To: Wes Anderson
Re: Pointless classic pop records in your movies
After watching The Fantastic Mr. Fox, I’m requesting that you please drop the classic pop record shtick you’ve used for every single one of your movies for the following reasons:
1) The records mostly don’t work. All those records you shoved into Rushmore, and even The Royal Tenenbaums way back when were fun in a head scratching sort of way, but having just seen The Fantastic Mr. Fox, I’m getting the distinct impression that you’re now subscribing to the Quentin Tarantino soundtrack school of tossing in your favorite records willy nilly just to be cool. That’s how it’s starting to look, at least.
2) More often than not, the records hurt the movie. “Heroes and Villains,” “Street Fighting Man,” “Old Man River,” and, especially, “Let Her Dance,” add absolutely nothing to the singular visual experience you’ve offered viewers with The Fantastic Mr. Fox. In fact, they most certainly jerk viewers out of the wonderland you’ve worked so hard to coax them into by introducing clashing contexts (ha - a little Royal Tenenbaums word joke). Please take this criticism seriously, because it’s not the first time your soundtrack hobbyhorsing has hurt one of your films. Your misappropriated preoccupation with David Bowie acted as a major distraction to The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and nearly sunk it, and your insistence on spotlighting Peter Sarstedt’s “Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)” in The Darjeeling Limited added more than a few unnecessary pounds of dead weight to an already sluggish situation.
3) More often than not, the movie hurts the records. I’m of the opinion that the visual images movie makers ask viewers to associate with certain songs is no trifling matter, and a song’s appearance in a movie can do irreparable damage to a song. I understand the argument that pop songs are essentially commercial entities that are, in a way, consigned to an existence of eternal molestation merely for being what they are. But damage is still damage.
Illustration A: Sarstedt’s song, a UK no. 1 hit in its day, has already been around the block a few trillion times. But the distinct image that unfortunate viewers of Darjeeling are now forced to associate with it - Jason Schwartzman moping around pathetically with his iPod and an anorexic Natalie Portman in some Chateau de la Ennuyeux - has undoubtedly murdered a certain element of that song’s je ne sais quoi.
Illustration B: When the Bobby Fuller Four’s transcendent “Let Her Dance” crashes in for the closing credits of Mr. Fox, viewers are asked to associate one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll records ever recorded with animals dancing in a supermarket. That song’s so glorious that it can handle it, but it doesn’t change the silly visual image you’ve surgically attached to the song in so many viewers’ minds. I felt my heart literally sink when I heard this play, realizing that a song that made me lose my breath the first time I experienced it was now going to be forever associated by my own kids as an incidental soundtrack item in an animal movie. (It was a great scene, actually. Your mismatched song choice, though, ruined it.)
4) Movie directors have a unique opportunity to introduce new music to audiences. This is a biggie, Wes, and it’s one thing about your latest movie that makes me think you have it in you to change your ways. The very best musical moment in this film was the song you had the animated Jarvis Cocker do. That was so magical, in fact, that I wondered through the entire film why you didn’t just get Cocker to do the entire soundtrack. It meshed beautifully with the rest of the film in a way that none of those records did.
This is my basic counter argument for all the boobs who say “the
music biz survives on movie and commercial tie-ins nowadays and you might as well get over it and enjoy your very favorite song hawking Super Sugar Pops”: Movie directors, advertisers, and TV people would be doing the music biz a lot more good if they commissioned more original music. It would also make them look less lazy, like the shlubs who devised those CSI intros featuring The Who as opposed to commissioning inventive, original theme music. (Please have a look at the album cover of Who’s Next and spare me the exercise of articulating the obvious metaphor). All I can say to you, Wes, is that I might have exulted in your latest movie if you hadn’t have taken the lazy way out in the soundtrack department, and I don’t consider myself so unique that I’m the only one who feels this way. (Spike Jonze, to his credit, commissioned original music for his Where the Wild Things Are; to his discredit, the soundtrack and movie both turned out utterly cheerless.)
Thanks for reading, Wes. I may never forgive you for the Bobby Fuller Four flap, but here’s to future days.
posted by Kim Simpson