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9 Delightful Instances Of Anachronistic Film Music That Should Shut The Gatsby Haters Right Up

By Joanna Robinson | Seriously Random Lists | May 7, 2013 | Comments ()


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Baz Luhrmann is an intensely divisive film maker. While most everyone will eagerly throw their support behind his campy, kinetic debut, Strictly Ballroom, opinions are much more mixed when he started mucking about with Shakespeare and consumptive prostitutes. And, just so we're clear about where this "reporter" stands, I will defend every single thing Baz has done except Australia. That thing is plain indefensible. And so it's with a wary, bitchy eye that many folks are watching to see what he does with that sacred cow of American Literature, The Great Gatsby. And, since most ordinary folk have only seen the trailers and heard the soundtrack, that's where most of the nits are being picked. Personally (and controversially given my reputation for being an adaptation stickler) I'm on board with what Luhrmann is selling. I've been playing the soundtrack on a steady loop and, with the exception of that rather unsettling Beyonce track, it's amazing. You can listen and judge for yourself here. And while I'll certainly entertain many of your opinions when it come to pre-hating a movie you haven't seen, I refuse to accept the idea that anachronistic music makes for bad filmmaking. It has been done poorly, but it's also been done beautifully. And, foolishly, in Baz I trust.

Ladyhawke: Synthtacular, synthtacular.
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Gangs Of New York: The energy of the opening Battle Of The Five Points is ramped up to 11 thanks in large part to Peter Gabriel's crunchy futuristic soundtrack. This is when everything in the film is beautiful before Cameron Diaz drags the whole enterprise to the ground.
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Django Uchained: I could listen to this John Legend track all day. I just might.
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House of Pleasures: An already moody and eery project is made all the more haunting by clever use of The Moody Blues.
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Dirty Dancing: There are a lot of jamming songs from the 60s in this cult classic, but the song most people remember is the very 80s-sounding "Time Of Your Life." Does then anachronism matter? Not even a little bit.
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Marie Antoinette: The movie doesn't work on the whole. All the deeper, emotional moments fall flat. But the musical sequences and Coppola's attempt to parallel the decadent 80s with the opulent 1780s are absolutely jaw-droppingly phenomenal. It's a pity the rest couldn't live up.
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Legend: Once again, the synth heavy soundtrack does nothing to detract from Ridley Scott's ridiculously enjoyable film. If you can accept whatever it is Tim Curry is doing here, you can accept the electronic music.
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Moulin Rouge: Not every second of anachronistic tuneage worked in this film. Yes, "Like A Virgin" sequence, I'm looking at you and your quivering jello molds. But the floor-stomping, bodice ripping energy behind the "El Tango De Roxanne" sequence coupled with Jose Feliciano's roaring delivery almost drives the thought of The Police out of your mind. Almost. And yeah, that Jose Feliciano. Feliz Navidad, everyone.
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Inglorious Basterds: This is maybe one of the most divisive instances of anachronistic music in Tarantino's body of work. Many hated the use of Bowie, I, on the other hand, found myself holding my breath with delight.
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Joanna Robinson intentionally did not include A Knight's Tale on here but will, nonetheless, pledge her undying devotion to Lichtenstein. He's blonde! He's tan! He comes from Gelderland! Send her your best Paul Bettany bum shots here.




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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Strand

    Actually, I've always thought Ladyhawke had one of the most jarring soundtracks I've ever heard. The rest are golden though.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    I agree about LadyHawke and I was a huge Alan Parsons Project fan when I saw the movie.

  • Betty

    There's no talk of anything Wes Anderson... Of any and all movies built around the music that plays throughout, and of the songs that I directly connect to the film, his movies are where it's at.

  • TheGreatUnstainer

    X-Men: First Class. Set in the '60s. Fasbender and McAvoy montage.

    Music? Cee Lo Green's Bright Lights Bigger City.

  • manting

    Luhrmann makes spectacle not substance. This movie will be beautifull but hollow and lacking any real depth. Its in 3D for fucks sake. Why is it in 3D? Why? So the Dr T J Eckelberg billboard will jump out at you?

  • Jose Feliciano is quite the guitar player, but Jacek Koman is the one with the Tom Waits throat, right?

    Jacek with his band: http://youtu.be/jCKfZcPObKE

    Jose's smooth grooves: http://youtu.be/U7josp99KTw

  • JoannaRobinson

    Oh god that makes SO much more sense.

  • Enrique del Castillo

    This is the first time I've read that someone didn't like the use of "Cat People (Puttiing Out Fire)" in IB and I still refuse to accept that those people exist.

  • brian

    Thank you Joanna for writing this article

  • Bioshock Infinite just did a really great job with us. There were some very terrific covers in that game. These were my two favorites: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... https://www.youtube.com/watch?...

