Monday, March 11, 2013

The Art of a Thousand Choices

I like this analysis of the opening moments of Rian Johnson's Brick, especially as evidence of the way accident, necessity, and intention can combine to make something unexpected. (AV Club)
Even before the first image fades in, Brick already has a leg up on the vast majority of indie films, which are generally not renowned for their scores. All of Rian’s films to date have been scored by his cousin, Nathan Johnson, and while Rian beats the drum for Nathan almost ceaselessly, I think Nathan’s contribution still tends to be severely underrated. His theme for guitar and xylophone here ranks among the most haunting pieces of music I know—in part, I think, because the xylophone doesn’t quite sound like a xylophone. It sounds more as if someone’s playing frozen, empty milk bottles. Viewers have no idea at this point who these two people are, or what they mean to each other, and Gordon-Levitt has clearly been instructed not to emote (which is a wise choice), so the sense that something has gone horribly wrong has to be conveyed entirely by the filmmaking. That plaintive rattling over gentle strums suggests a whole world of sorrow.

Rian Johnson: As far as drum-beating goes, I am and always will be Nathan’s Neil Peart. So many of the pivotal scenes in the three movies we’ve made together work on the screen because of what Nathan brought to them. The theme he uses here (he called it “Emily’s Theme”) is still my favorite of his; it not only elevates the scene with a melancholy weight, but sets the tone for the movie as a whole.

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