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 Posted:   Jan 24, 2014 - 10:49 AM   
 By:   joan hue   (Member)

Since we just lost Riz Ortolani, maybe this is a good time talk about his what I call his “ironic” score for Cannibal Holocaust and other scores that seem to provide a sense of irony when listening to the music that is synced to opposite visuals. I use “ironic” to mean music that "plays against” its scene.
(Maybe the term “ironic” is wrong. Maybe it should be “contrasts or juxtaposes”)

I rented Cannibal Holocaust because people on this board kept raving about the music. Oh my, was I ever in for a treat, and I mean that ironically. (Gee, the title should have been my first hint.) It opens with the camera panning over lovely jungles and rivers. Usually main title music provides settings or narrative hints about the movie. Main titles may have action music for action flicks like Bourne movies. Titles may have a historical sound for the period of the narrative. (Romantic sounds for a love story, alien sounds for sci fi movies, etc.) Cannibal Holocaust’s main title is lovely, sweet and underscores the gorgeous bucolic scenery of the camera. The music LULLED me into a sense of beauty and calm; and as we all know, the movie was extremely violent and gory, and I didn’t hear a hint of those narrative traits in the opening titles. I’m wondering why this opening title was scored like this? Why the portrayal of pastoral “idyllism” in the music when underneath the lovely umbrellas of the jungle lie unimaginable horrors? Is it to heighten the contrast between what “seems to be” versus what is? To enhance or heighten the revulsion? Does it have something to do with the white man’s interference into the different cultures? I’m just tossing out ideas. Your thoughts?

It might interesting to give other examples of “ironic” scoring where the music plays opposite of the visuals and discuss the enhancement value of such scoring. (I’m sure we’ve done this before…a long, long time ago in a faraway place that I can’t find.) I’m thinking of the Jeff Bridges movie FEARLESS. During the horrific plane crash where people are being sucked out of the plane, the director has the scene underscored with a lovely rather classical piece of music. (The title evades me right now.)There is no action music or horror music, just this lovely classical piece. Does such contrast intensify the horror and fear? I think it does because what I’m hearing AND seeing do not synch together. Are there other examples of this type of scoring?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIIe0VjAtDY

The above youtube is from the western A REASON TO LIVE, A REASON TO DIE scored by Ortolani. The lovely main these is heard at the 2:30 mark. Why such a lovely theme for an action western? I haven’t seen these movie, but music sure doesn’t sound like THE GLORY GUYS which has a macho, heroic theme that reflects the characters and narrative. Would love any information on this as I haven’t seen the ARTL,ARTD movie.

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 24, 2014 - 11:41 AM   
 By:   andy b   (Member)

A Reason To Live A reason To Die also known as Massacre At Fort Holman is a kind of Dirty Half Dozen movie. The score reflects the loss of each character, who at the point of having nothing to lose option to ‘volunteer’ for a suicide mission with little chance of survival.

While its origins are clearly in the Italian western revenge mode, Coburns wife killed by Savalas ‘mad general’ (not seen but part of the story) the score plays to a sense of loss, Coburn his wife & his command at the hands of Savalas, the outlaws clutched from the hang man’s noose with really no way out but to try to survive and maybe live another day.

Also the main title is played over images from the Civil War and I can only conclude that the mass of death and destruction that really took place, maybe gave way to a sense of melancholy in the composer that lead to a sad but sweeping main title. I always find it interesting to try to see what a composer sees to give us such wonderful scores that as you say goes against the core of the actual film itself?

The movie is about in a letter box edition (now sold out) from Wild East, which is the longest cut of the film but strangely James Coburns voice is dubbed?? There is a cut down version with Coburns real voice on dvd in a double pack under the title Massacre At Fort Holman paired with a movie called Hot Lead, which has Charles Bronson in and is actually from two TV shows of The Virginian cut together for a European cinema release, it also appears under the title The Bull of the West

Regards

Andy b

 
 Posted:   Jan 24, 2014 - 10:51 PM   
 By:   Dana Wilcox   (Member)

dp

 
 Posted:   Jan 24, 2014 - 10:56 PM   
 By:   Dana Wilcox   (Member)

I've never had the pleasure of seeing CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, so I can't comment on this particular film or score. (My loss, I'm sure!) Anyway, the "ironic" use of music in the main titles is a scoring sleight-of-hand to which (if I understand your example correctly) Jerry Goldsmith resorted in at least these two instances that come to mind: the dreamy "Carol Ann's Theme" we hear as the scene is set in POLTERGEIST, and an equally dreamy opening in his score for MALICE, as a young girl peddles about on her bicycle on a beautiful afternoon, all apparently right in the world, then arrives home only to be butchered in her living room by a homicidal maniac. I'm sure there are others. These two were enough to cause me to be on my guard when I hear a pretty theme in the main titles of a film.