  • TheAggroCraig

    Some folks didn't like the use of Bowie in Ingloriuous Basterds? These are not people with whom I wish to associate.

  • Dano

    I'm working on an adaptation of "The Sun also Rises". I've lined up Devo for the soundtrack.

  • Dano

    So it's normal to front load a film set in the 1920s with rap music that has no black characters? Ummmm...ok?

  • God Of Bal-Sagoth

    So it's normal to assume that only black people listen to rap music, you ignorant jackass?

  • F'mal DeHyde

    What's with the name calling on here lately?

  • God Of Bal-Sagoth

    Fair point. I'll retract the jackass, but not the ignorant part. Because that is some serious ignorance.

  • Dano

    Yes, I'm ignorant because it makes a lot of sense to rob Hip Hop of its socioeconomic & cultural context and shoehorn it into a movie set in the 1920s Hamptons. This is nothing but a ham-handed attempt to elicit buzz amongst music fans who would otherwise never be interested in the source material. Yawn..zzzzzzzzz.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Dear Godtopus, the diatribe I had to listen to from Mr. J about the Gatsby soundtrack after a mere 30 second ad mentioning the artists involved. We are on the wrong side of the hip hop (I don't even know if that is the term I should be using) generational divide. I simply don't understand the kids today and their so-called music with the fast talking. Mr. J actually wants to harm all the people doing the fast talking, the people listening to the fast talking, and any associated panderers thereto.

    I'm willing to give Luhrmann the benefit of the doubt. He may not be everyone's cup of tea, but he is indisputably an auteur and I'm interested to see what he comes up with. (Except the 3D part: That is plain indefensible.)

    The Ladyhawke soundtrack is excruciating. As is the synthtacular one for Educating Rita, Chariots of Fire and any other movie soundtrack Vangelissed within an inch of its life.

  • Four Eyes

    A million hugs just for you, I thought I was alone in the world with my hatred of the "Ladyhawke" soundtrack! I love "Ladyhawke", but that soundtrack almost ruins the whole experience for me. Like fingernails down a freaking blackboard.

  • Some Guy

    Um, excuse me? Blade Runner? I dare you to listen to that soundtrack, specifically Blade Runner Blues and tell me that it isn't morose slice of melancholy awesomeness. That and the opening track as we see the LA skyline of the future. Amazing stuff.

    That and Diamond Diary from the Thief soundtrack.

  • Mrs. Julien

    My apologies. Except those.

  • poopnado

    Radiohead at the end of The Prestige was really jarring at first, but then...perfect.

  • PDamian

    Aw, geez ... I just had an 80s nerdgasm. Ladyhawke and Legend references in one post? Ecstasy! The Alan Parsons Project and Tangerine Dream! I owned both soundtracks on cassette*** and listened to them until I wore them out.

    ***For the young'uns -- cassette: a small, approximately 2 1/2-by-4 inch rectangular plastic case, enclosing two spools of magnetic tape with prerecorded sound. Blank cassettes were also available for recording at home with the use of a "tape recorder." Both formats required a "cassette player" for audio. The cases were sometimes split open so that the magnetic tape could be extracted and used to adorn the bushes and trees of one's enemies.

  • kelleyisadork

    i don't already hate the great gatsby movie for its soundtrack. i hate the great gatsby because it's the great gatsby: one of the worst books i've ever read.

  • JenVegas

    I'm pretty sure this soundtrack is the best thing to ever happen to that stupid book.

  • BWeaves

    I'm sorry, but I always hate anachronistic music for the same reason I hate it when people set Shakespeare in modern times or the Victorian era.

    The jazz age had some AMAZING music. Modern jazz gives original jazz a bad name. Godtopus, I can't stand that elevator music. Gatsby would have been the perfect movie to reintroduce real jazz to the kiddies.

    Remember when "Ragtime" introduced everyone to "The Entertainer" and the music of Scott Joplin? This could have done the same for jazz. Instead of being ageless, this new Gatsby is going to be linked to 2013. It's like when they do a period movie but all the leads have current hair and makeup, so it looks fine when it comes out, but looks horribly dated in 10 years.

  • kirbyjay

    Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer" was from The Sting. I think Randy Newman did Ragtime, but I could be wrong

  • Arran

    You're not wrong for the most part, but it was The Sting that introduced people to Scott Joplin.

  • BWeaves

    You're right. I'm old.

  • latvianlady

    I like the movie "Ladyhawke", but the cheap-sounding synthesizer music makes me groan every time it starts. Someone should do a cut without the crappy music. Which makes me think -- has anyone already done this? Not just for "Ladyhawke", but any period film with anachronistic music. Like on youtube? It would be very interesting to compare both versions. Sounds like a good project for an undergrad film class; I'm sure someone must have done this already. Anybody out there know?

