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Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

Woes.

I've pretty much settled my uni choice down to Kings now - unfortunately, none of the sensible accomodations have an on-site piano.

This is worse than it sounds. There are a lot of speciful things in my life wot I am going to miss at university - the other 26 copies of The Picture of Dorian Gray (if I can only take one), my DVDs (particularly my Godfather boxed set), my videos (even more than the DVDs, because they are all second hand, and represent a diverse random slice of things I've watched on my own. Especially my retro TV collection - Robin of Sherwood, Danger Man, the Prisoner and Doctor Who), my teddies (ranging from my innocent childhood friends, to my more postmodern additions which all appear to have gained unsuitable names. Is it sick and wrong to subvert the simplicity of childhood by naming a blue bear Mr Blue instead of Bluey?) and my clutter (things like my red apple packet, model Globe theatre, et al). What? My friends and family? Oh yeh, them too I suppose.

In fact, the only named object in the house I'm going to remember to miss will be Megan. Megan is my piano - and like all my other precious posessions, very second hand. I take my piano playing very seriously - I've never had a lesson in my life, and practice a good hour a day, sometimes two, sometimes four. I am normally a kind, sharing, calm person - this never has, and never will extend to anyone playing the piano in the same room as me. I have a special loathing just for them. One of my dreams is to go and see a proper pianist in concert - no one else will go, as it is understandably dull. Another one is to be a proper pianist in concert, but my playing is nowhere near reliable enough for that. I can cope without Megan the same way I can cope without a DVD player - for about two weeks, and then I start to resemble Willard in Apocalypse Now.

In tribute to the absolute misery of a situation I find myself in - three years of key-less hell - here are some of the great piano movies and scenes wot come to mind - along with sheet music links where appropriate and possible.

The Legend of 1900
Pianist: Tim Roth
Well this is it, folks, the ultimate in piano-porn. There's not even a point in pretending this isn't about the piano, because it er...is. A musical prodigy who has lived his whole life on a cruise liner imparts his life philosophy, is generally wonderful and plays a lot of mean keys. It's a whimsical piece of sheer piano love. Has there ever been a film that has actually addressed the trauma of people about to be separated from their musical instrument? No, thought not. Or defined the wonder of music better? Probably, possibly, but 1900's epic end speech deserves a mention.
One to watch? Some people could be really annoyed by the ambling plot, but what the hell. It's gorgeously shot, inventively scripted and downright brilliant.
Piece to remember: Ennio Morricone's Piano waltz, sheet music available here

The Man Who Wasn't There
Pianist: Scarlett Johanssen
Superficially: a slow-paced noir about a little deciet spiralling out of control. Think Fargo In The Fifties.
Actually: features a charming subplot about a young girl with a piano, who claws her way through a veritable mix-tape of "Classics You Kinda Recognise", as well as a soundtrack culled from "The Best Classical Piano Hits...Ever". So its simplistic, yet it also suits the tone of the film perfectly.
One to watch? Though this is clearly very well made, I found it cold and hard to sympathise with. Others call this the Coen's finest hour. If you have time to watch something subtle and quietly hilarious, then definitely give it a watch.
Piece to remember: Beethoven's Pathetique, sheet music available here

The Pianist
Pianist: Adrian Brody. He won an Oscar, you know...
Superficially: the story of a Polish Jew whose life is screwed up by WWII
Actually: He's also a pianist (the clue's in the title) - this presumably is meant to be making a point about man's dehumanisation in war. Or something. It certainly makes for a very affecting piece of Chopin at the end, in a scene I couldn't possibly spoil for you. Though there's slightly less piano playing in here than you'd expect (our hero is, after all, on the run from the Nazis, and the piano is neither portable nor quiet), but when it comes out, it's wonderful.
One to watch? I'm hardly a good judge, I hate this sort of thing, but Brody deserves his Oscar, and it is pretty marvellous in its own downbeat way.
Piece to remember: Probably Chopin's Prelude in E Minor. The full soundtrack listing is here. Most of it should be free on the internet somewhere - why not start here?