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 25, 2014 - 7:20 AM   
 By:   joan hue   (Member)

Thanks Dana, for your Goldsmith examples. Too bad your post didn't get bumped to the top. I'll see if my response brings this topic back up. How could I forget two Goldsmith movies. Both of those examples show us movies where the title music is totally misleading. I can't help but think that the director wanted Goldsmith to do this.

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 25, 2014 - 10:47 AM   
 By:   Graham S. Watt   (Member)

Not quite sure if this is completely on-topic, joan, but I wonder if your beloved Elmer Bernstein and his "straight" scores for zany comedies fit the bill in any way. I suppose it could be "ironic" when he's playing up the ridiculous/ super-serious situations with such dramatic music. I'm sure goofy comic music wouldn't have worked at all.

Which brings me to a score and a film I think you know well, joan. FAR FROM HEAVEN. Now, I thought that was a very good movie, and the score is beautiful, but in a way Elmer Bernstein had dug his own grave in my opinion when it came to scoring certain scenes. I know it was all a throwback to the Douglas Sirk melodramas of the '50s, but there's one scene in particular (my memory's none too clear, so forgive any innacuracies) when Dennis Quaid's wife (?) finds him locked in an embrace with another... man. To demonstrate her shock and stupor, Bernstein throws in the dramatic chords - and with the looks of surprise on all the faces, belts unbuckled etc, it reminded me rather unfortunately of something out of AIRPLANE. That certainly wasn't Elmer's "fault", just a consequence of how he'd taken the straight-faced approach to extreme situations in the earlier comedies.

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 25, 2014 - 1:09 PM   
 By:   Dylan S   (Member)

I wouldn't say that big, stinging, melodramatic scoring is "ironic," and in the case of "Far from Heaven" it was absolutely the stylistic direction the director gave. 1950s Hollywood scoring is its own thing entirely, I think. Something like "Peyton Place" is no different, and those films are so far removed from reality and in their own soapy, gorgeous realm that I take it all as style rather than irony.

I think a lot of Italian film music is an odd, ironic juxtaposition with the images. In most of the giallo films we have absolutely gorgeous, Romantic, orchestral music over an incredible amount of sleaze and violence (and in addition to the music, these films are gorgeously photographed, at times by people like Vittorio Storaro). I think any of Ortolani's "Mondo" films qualify too. In France, a lot of Godard scores are ironic as you watch the films, like "Pierrot le fou."

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 25, 2014 - 2:29 PM   
 By:   Graham S. Watt   (Member)

I wouldn't say that big, stinging, melodramatic scoring is "ironic," and in the case of "Far from Heaven" it was absolutely the stylistic direction the director gave.

I think you may have misundertood my post, Dylan. Bernstein's score for FAR FROM HEAVEN is anything but ironic, but because it's a deliberate throwback to '50s scoring for melodramas it is in many ways pastiche - honest pastiche, without the wink in the eye. Trouble is he'd already utilized that approach (WITH a wink in the eye) for stuff like AIRPLANE, so it kind of backfired on him in a way. But only "in a way" (as in only film music geeks like me would give it a passing thought).

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 25, 2014 - 4:32 PM   
 By:   joan hue   (Member)

Glad you chimed in, Graham. I was confused about Far From Heaven until you responded to Dylan with clarification. I never thought about Bernstein's comedies in this context.

Dylan, I know I've watched Italian movies with juxtaposing music and scenes. I'm trying to recall some specific scenes to add here. And I've not seen Ortolani's Mondo movies. I should look for them.

Andy, you have solve the issue for A Reason To Live, A Reason To Die. That music makes sense the narrative context you provided. I'm wondering why anyone would dub Coburn's rich voice. Thanks for the information.

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 25, 2014 - 4:52 PM   
 By:   dan the man   (Member)

DRESSED TO KILL- 80- A gorgeous opening theme which leads to sordid murder by PINO DINOGGIO, He did it at the end of CARRIE-76- very pretty theme , then bingo - FRIDAY THE 13TH-80- A pretty theme at the end by HENRY MANFRIDINI, THEN BINGO, SHOCK ENDING. Let me remind people as one can see by a past long running thread on this board there has been plenty of pretty nice music in genres like horror films. Because of a contrast thing and romance and love often are important parts of the genre. But let's be honest and I don't mean to be cynical but films are often patchwork, as any filmmaker like myself will attest too. People like Riz and others are so rich with melodic compositions, so throw it in there, somewhere in the film, without hurting it too much. That is life and filmmaking.With low budget films this is very common.