  • Some Guy

    In regards to Legend, Jerry Goldsmith did a score for the film, but it wasn't used because the producers wanted something modern and popular to bring in the kids. Tangerine Dream being the popular choice in 1980-1986 or so. The film with Goldsmiths score is available in the special edition DVD. Whether you think it's better probably falls into whether you watched Legend a lot as a kid and have fond memories.

    THe shit of it all is that T. Dread was given only a few weeks to whip up a score, which, if you fall into the group that hates Tangerine Dream, should help extinguish some if your ire. It wasn't their fault!

  • Some Guy

    T. Dream, not Dread.

    But I guess that depends on how you like their music.

  • annie

    I have to rewatch Moulin Rouge now. Purely for Roxanne.

  • AudioSuede

    I don't hate on The Great Gatsby for the music (though at least most of the examples you used here were maintaining a certain aesthetic within the film that was consistent. The Gatsby soundtrack is all over the place, and it just doesn't make sense.). I hate on The Great Gatsby because I have hated every single film Baz Luhrmann has made, and the repurposed modern music in Moulin Rouge made me dizzy with rage.

    It wasn't that they were taking these hit songs and re-making them; that's fine. It was the fact that they did the two things that rock musicals seemed obsessed with doing that drive me crazy: 1) They shoehorned songs into scenes because they knew they needed another song and they picked something that only vaguely applied to the scene at hand, and 2) They wrote scenes specifically so they could have an excuse to use a song they particularly liked. It's the Glee of movies (and there's a lot of cross-over in the audiences for each, which I think says a lot).

    Baz Luhrmann equates dazzling colors with good filmmaking, and lets real emotions, logic, and character development fall by the wayside in favor of glitzy visuals. That's why he was perfect for Romeo + Juliet; it's a story about two vapid teenagers who fall in love for no reason and die in the most melodramatic and foolish way possible, all while dragging their friends and family down with them. It's all high emotion with little consideration. The Great Gatsby, on the other hand, is a complicated but small narrative that plays in the subtleties of the interactions between its characters. The movie looks frustrating because it makes it look like the director skimmed the book, saw some party scenes and thought, "I can totally shoot some glitzy unrealistic party scenes to a thumping anachronistic soundtrack!" and ignored what made the book such a lasting story, which was its careful plotting and beautiful language.

    All that said, that Inglorious Basterds scene is wonderful.

  • Arran

    I'd agree with you about Moulin Rouge but it wouldn't be fair, since I only got through twenty minutes of it before throwing my television out the window.

    I don't object to using modern songs in a period context at all, but Baz's directorial style overall just rubs me up the wrong way. (Though I do enjoy Strictly Ballroom because it's silly and good-natured.)

  • Lee

    Well said.

  • Slim

    I couldn't agree more about the narrative of Gatsby depending on the subtleties between the characters but the book makes no bones that these deceptions and frailties are meant to hidden under the excess and pretenses of the period. And I think Luhrmann is fascinated by those kinds of stories, has done them justice in Romeo+Juliet and Moulin Rouge, and that he'll do the same here. I don't think we can judge by the trailers & teasers how/when an emotional veil falls away in a scene. I think he knows how to use the music to that affect too, communicating the veil drop.

  • Wōđanaz Óðinn

    I fail to see why anachronistic film music should be an issue in general.
    It's purpose is to set the mood.

    Why do certain genres of film have associated musical genres anyway?
    Game of Thrones would be much awesomer without all those clichéed, whingy violins.
    Boardwalk Empire would also be greatly improved by substituting all that "period appropriate" shite.

    I think The Wire did it right in that there was only incidental music.

  • Wōđanaz Óðinn

    All TV shows, I realise, but rant still stands.

  • The extended version of “El Tango De Roxanne” is one of my favorite things. I forget all about it, and then watch it again thinking it can't be as good as I remembered, and I'm always pleased to learn that no, it's really that great.

  • Mrs. Julien

    I love to sing along VERY LOUDLY with "Come What May" while cooking.

  • I would love to as well, save for the whole not being a tenor thing. My voice, it can't make it up there...

  • Mrs. Julien

    Nicole Kidman's range is right in my wheelhouse and her voice is unintimidating.

  • Derreck

    I'm the same but i do it while i'm ironing.

    "I will love you....till....MYYYY DYYYYYINNNNGG

    DAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!"

    then i realize that i burnt a hole in my shirt.

  • Derreck

    I can totally see why people would hate Moulin Rouge but i will defend that movie to the death. I have no problem cutting a bitch for that movie. Nicole Kidman will never look more beautiful than she did in that movie, Ewan McGregor can charm the underwear off of anyone and the musical sequences and singing are grand. The ROXANNE!!!!!! number is by far my favorite. So much drama and intensity. Moulin Rouge gave Nicole (she's now my all-time favorite actress), Ewan and Baz lifetime passes for me.

