4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.
Happy Groundhog Day!
Today is the day when groundhogs across America will be asked whether or not they see their shadow and whether or not winter will be ending anytime soon. Personally, I’m hoping for a lot more winter. It still hasn’t snowed here in Texas and, if we don’t get any in February, we’ll probably have to wait until next December to get another opportunity!
Of course, the patron saint of Groundhog Day is Charlotte, the groundhog that was murdered by the mayor of New York a few years ago. However, this is also a good day to give thanks for Bill Murray and his current place in the pop cultural universe. So, in honor of Bill Murray, here are….
4 Shots from 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots from 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!
Today is Sofia Coppola’s birthday!
Sofia Coppola has long been one of my favorite directors. Unfortunately, she’s also a director who is frequently misunderstood and underestimated. No one captures romantic ennui with quite the skill of Sofia Coppola. At the same time, she’s also shown a rare ability to make films that feel at home in both an art house and a commercial theater. If the MCU ever gets around to doing that Black Widow solo movie, I demand Sofia Coppola be hired to direct it.
This edition of 4 Shots From 4 Films is dedicated to her.
“Kaze Wo Atsumete” by Happy End (はっぴいえんど) appears twice in Lost in Translation: once outside a karaoke room at the end of a long night, and once at the end of the credits. Since that movie was so central to how I remember the late 90s and early 2000s, I thought I might end with it too.
Here are links to the previous entries in my series. They all clearly share :???: in common. (Well, I had fun, anyway):
The Album Leaf is an electronic-oriented post-rock band headed by Jimmy LaValle. While the project has been around since 1998, LaValle made it onto most post-rock radars with his third album, In a Safe Place. Released in 2004, is was LaValle’s first album on Sub Pop, and it featured most of Sigur Rós as studio musicians. The album was significant, I think, for affirming that great post-rock did not have to conform to the structure and instrumentation standards that were beginning to overwhelm the genre.
For me though, it filled a very different role. I was pretty obsessed with Lost in Translation at the time, and that soundtrack had a bit of a love affair with Rhodes piano and similar tones. That sound happened to be The Album Leaf’s trademark, and it fit in beautifully, especially with Brian Reitzell’s contributions and “Tommib” by Squarepusher. I ended up inserting my favorite track off In a Safe Place into the middle of my Lost in Translation playlist, and that’s how a song called “The Outer Banks” came to make me think of Japan.
Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation left a strange impression on me. In a way I can only really compare to Casablanca, it burrowed into my memory like an actual personal experience. I don’t review movies, and I am ill equipped to explain what made it such a special film for me, but the bond that Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) forge over a few days in Tokyo is something I’ll always carry with me and look back on fondly. That’s pretty weird, but I’m not complaining.
Music was essential to Lost in Translation, embedded into scenes as a part of what Bob and Charlotte actually experience. The hotel lounge has a live jazz band. “The State We’re In” by The Chemical Brothers plays in the club they visit. Phoenix’s “Too Young” pumps over the stereo when they go to a friend’s apartment. A woman dances to Peaches’ “Fuck the Pain Away” at the strip club. The actors aren’t just seen singing karaoke; they perform it at length. Coppola was pretty clever about extending this integration to the more traditionally situated background music. Happy End’s “Kaze wo Atsumete” enhances the feeling that Bob and Charlotte are winding down from an exhausting night, but it drifts faintly into the hallway, as if playing from the karaoke room. Charlotte is wearing headphones when we first hear Air’s “Alone in Kyoto”. The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Just Like Honey” kicks off as Bob enters his cab. The encore of “Kaze wo Atsumete” in the credits could easily be playing in Bob’s head. Almost every song in the movie functions within the environment, not just as a peripheral enhancement.
Garden State tried something like this a year later, though I don’t recall the extent of it beyond the awkward Shins sequence. The effect was a sort of garish, in-your-face endorsement of director Zach Braff’s favorite tunes. It didn’t really cut it for me, in spite of the soundtrack’s impressive cast. In Lost in Translation, Coppola was a lot more attentive to creating continuity between songs and bringing musicians on board with the film’s atmosphere. She didn’t stop at using “Sometimes” by My Bloody Valentine; she dug founder Kevin Shields out of relative obscurity to compose four original pieces. A lot of the other artists formed a pre-existing community of sorts, suited to engage the project as art rather than a quick paycheck. Soundtrack supervisor Brian Reitzell performed drums for Air on their 2001 album 10 000 Hz Legend. Both Air and Roger Joseph Manning Jr, a fellow studio musician on that album, contribute original music to Lost in Translation. Phoenix previously performed with Air, and Sofia Coppola ultimately married their singer. While their contribution was recycled (“Too Young” appears in the context of young adults who would have been familiar with obscure but up and coming artists; using Phoenix’s first single made sense), the band was still involved in Coppola’s social sphere of musicians.
“Alone in Kyoto” plays as Charlotte travels through the classic side of Japan, visiting shrines and observing ancient customs. While that could possibly put it at odds with my theme, Air’s approach keeps the feeling modern, casting tradition as a subtle, delicate element of the present rather than as a form of escapism. It also occurs in a sequence without character interaction, permitting a pure sense of exploration. Within Lost in Translation‘s soundtrack, “Alone in Kyoto” reaches closest to that Japanese dream that still permeated a lot of American subcultures in 2003. The movie itself brought many of us the closest we would ever come to actually living that dream.
Last night, with the help of my friend Jeff, I conducted an experiment.
First, I took out my contacts which basically left me blind. Then, just to make sure I was totally without sight, I had Jeff blindfold me. He then took me by the hand and led me over to my DVD collection. Clumsily, I grabbed 10 DVDs at random and handed them back to Jeff. I then proceeded to walk into a wall, at which point I tried to take off the blindfold and ended up losing my balance and falling down flat on my ass.
Why was I risking life and limb to randomly select 10 DVDs?
I did it so you could have the chance to tell me what to do. At the bottom of this article, you will find a poll listing the 10 DVDs I randomly selected. Come next Saturday (June 19th to be exact), I will watch and review whichever movie receives the most votes in the poll. In short, I’m giving you all the power.
Now, to be honest, I’m feeling just a little trepidation about doing this. Whenever you set up a poll, you’re running the risk of absolutely no one voting. Fortunately, I have a plan B in that I recently got the 1st season of Gossip Girlon DVD. If nobody votes in the poll, I’ll just spend next Saturday watching Gossip Girl and writing several long — very long — essays on how different Chuck is in the books as compared to the TV show.
The choice, as they say, is yours.
The 10 movies I blindly selected are listed below in alphabetical order.
8 ) Sole Survivor (1982) — An atmospheric little horror film with a sadly generic title.
9) Starcrash (1978) — Strange sci-fi movie in which Christopher Plummer recruits space pirate Caroline Munro to battle a pre-Maniac Joe Spinell. This film also marks the screen debut of David Hasselhoff.
So, those are our ten options. On Saturday, July 19th, I will sit down, watch, and review whichever movie receives the most votes. On that day, for four to six hours, I will give up my independence and submit to the wishes of the majority.