Monday, August 25, 2008

Two Thoughts

I finally saw Atonement last week, and liked it very much. rather than do a three-by-three, or any kind of review, though, I thought I'd post about two things that have been in my thoughts since I saw it:

Dario Marianelli's score is brilliant, and very inspired by The Music Man. The Music Man, which, lest we forget, beat out West Side Story for the Tony in 1957, builds its score around the idea of found sounds that become full-fledged song. So, the chug-a-chug rhythms of the train in the opening scene become a kind of rhythmic rap song:

Or the pecking and clucking of hens becomes a gossipy songlet for the ladies:

Similarly, Marionelli's score takes its cues from real sounds on the soundtrack. So the rhythmic typing out of a story on a typewriter becomes the basis for the score.

Or a solo harmonica played by a soldier becomes the basis for the main melody, or a solo note tapped out in boredom by a character segues directly into a piece of scoring:

In theory, it sounds like a hokey device, but in practice it works extremely well.

The second thought that keeps occurring is the majesty of that infamous 5-minute tracking shot at Dunkirk. I've read numerous critics take that shot to task (even as they acknowledge its technical artistry and bravado) for being too show-offy a thing in the middle of a film that doesn't otherwise make much use of long takes. And what I keep coming back to is what they are missing - that a typical audience member (i.e., not a film buff or critic)is not going to notice the long take. It's only after years of listening to commentary tracks and reading more in-depth criticism that I've come to notice such things, and I'm certain that the vast majority of people who watch the film don't notice that there are no cuts in that shot. So, for most audiences, the shot doesn't take them out of the story at all. That only happens for critics.

Until Whenever


Roger Owen Green said...

'Fraid I liked it less than you. I'd send you the review but Blogger's being weird; it was Feb 27. But the bottom line is that it felt "stagy" and distant.

Tosy And Cosh said...

Just read your review. I see some of your points, but didn't have that same set-bound feel; it felt very filmed on location to me. I felt that the ending worked well, as a very real gut punch when you realize that the happy ending you have juet been given is a lie.