Monday, 4 November 2013

KM Show, 4 Nov 2013: 1984

This is the script to my slot in Kevin Markwick's weekly film & music show on Uckfield 105 FM, Mondays at 9pm

Hello. There has always been an honourable and no doubt lucrative tradition of the pop song that sells the movie. Perhaps in reaction to the success of MTV, this musician-filmmaker partnership came into its own in the 1980s. 1984 brought us the literally interminable Never Ending Story with Limahl doing for Giorgio Moroder what Scarface couldn't. In addition, we had a biopic of a musical institution with Francis Ford Coppola's Cotton Club, the self-generating biopic Purple Rain for which Prince did his own everything, the celebrated spoof rock-doc This Is Spinal Tap and, popping out of the other side of the irony worm-hole - again, almost literally - Sting had a non-singing role in David Lynch's Dune. I think that Ry Cooder's metallic slide guitar in Paris, Texas is the least self-interested and the most effective, a genuine mirage-in-music as Harry Dean Stanton just keeps on walking through the desert.

For a film truly serving classical music in 1984 there is no argument to be had. Milos Forman's Amadeus is a belligerent adaptation of Peter Schaffer's play. Original in almost every respect, the film's great asset is, of course, the back catalogue of one of the greatest musicians in history. The pitiful heart of the story turns on Salieri's recollection of the premiere performances of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni. The sequence is actually staged properly in a theatre in Prague and uses an increasingly violent montage between Hulce's fevered, even possessed Mozart conducting the lapsarian climax of the opera, whilst F Murray Abraham as Salieri, no less demented in cutaway, recalls the wonder of the music and his delight at discovering his rival’s psychological Achilles heel. The drama of the music alone is such that Guy Ritchie uses the same sequence to underscore an assassination in his second Sherlock Holmes film. Here's the original.

As Kevin was pointing out last week, 1984 may have been a rich year for film but it was also a rather dark one socially. The AIDS epidemic reached the national consciousness and I can't help but wonder whether the opening confrontation of the first Terminator movie in a downtown nightclub, with its themes of science fiction, persistent threat and apparently arbitrary murder might have resonated hard with much of its audience. Brad Fiedel's noble but defeatist theme-music certainly reclaims the reality of the present from the speculative future of Blade Runner and the Star Wars films. As for me, I was still buried in the cuddly, filtered science fiction on offer and that meant Supergirl. I know, it's an icky spin-off that not even an all-star cast can quite rescue. But it does have what any filmmaker really wants, which is a Jerry Goldsmith soundtrack. While Christopher Reeve channelled John Williams’ re-working of Richard Strauss, Goldsmith worked up this robust old-school Hollywood romance (with some of his trademark electronic innovations sneaked in!). Goodbye.

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