It is well known that filmmakers often rely upon classical music for scoring their work. Aside from the obvious financial benefits of using music in the public domain, to use a well-known and beloved piece also serves as an artistic embellishment—part of the fun is to take something the viewer knows and present it in a way that is unique, original, and memorable. If done right—such as in the case of Francis Ford Coppola’s use of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” in Apocalypse Now—a filmmaker can create a lifelong association between their contemporary art and the past, resulting in something truly timeless. Two recent compilations from él Records—who have an excellent track record in soundtrack exploration—dive into the use of classical and traditional song in pop cinema.
Movie Goer: Pop Cinema And The Classics uses the 1960s as a starting point, opening with Mozart’s light and breezy Clarinet Concerto K. 622 Rondo Allegro, taken from Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless. For the purposes of this compilation, some of the pieces are expanded versions of pieces used incidentally, such as for The Beatles’ films A Hard Day’s Night and Help!, where the classical works are referenced only for a few seconds and might otherwise pass you by. In other instances, such as for Five Easy Pieces’ use of Bach’s Chromatic For Fantasy & Fugue or A Clockwork Orange’s use of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, the music is integral to making the scene memorable. Though the film selection for Movie Goer often leans to the more exotic and eclectic–ranging from The Godfather and Annie Hall to Pink Floyd: The Wall to Topsy-Turvy, the music itself is quite enjoyable as well as occasionally rather familiar.
Fellini Masterpieces compiles compositions from a wide swarth of Federico Fellini’s films, as well the complete scores to several of the Italian filmmaker’s greatest works: La Strada, The Nights of Cabiria, La Dolce Vita, and 8 ½, and all share one thing in common—the masterful compositions of Nino Rota. The composer was already well known in his homeland, but Fellini brought him to the world’s attention, and Rota quickly became an essential ingredient to Fellini’s work. Whether it’s the melancholic tones to La Strada, the decadent jazzy coolness of La Dolce Vita, or the whimsical tones of 8 ½, Rota completed Fellini’s vision whilst giving the world musical masterpieces that stand on their own. Fellini also utilized the great composers, especially after Rota’s sudden death in 1979, as heard on selections from the 1983 film And The Ship Sails On, which features pieces by Schubert, Debussy, and Verdi.
These two compilations are fine additions to él Records’ growing collection of delightful compilations related to the cinema of the 20thcentury. Even if you’ve not seen a particular film documented here, the music serves as a nice fill-in until you do.