Musical Cinematographic Soups For Hungry Easy Listeners

By Ombretta Di Dio

We all have a particular movie that has a special place in our obsessions because of that one song we link the film to.  Personally, I have at least a hundred tunes that are right there in my mind to bring me back to a special moment and time of my life which assumes a topic meaning, especially because of the cinematographic work they represent. From “Pretty in Pink” by The Psychedelic Furs, to “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel (John Cusack with a boom box on his head, everyone!), those songs are responsible for at least a good 80 percent of my delusions, high hopes and questions about existence (John Cusack with a boom box on his head, anyone?).

If it’s an undeniable truth that music has always conditioned the way audience perceives what it sees, making it sometimes impossible to divide a soundtrack (or a piece thereof) from its motion picture, it’s equally exact to affirm that today the melodic context often tends to overflow the images it should be associated with, catching the attention of the average viewer more than what the flick itself does.  As a result of such marketing choices, focusing on the goodness of the message we’re supposed to receive, through the development of the story and the characters, becomes relatively less important when compared to what surprises and captivates the ears of spectators.

This is a trend that has certainly started in the ‘80s, but that has reached its highest point in the 2000s, when that new wave of the new wave symbolized by music genres like indie rock, indie pop and everything related to them, brought to the success a number of bands that are indeed extremely influenced and emotionally connected to those ‘80s icons they occasionally try to emulate and they frequently remind us of. Legendary names in the paradise of music, like The Smiths, have become a non-omissible constant of every teenage drama orientated towards an entire generation of adolescents, young adults and 20-somethings attracted by easy musical referrals and qualities that, according to the major public, should help those young adults to connect with the narrative they’re observing.

A certain poster on a wall, shown in a precise scene, becomes more than just a picture: it creates a universe of pieces that, assembled together, will allow the watcher to immediately find a reason to believe the character that poster belongs to has some sort of deepness that can be mistaken for a great developed personality.  The same can be said when names of certain bands are pronounced. A musical genre has found its perfect transliteration into an awkward, quirky, basic cinematographic current.

The perpetration of this tendency can, at times, give birth to quality products like Submarine (2010) or Juno (2007), which still focus on the growth of their characters pointing out their flows and their positive aspects, without forgetting about the importance of the plot and the idea they’re trying to transmit. In this case, soundtracks play a fundamental role by completing and enriching the expressive scenario. More often, though, what comes out of this strategy is an embarrassing copy-cut of those quality products that are, however, still able to trick the observers into thinking that what is offered to them is at least decent, since they’re going to be satisfied by the simple mention of lovable, emblematic musical bands. Such examples can be found in movies like It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2010) or Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008), that seem to have forgotten about their film-status only to become a medley of catchy tracks that would surely make a great compilation but are definitely not enough to sustain a big screen tale. Music fanatic’s word here.

Quintessentially Italian with a special obsession for Woody Allen, Wes Anderson and everything they represent. I've recently rewatched my very first favorite movie, "Mary Poppins", but couldn't see why I was crazy about it. You can find all of my rants on my personal blog Delightfully Useless at "".
  • Chris D. Misch

    Another fantastic piece, Ombretta! Music has always been been a fascinating component of film for me. Been humming Sweeney Todd for the past week. Just shows how much a film’s music can stay with you.