Sometimes, the best films, like the best music, demand rapt attention and rewards with every viewing / listening. Filmmakers such as Wes Anderson and M. Night Shyamalan are the current masters of filmic density, loading the screen and dialogue with so much information that one has to really see the movie numerous times in order to catch everything, and even then it’s not guaranteed. Steven Soderbergh is another director who worships at the altar of creative complexity, adding such subtle touches throughout, that you might miss them even after a third screening. Soderbergh has been much maligned over his past few films, bewilderingly for the brilliant Ocean’s 12, one of the best sequels ever made. Admittedly, I can understand why the layman might not have appreciated its depth. It’s not one of those `see it once in the theaters while eating popcorn and occasionally visiting the bathroom’ type of film. It demands attention. Besides piecing together the timeline, then having to go back to reinterpret everything you just saw, one has to also get various Hollywood insider jokes. (My favorite? The whole scene with Bruce Willis and the magnificent rapid fire dialogue between him and Matt Damon. Besides discussing The Sixth Sense without outright naming it, another film that demands repeated viewing, at one point Damon says, “that statue on the mantle starts smirking at you after a while, know what I mean?” To which Willis replies, “No, I don’t.” The much younger Damon has won an Oscar while Willis still waits for his first.)
So what kind of music is necessary to complement such an intricate array of images and words? David Holmes to the rescue! Holmes’ soundtrack not only adds to the layers and depth with his multi-instrument, multi-cultural dance / caper music, his music virtually becomes another character in the film. There was enough great music included in the film to create a double CD soundtrack, but I guess they wanted to present something more digestible. Source music from the likes of Marvin Gaye and Neil Diamond could have easily been thrown in for some instant recognition, but that might have interrupted the integrity of the whole.
There is a distinct difference in the styles of music played and chosen by Holmes dependent on the location the characters occupy. When the characters are in the states, there’s a distinct American / hip-hop / dance style whereas in Europe, the music changes to a more romantic and worldly sound. Holmes augments that feel with the beautiful “L’Appuntamento” by Ornella Vanoni and “Crepuscolo Sul Mare” by Piero Umiliani. The sharp horn blasts over funk guitar in Holmes’ “7/29/04 The Day of” are nearly worth the price of the album alone. Holmes blew me away years ago with his brilliant, and now hard to find, album Let’s Get Killed. His music has progressed even further with his “Ocean’s” soundtracks with this one in particular helping him reach his full potential. Had the song “Thé à la Menthe” by La Caution been included (the song to which the Nightfox dances in the laser field) the album would have been perfect. As it is, it is essential anyway with Holmes so perfectly ellipsing the scenes in the film, just hearing his songs brings it all back to our brains’ visual centers.
David Holmes- Ocean’s 11
David Holmes- Let’s Get Killed
Various Artists / RZA- Kill Bill, Vols. 1 &2