film. In one line, Rob Sonic mentions city streets, and at the same time i heard those lyrics, we see images of empty Russian streets, that almost look ghostly. The samples also have an "old" feel to them, which went along well with the film as well.

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Pretty Little Ditty
The majority of this song didn't work well at all, but towards the breakdown part of the song (when the trumpet kicks in), we see a scene of Vertov standing, holding a camera up in a moving car, filming other cars driving past him. For some reason, this part of the song seemed to go well with the scene of the director literally risking his life just to film some random people for his movie.

eDIT - Twenty Minutes
I don't remember what part of the movie this went with, but it worked lol. What stood out so much to me was that such a modern song (for those of you who don't know, eDIT is a producer who totally uses modern music software to its fullest potential) seemed to go with such an old film.

Mogwai - Take Me Somewhere Nice
This instrumental track by Mogwai went along AMAZINGLY well with a montage of scenes including a mother giving birth (like an actual birth. baby coming out of the vagina and all...), a newlywed couple riding in a carriage and a public viewing/funeral of someone's body being carried through the streets in an open coffin.  These scenes, accompanied with this mellow track make you think about life in a way. You're born, you fall in love & get married, then you die...

Fiona Apple - Sullen Girl
Here's another song that actually had a few pink floyd/alice & wonderland moments. For the first 30 seconds or so, i was worried this song wasn't going to work, but then all of a sudden there was a montage of scenes in the film of someone playing the piano intercut with random shots of women doing some extraneous labor. The images of the piano went perfectly with the song, which features a very dominant piano presence. The shots of the women, who didn't look all that happy, complimented the title of the song (sullen girl) very well.

Jungle Brothers & The Roots - Brain
In this jungle brothers track, we hear a lot of lyrics that deal with work and hard labor. While this song played, there just so happened to be a montage of scenes and images of men working in some kind of a steal factory. Plus the rhodes sample in the song had an old timey feel, like some of the other songs that I've already mentioned.

Vincent Gallo - Honey Bunny
Damn...smh...this song went PERFECTLY with the film. I don't remember what specific parts that happened to sync up or go together perfectly (this one was very similar to the cranberries). It just worked. The official video of 'Honey Bunny' (a grainy 35m short film which has vincent gallo filming various women standing on a turntable), coupled with the actual sound of the song (for those of you who don't know, vincent gallo makes it a point to use old recording equipment and instruments to make his music, which you can clearly hear in the quality of most of his music) went perfectly with the old black & white 'man with the movie camera'.

Jan Jelineck - On The Lake
Just when i thought it couldn't get any better than the vincent gallo match-up, one of the last songs in my playlist beat out every song that played. While this song played in my headphones, the images on the screen were of women using exercise machines mixed with images of various athletic events (a soccer match, men running hurdles, a woman throwing a shot-put, a basketball game, a man throwing a javelin, etc). Jan Jelinek's music is very much based in loops and sampling. Sure there's a lot of random & ambient sounds, the but the skeleton of this song (along with almost all of his work) is based in a loop. The rhythm of the women's rowing and cycling along with the movement of the athlete's bodies went perfectly with the rhythm of the song.

Louis Logic - The Great Divide
Ok, this was just creepy (and awesome at the same time). By the middle of the song, i had given up and decided this didn't go with what was on the screen. Then in the last few seconds of the song, which is about seeing a pretty girl on the subway and not having the guts to go up and talk to her, the song ends with the sound effects of a train on train tracks. At the exact moment that the train track sounds came, there was an image of a train on the tracks in the actual film. Pretty Crazy...

This was really fun. I think I'm gonna have to go to more silent films at anthology film archives. I don't usually frequent the silent films at anthology, because they're usually foreign WITHOUT English subtitles or inter-titles (and id feel super pretentious watching a movie i didn't understand). But it looks like i found a fun way to work around all of that.


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