    (But it does make me laugh a little how people like to pretend that Australia never existed)

    I'm super-excited for Gatsby. Baz takes a millennium and a week to make a film so i'm always stoked when he releases something. I've read the book in preparation but i also have the soundtrack and it is amazing, despite the terribly disappointing Beyonce/Black to Black cover which sounds wonderful on paper but falls oh so flat.

    Sia's "Kill and Run", Florence + The Machine's "Over the Love", Lana Del Rey's "Young and Beautiful" and in a complete surprise to me, Fergie and Co.'s, "A Little Party Never Killed Nobody" stay on repeat. (I usually can't stand Fergie) I'm actually looking forward to the Fergie song in the flim because it's a perfect song for a wild, insane party like the one that Gatsby will be throwing in the film.

    Once the music serves the film and is not jarring or distracting, i have no problem with the anachronism.

  • AGREE ON ALL POINTS.

    Except I don't mind the Beyonce song that much.

  • annie

    Listening to the audiobook of GG read by Jake Gyllenhaal hasn't been a bad way to lead up to the movie either...

  • Bert_McGurt

    I'm less excited for the actual film than I am for new Florence & the Machine.

    Aaaand after listening to it I'm all goosebumpy and my trousers are a bit tight. Good times.

  • DataAngel

    Plunkett & Macleane.

  • Joe Grunenwald

    It's weird that a lot of people give Tarantino a pass but not Luhrmann. Maybe they just don't like the music that Luhrmann picks.

    And I had NO IDEA that that was Jose Feliciano. Mindhole: blown.

  • AudioSuede

    That's kind of an apples/oranges argument. Tarantino's really only made two or three "period piece" dramas, and, though obviously Luhrmann is heavily stylized as well, they were styled in such a way that the music didn't cause such jarring anachronism. More important, Tarantino never uses anachronistic music diegetically; it's always score for the scene, not music that the characters are listening to or performing. Tarantino has also only once in his entire career compiled a new soundtrack of original songs specifically for a picture by commissioning the artists to write a song for the movie, which he did for Django Unchained, and even then he didn't make the music the main selling point. Luhrmann, in both Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge, used popular songs or entirely original songs and made them a selling point of the film, just like he's doing with Gatsby, as in, "Baz Luhrmann presents The Great Gatsby, featuring music from Beyonce and Jay-Z and Lana Del Rey and more!"

    Not saying you're entirely wrong, because Tarantino really does get more of a pass than Luhrmann does, typically, but then again Tarantino makes better movies.

  • Wednesday

    I absolutely despise Moulin Rouge. There's something about purposeful garishness that I just can't tolerate. Maybe my retinas are too sensitive, but it's like being forced to eat too much sugary birthday cake with your eyes. Just too MUCH, too MUCH of everything. Plus the whole thing felt like one giant Musical Mad Lib. Plug in "romantic song", "disco cheesefest",etc., and see if it works.

    I do not mind updated settings for Shakespeare or anachronistic music provided it's done thoughtfully and not just as a way to either shock the viewer or sell the soundtrack. Changing classic stories about a bit makes us more likely to see their universality, as well as keeping them fresh and accessible to people who might not otherwise be in the audience. It's risky and not always successful, but not a bad move on principle. Moulin Rouge was big failure in my opinion but obviously it worked for a lot of other folks.

  • Lee

    I'm 100% with you re. Moulin Rouge. I really wanted to like it, but came out feeling like I'd been force fed overripe cheese. Hence I am very hesitant to give this movie the same benefit of the doubt I initially gave Moulin Rouge. Nothing Luhrmann has done, bar Strictly Ballroom, has been watchable in my opinion, but I am open to being surprised.

  • Chris

    How can you make a list like this and not include "A Knight's Tale"?!?

  • Mariazinha

    Read the whole thing...
    "Joanna Robinson intentionally did not include A Knight’s Tale on here but will, nonetheless, pledge her undying devotion to Lichtenstein. He’s blonde! He’s tan! He comes from Gelderland! "

  • Tenacious_EJ

    No kidding right? I didn't much care for Queen on the jousting grounds, but the dance with "Golden Years" is one of my favorite parts of a movie that shouldn't work, yet still manages to be watched whenever I see its on TV.

  • Natallica

    "Cat people" + Shosanna preparing for battle = Girlpowergasm

  • I can usually see both sides of an argument, but if you didn't like the Bowie montage in IB, you are verifiably crazy.

  • Jeff in Middletucky

    There are people, in this world, who actually don't care for the use of "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" in Inglourious Basterds? Idiots!

  • PaddyDog

    Who doesn't like a Bowie montage? Any Bowie montage.

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