Monday, September 24, 2007

Soundtracking Anderson: Rushmore

One of the big misconceptions in use of soundtrack in film, is that the music should be a cue as to the time period the film takes place. If anything, Wes Anderson (like Scorsese, Tarrantino, et al.) uses music from a certain era to instead transcend time, or bridge today with what reminds of of a more innocent time (even though, it's often less so.) Anderson's first film, Bottle Rocket, did this to some extent, but it was his second film Rushmore, where he found the perfect context to break down time and space.

While writing the screenplay, Anderson was researching and listening to British Invasion music, and even briefly toyed with the idea of an all Kinks soundtrack. Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) is like a misfit school boy character from a Ray Davies or Pete Townshend song, transported across the Atlantic and three decades of time, and in Anderson's hands, it's nearly impossible to separate the music from the character. In many cases, he had a song in mind for a scene before he even fully conceived it*. So Anderson had British Invasion songs in mindgreat from The Kinks and The Who, along the more obscure The Creation. Their song "Making Time" backs one of the greatest opening montages of a movie (showing Max' extracurricular activities at Rushmore,) and nearly works by itself as a music video (and contains a reference to photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue's famous Zissou's bobsled photo, with the still of Max in a go-cart for the Yankee Racers club.)
The next praiseworthy music scene comes to the backing of "Nothing In This World Can Stop Me From Worryin' Bout That Girl" from the Kinks, when we're introduced to the anguish of Herman (Bill Murray,) and he cannonballs into the pool. The ending shot of him underwater is reference to The Graduate, and underscoring that is the remarkable similarity between The Kinks' song and the opening lick to Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson" (they share the same rhythmic first five notes on an acoustic guitar).

The musical highlight, though, might just have to be the revenge sequence, utilizing the final section "You Are Forgiven," from The Who's 9-minute mini-opera "A Quick One While He's Away" (see video). Interestingly enough Anderson/Post actually use a live version of the song in the film, from the live album Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus, but since that's on the Rolling Stones' stingy ABKO label, they instead use a version from Live at Leeds on the released soundtrack. Speaking of the Stones, there's always a song from them, and for Rushmore it's "I Am Waiting," another song which Anderson had picked before even coming up with the scene. It's a beautiful scene where Herman and Max call a truce, and in the end, all are left feeling miserable.

The music of Rushmore follows it through the seasons, starting with the fall and slipping into a winter of discontent, marked by these last few songs. The next scene with song in the film uses Donovan's "The Wind" while Max flies a kite (video). It starts chilly, but ends with some with some warmth as Max decides to put on a play, and now we're slipping into spring. Cue John Lennon's bouncy "Oh Yoko!" as Max and Herman devise a plan to build the aquarium for Miss Cross. Like the season, it's the start of something new. The film ends with Max's new play ("best play ever,") and the wrap party features "Ooh La La" from the Faces, a song providing a nostalgaic look back with the line "I wish I knew then what I know now, when I was younger". And with Anderson's bending of time, you sort of can.

Playlist: Rssmbld Sndtrck - Rushmore
1. "Making Time" - The Creation - Montage introducing of all of Max's extracurricular activities
2. "Take Ten" - Paul Desmond - Max gets a haircut from his dad (video)
3. "Concrete And Clay" - Unit 4 + 2
4. "Nothing In This World Can Stop Me From Worryin' Bout That Girl" - The Kinks - A depressed Herman cannonballs into the pool (video)
5. "A Summer Song" - Chad and Jeremy (video)
6. "Blinuet" - Zoot Sims - Dinner after play, Miss Cross brings a guest (video)
7. "Here Comes My Baby" - Cat Stevens - Max makes a go of it at public school
8. "Jersey Thursday" - Donovan
9. "A Quick One, While He's Away" - The Who - Montage of war between Max and Herman (video)
10. "I Am Waiting" - The Rolling Stones - Max and Herman call a truce and everyone is miserable
11. "The Wind" - Cat Stevens - Max flies a kite and decides to put on another play (video)
12. "Rue St. Vincent" - Yves Montand
13. "Oh Yoko!" - John Lennon - Max and Herman devise a way to build the aquarium for Miss Cross (video)
14. "Hark, The Herald Angels Sing" - Vince Guaraldi
15. "Manoir Des Mes Reves" - Django Reinhardt - Wrap party after the premiere of Max’s play (video)
16. "Ooh La La" - Faces - Wrap party after the premiere of Max’s play (video)
Score by Mark Mothersbaugh

*For this film, and all that followed, Anderson and music supervisor Randall Poster began trying to secure the rights to the music before shooting, so the actors had a better feel for how the scene a going to be played.

Previously: The Music of Bottle Rocket
Jansch, Poster, The Squid and the Whale

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4 comments:

The Playlist said...

you see this?
Pretty similar.
I did all four films.
http://theplaylist.blogspot.com/2007/08/wes-anderson-music-life-aquatic.html

drake leLane said...

I'm going to assume this is a 'great minds think alike' type thread and commend you on your work.

If my trust in humanity assumption is wrong, I'll just note it's in line with what I already did with Cameron Crowe leading up to Elizabethtown's release, two years ago.

Bryce Digdug said...

what do you think of Anderson's new films like Steve Zissou etc. I think I lost him after Royal Tennenbaums.

drake leLane said...

While he's been far too much inside his own little world since Rushmore, I still enjoy the films. It's just so hard to look at what he did with Rushmore and not think that he could've done better with the films that followed. In some respects it's unfair to be compared constantly to your early masterpiece, but how can you not?