by: Leo Robertson
In today’s media, where we see the convergence of virtually any art form with another, it is no surprise that your usual brand of A-list Hollywood actors and directors are no longer the sole source of appeal for upcoming films. With the inclusion of more and more different non-film mediums being pulled into the machine that is the cinema, it was only inevitable that the artists behind those mediums would become as equally, or more, privileged than actors and directors as reasons why an unreleased film can be declared a “must-see”.
In recent years there have been increasingly more dedicated musical performers being pulled off the stages and into the studio to supplement a films score and sweeten its flavor. One particular recollection from my years of budding cinephilia is the memorable opening shot of Paul W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evil. The movie may have been a mostly forgettable affair, but it certainly succeeded in engrossing viewers during its initial moments with the camera’s slow push into the diegesis. An undeniably integral part of what pulled me in was the shot’s marriage to the soundtrack’s Main Title Theme, performed by Marilyn Manson. That, to this viewer, was an instance of perfectly using musical celebrity to enhance an image. The recognizably electro-metal sensibilities of his work instantly added the desired layers of style and mood to what was intended as a building moment of sharp and deliberate dread depicting the moments leading to a horrific viral outbreak in an isolated laboratory. In other words, his presence supplemented the films production without overpowering it. As of late, however, this smooth exchange is becoming more problematic as artists begin to do less contributing and more foregrounding.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a work which, before being adapted to the screen for Edgar Wright, very consciously drew upon a myriad of different mediums to build its central themes found in Bryan Lee O’Malley’s original comic. When it came to the screen, Beck was put in charge of composing the music to be performed by the protagonist’s band, Sex Bob-Omb. Potentially any rock band could have been selected; but the grainy, analogue nature of the tracks they produced were of supreme relevance that film’s 8-Bit aesthetic. Thus, what was important was that Beck, like Manson, complimented the misé-en-scene. In this case, that was also helped along by the central arc focused on a fictional band – who took onscreen credit for the music and kept Beck further invisible during the running-time. If Resident Evil was made better by its score, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World could not have existed without it.
The same can almost be said of Joseph Kosinski’s Tron: Legacy, whose tendency to
take cues from the music mirrors Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Unlike Edgar Wright’s final product, however, it does so to such a degree that it becomes hard to deny the music as a character in and of itself – almost separate from the film. Its soundtrack is composed by French electronic duo Daft Punk, whose track contributions were emphasized in the marketing campaign not only through use of their very recognizable name, but excessive use of their image on posters and in trailers. Going so far as to even have minor roles in the film, they come very close to cramping the film’s ability to sell itself in its own right. But the saving grace was once again the musical and visual aesthetic of the band; a techno-taste that was extremely appropriate to the film’s cyberpunk subject matter. Hence, despite taking a more pronounced role than Beck did in Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Daft Punk still manages to be a legitimate part of its visual trappings. The appeal of the celebrity soundtrack is clear, but at which point do these unique draws simply become gimmicks?
The soon to be released Rubber, about a tire that comes to life and goes on a killing spree, has the potential to take this concept and make the final step into inconsequence. Rubber is not just scored by electronic celebrities Mr. Oizo and Gaspard Augé (of Justice fame), but is actually directed by Mr. Oizo himself – real name Quentin Dupieux. A stretch does not have to be made on this blogger’s part to illustrate its dubious intention: the film’s official website ends its ‘About
The Film’ section with “RUBBER is a smart, funny, and wholly original tribute to the cinematic concept of ‘no reason’.”
In an interview by Shockya.com, Dupieux was asked point-blank why he made the film.
“I don’t know!” he answered. “The reason was I was supposed to shoot another
A later question asked how much he thought of the audience while in production.
“We did it for fun, so I was not thinking about the audience, I was having fun for me.”
And finally, when asked why he chose the tire as protagonist, he answers:
“Random! It was random, I just had the idea.”
Said interview did little to assuage my wariness. Yet none of this seems to detract from the fact that a celebrity with a built-in fan base is scoring the film and therefore, people will see it – no matter how outlandish the content. Already, friends of mine have declared their intention of paying the admission, firmly stating the promise of an audio spectacle as their incentive. The fact that bands would gain more recognition as a result of working on a film is a given, but that a film should rely wholly on gaining its recognition as a result of a band is something else. If the film itself is without meaning and the selling-point is the music, at which point does it stop being a movie and start just being a vehicle for a new album? To be fair, Mr. Oizo does have a stylistic integrity which has spilled over into his past visual endeavors. It has yet to be released so naturally I’ve yet to see it for myself, and I very much enjoy “unexpected cinema”. Nor is this in any way a condemnation of these musical genres, or of the artists behind the genre themselves. I like Daft Punk. I like Justice. And I like Mr. Oizo. But this doesn’t mean, when I finally see Rubber, that I’m going to like Quentin Dupieux.