Sunday, January 14, 2007

Hardly a Review

Is Phillip Glass the new John Williams? Is minimalism the new sound of movie soundtracks? I'd be tickled to think so. Glass plays a very strange role in Notes on a Scandal, namely lending something that looks like class or gravitas to a story that, without his score, would be pulp. Pulp with marvellous acting, yeah. But in my mind, the movie comes closest to Baby Jane: it's two mammoth personalities who have agreed to a no-niceties roll in the mud.

Slight spoiler alert: I am kind of gratified that the old trope of the queer who tries to gets his/her tentacles on a straightnik has been subverted. I mean, we've come far enough that a homo villain is not an issue, because it's not a mainstream idea anymore that that's redundant. As long as you're able to be the good guy, even just the faintly mortifying snappy best friend, it's no longer such a trap to be the bad guy.

But in this film, it seems to me, the creepishness is embedded instead in the pathology of being closeted. People in the movie ask Judi Dench's character about someone who had been perceived as her former paramour and she snaps back she has no idea what they're talking about and these are the moments her psyche is most pointedly revealed, in its interface with society, as being non-functional. I can live with that. (And p.s., larger spoiler alert though if you've read any reviews, you know this: Cate Blanchett's character is boinking a 15-year-old so she's not exactly set up as the moral foil.)

Anyway the screenplay is for the most part without any particular point of view, but the thing speeds by and somehow you never feel dirty enjoying it. Maybe partly because of that soundtrack--it's by Phillip Glass! The guy that wrote that music you could put on in college to impress a date with how intellectual you were! Oh wait, that was only me! I'll be in my room if anyone needs me!


Gregory said...

I was nuts about this movie. During the opening credits, the friends with whom I was seeing the movie were all, "Who wrote this brilliant not-a-score?" To which I replied, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that it's the guy who wrote all those "not-an-opera"s, Mr. Glass.

No!, they replied incredulously. How delicious it is to be proven the superior listener in print mere seconds later.

Other movies you must see before Oscar ruins them by sending middle America en masse: Pan's Labyrinth (El Labarinto del Fauno)and Children of Men.

Maury D'annato said...

You know, I got as far as the ticket line to see Children of Men when I got a text message back in response to a query I had sent about the film, namely that the violence is less "somebody gets shot and maybe bleeds" and more "help! this is brutal! I can't watch this!" Well, I am a noted pansy about screen violence and turned right back around, ticket unpurchased. I just feel like really hideous violence is used as an easy emotional punch these days, though I doubt that's what Alfonso Cuaron does since he seems to be brilliant. Whatever, I don't enjoy seeing such things. It's possible I'll Netflix it and hide under the covers with my cat/fast-forward through those parts.

Ariadne said...

I love Phillip Glass,, and have since he came on the scene back in the Paleolithic... back when I was in college (= early '80's).

To "get" Phillip Glass you have to embrace you inner Zen *and* your sense of the sublimely ridiculous all at the same time. ['Course I was into obscure Shostakovich operas back then too. Not exactly "hot date" material, back then, was I?]

I have noticed Phillip Glass style music in alot of recent movies, and have been thinking for some time that Phillip Glass somehow fits perfectly with this Technology Age we are in.

That certain restless repetitiveness characteristic of his music is so uncannily spritual yet supremely annoying, isn't it? I feel it somehow captures an emotion many of us have been feeling at this period of Time.

Winpal said...

I love Glass' film scores. One of my all-time fave movies is The Hours, largely because of the perfectly gauged moods and emotions conveyed by his music. Ah, but one of my all-time most horrific musical moments was being stuck in traffic on the Bay Bridge one blisteringly hot day breathing exhaust fumes and listening to a broadcast of Satyagraha. As the endless repetition went on and on, suicide was seriously contemplated, avoided only because I was on my way to meet out of town guests who I really wanted to see. I think maybe his musical style works better as an accompaniment within a broader context than as the main focus of attention.

Ariadne, if I were to meet you at speed dating and you mentioned Shostakovich operas in our alloted time, I would invite you for a drink.

Nick said...

Excuse me, but I once won a three-year-long relationship by playing "Mad Rush" and "Wichita Sutra Vortex" on the piano on a first date. SO EMBARRASSING!!!

Maury D'annato said...

Oh, Nick, I've lied to you, rotten that I am. I never actually played Phillip Glass. (I keep worrying it's Philip and not Phillip. Nevermind, who cares.) I was using that as a convenient stand-in so I could make the joke. I have, however, made out to the accompaniment of the nightmare monologue from Elektra. No shit.

Greg said...

Maury, you have also gotten your freak on by means of a Sumi Jo Recital disc! It's the God's honest truth, people!

Clayton said...

It looks like with Alsop at the helm of the Baltimore Symphony, we're going to be hearing more Glass in concerts here in Baltimore (Glass' home town or at least where he lives now while on the Peabody faculty). Not sure how much I like him yet, though he writes a good film score. I recognized his style readily when I saw "Roving Mars." (Maury: Give "Children of Men" another go. I'm squeamish, too, and I was not put off by the level of violence in this movie. The tone is kind of grim and dark, but you'll need a box of tissues for a couple of the scenes with the baby.)