Monday, December 8, 2014

Almost Famous

In Almost Famous, the music choice is incredible. Arguably one of the best scenes in the movie is just after Russell goes to the fan's party. Everyone is sitting on the bus and singing along to Tiny Dancer by Elton John. It's a beautiful moment where the entire discordant group is brought together by and reminded of the thing they're all there for - music. The music choice for this scene was   relevant because Tiny Dancer talks about someone who is with the band but is not a musical part of it, a seamstress for the band, someone who's just there for the ride and there to enjoy herself. The character of Penny Lane is much like the tiny dancer of the song, and this is the part in the movie where William knows that he loves her but has to leave anyway. In Tiny Dancer, there is the line "Only you and you can hear me/when I say softly slowly." William only tells Penny that he needs to go home. She tells him that he is home, which is a feeling that came about as a result of listening to Tiny Dancer in particular. In contrast, when Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd is playing, William is on the phone with his mother, trying to convince her to let him stay with the band a little bit longer. The first part of this song matches what's going on in the scene. "Mama told me when I was young/Come sit beside me, my only son/And listen closely to what I say." William's mother is definitely the overpowering sort of mother that fits with this song well. She also lets him stay, and there is another part of the song that says, "All I want for you my son/Is to be satisfied." William's mother lets him stay with the band because she knows it means a lot to him and it is helping him towards the career that he enjoys, which is writing about bands. She is willing to put him first, which is something that she doesn't say outright that the song says for her, which is music characterization. Both Tiny Dancer and Simple Man convey how the characters are feeling at those moments, and that is what makes them fit in the movie so well.

Compared to the music in the background of the film and the music that is sung throughout, the uses of silence in the film are important also. There is usually some sort of sound still, but it is nonsynchronous sound. For example, when Penny is dancing on the trashed stage. There is a song playing, but it has more to do with what happened immediately previous to the scene. The fact that Penny is silent makes the scene feel off, like it doesn't quite fit, and then when it's over the viewer is left questioning the purpose of the scene and what it was doing at that moment in the film. Looking back at the lyrics, it makes sense, the song is about dancing. But in the moment, it seems almost like it doesn't quite fit. This shows how Penny feels in the context of the rest of the band and how she is almost too good for them. She can dance on the stage alone and it's still amazing. There is another moment like this. William has taken Penny to the plane to let her go home, and she has a moment of realization about her feelings for him. Or so it can be assumed, because she presses her hand to the window and watches as he runs with the plane inside the airport. What is important about this scene is not how perfectly the song chosen fits with the scene but the fact that both characters are silent, letting the song tell the story for them. With the rest of the movie, this feels very natural, but it's interesting how the songs do most of the talking. The two people in this scene manage to share a profound moment in silence, one that is enhanced by the song in the background. That is how sound should happen in movies. The music makes the moment feel more real rather than cheap and manufactured, the way it can when two characters have that magical moment of realization. This was sound done right. 

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