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 25, 2014 - 4:52 PM   
 By:   dan the man   (Member)

DRESSED TO KILL- 80- A gorgeous opening theme which leads to sordid murder by PINO DINOGGIO, He did it at the end of CARRIE-76- very pretty theme , then bingo - FRIDAY THE 13TH-80- A pretty theme at the end by HENRY MANFRIDINI, THEN BINGO, SHOCK ENDING. Let me remind people as one can see by a past long running thread on this board there has been plenty of pretty nice music in genres like horror films. Because of a contrast thing and romance and love often are important parts of the genre. But let's be honest and I don't mean to be cynical but films are often patchwork, as any filmmaker like myself will attest too. People like Riz and others are so rich with melodic compositions, so throw it in there, somewhere in the film, without hurting it too much. That is life and filmmaking.With low budget films this is very common.

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 26, 2014 - 8:23 AM   
 By:   joan hue   (Member)

Ah, I was going to post about Donaggio's Carrie, especially the last scene, but dan beat me to it. The ending does lull you with its lovely theme before the final scene.

I thought Thor may jump into this topic. And since Cannibal Holocaust is one of Josh's favorite scores, I'd hope he give us his take on the use of the title theme for such a violent movie.

(Okay, maybe I should just ask what 5 scores we want on a desert island. Easy Peezy stuff.)

 
 Posted:   Jan 26, 2014 - 9:36 AM   
 By:   Josh Mitchell   (Member)

Hi Joan!

Upon seeing this thread, I remembered that you'd mentioned the ironic aspect of Cannibal Holocaust's score in another thread a couple of years ago, so I lazily dug up my reply to you from that thread:


"The beauty of that main theme makes the horrors that come later all the more horrifying. As that lush, melodic theme plays over the opening sequence and the viewer gets a bird's eye view of soaring above the rainforest, it's saying, "Oh, look at the rainforest from above, so pristine and majestic and peaceful," but once you descend into the darkness below the canopy, the music follows suit, reflecting the horror and paranoia and vicious cruelty that the humans inflict upon each other (and, of course, upon the unfortunate animals that were actually killed on film). The movie is very difficult to watch; I haven't seen it in years.

But yes, this is one of my all-time favorite scores. I love every little bit of it, from the main theme to the sinister synthesizer "pew pews" (as David so aptly described them) to the agonizing, atonal walls of strings and the funkdafied grooviness of the party music. The album program is just perfect."

http://www.filmscoremonthly.com/board/posts.cfm?threadID=91545&forumID=1&archive=0


I'll be back to post about other example of ironic scoring as they come to mind...

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 26, 2014 - 10:29 AM   
 By:   TheFamousEccles   (Member)

The liner notes for Intrada's release of "Straw Dogs" discuss how Peckinpah asked Fielding to create a score that had a sense of irony to it. Fielding brilliantly pointed out that: "Now it's hard to say to someone, 'Now go downstairs and write me something ironic.' Irony is hard to capture in the abstract. It only exists in relation to something. [...] So I had to find out what irony meant to [Peckinpah] in musical terms."

I think it is a rather subtly ironic score, the opening heralds ultimately become darkly funny by the time the film ends, and the rest of the music scratches away against the picture to great effect.

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 26, 2014 - 10:45 AM   
 By:   dan the man   (Member)

Two on A guillotine-66-Max Steiner gave us a beautiful love theme when the tragic heroine is on a date, a few minutes later when she leaves the man and enters her sinister house, the music mood changes 360 degrees indicating the contrast of romance, happiness then terror and sadness. That film and scene got to me because I knew a girl like that. that hurts, really hurts.

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 26, 2014 - 10:53 AM   
 By:   joan hue   (Member)

Forgive my mind, Josh. Perhaps my brain belongs in assisted living as it at times forgets previous posts. (Body is still functioning.) Your analysis seems spot on.

FE, I watched the original Straw Dogs about a year ago. I always thought Fielding's score was very minimal, and I totally missed its irony. Perhaps upon another viewing, I'll get it.

 
 Posted:   Jan 26, 2014 - 11:23 AM   
 By:   Mike Skerritt   (Member)

There's a nicely perverse use of this in FACE/OFF, when "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" plays during an exceptionally violent shootout. The set up is that the young son of Gina Gershon's character is there and she puts headphones on him to drown out what's happening. Then the music takes over.

 
 Posted:   Jan 26, 2014 - 1:33 PM   
 By:   danbeck   (Member)

Jerry Goldsmith original intended main title to Alien. Jerry commented that he wanted to score it with beautifull music so that the horror after that was more shocking but they prefered to use the more "dul" in your face/ creepy main title.

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 26, 2014 - 1:47 PM   
 By:   dan the man   (Member)

WELL JERRY THE MAN was great at that, for one example where there are many examples from him, MAGIC-78- the touching love theme right into those creepy mood cues.

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 26, 2014 - 1:48 PM   
 By:   dan the man   (Member)

DELETE

 
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