The Piano
I haven't seen it. So kill me. I'm putting this entry as a placeholder until I have.
Piece to remember: The Heart Asks Pleasure First, by Michael Nyman. You know this song, even if you think you don't. The sheet music is available from all good music shops - cheapskates can download it here.

Three Colours: Blue
Pianist: Juliette Binoche.
Superficially: after a woman loses her family to a car crash, she cuts off from life
Actually: her deceased husband is also a great composer, who left his final masterpiece unfinished. Cue lots of lovely music which, incientally trivia buffs, was actually written before the film was shot. This is not as piano-specific as some of the above - you couldn't physically play any of the songs - but music is central to the plot.
One to watch? Oh yeah. It's French and arty, but don't let that put you off - the colours and atmosphere are gorgeous, the soundtrack is excellent and Ms Binoche is a stunner.
Piece to remember: none in particular


ALSO SEE
While these films aren't pianocentric, they do have one or two corking piano scenes to enjoy.

Casablanca
Pianist: Dooley Wilson
Superficially: a WWII love story
Actually: "Play it Sam, for old times' sake..." Ignoring, for a moment, the iconic "As Time Goes By" and the key position of the piano in the plot, this film also contains the brilliant musical stand-off featuring the Marsellaise.
One to watch? All too often, viewings of so called "classics" are accompanied by a cold appreciation and disappointment. This is not one of those films - its still as tearjerkingly wonderful as the day it was released. Not that I was around back then. Its twice as amusing and cynical as you expect, and an absolute joy.
Piece to remember: "As Time Goes By" *hums*, download the sheet music.

Road to Perdition
Pianist: Tom Hanks and Paul Newman in duet
Superficially: a father-son bonding drama set against the Irish-American mob during the Depression.
Actually: contains another one of those scenes in which the piano is used as one big metaphor - here to show the love and unity between mob boss Newman and his top guy, Tom Hanks. Gorgeous piece of music.
One to watch? Beyond that scene, this film is packed with great performances from its supporting cast - Stanley Tucci, Jude Law, Daniel Craig and Paul Newman are all brilliant. Tis a pity, then, it had to focus on the two least interesting characters. But what the hell - its well made, and well worth it for any time they're not on screen.
Piece to remember: Goodness knows what its called, written by Thomas Newman. I have created a sheet music version myself - ask for it, and I'll send.

For the time being, this is the best I can do:
http://members.tripod.com/jeanies_home_studio/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/road-to-perdition_the-piano-duet_int-sheet-music.pdf

Gosford Park
Pianist: Jeremy Northam
Superficially: a cluedo-esque murder mystery packed with gorgeous period detail and starring pretty much everyone
Actually: contains the aforementioned as Ivor Novello, and thus several scenes of him romancing the piano. Mr Northam is gorgeous, as is his piano, bringing the total gorgeousity up to quite a high level.
One to watch? if slow-paced period drama is your thing, then you'll love this portrait of all facets of the grand house party, from the guests to their servants. Of course, you might also find it interminable.
Piece to remember: nothing stands out, its all lovelyful - and I can't find any Novello free online.

The Others
Pianist: Keith Allen
Superficially: a Victorian ghost story
Actually: all builds up to a sequence which I gather was meant to be scary. And indeed, it should be, with etherial music playing of its own accord from the supposedly locked piano. Pity for them, then, that the piece they chose is one I love (and, incidentally, play) so badly.
One to watch? It's all very sub-Sixth Sense stuff - creepy children, jumpy violins and pale faces. I loved it, the whole design of the film is just gorgeous. The background music ain't half bad either.
Piece to remember: Chopin, Waltz, Op.69, No.1, downloadable here.

Man on Fire
Pianist: Dakota Fanning
Superficially: a vicious but heartwarming story of redemption and love between a little girl and a hitman. No, it's not Leon.
Actually: she plays the piano, so there's the odd bit on the soundtrack.
One to watch? Sure, if you've got a high wince threshhold. This is the perfect date movie - with sweet, emotional bits for your gal, and lots of explosions and bloodletting in the second half for your guy.
Piece to remember: Clare du Lune, Debussy

Blade Runner
Pianist: Sean Young
Superficially: a police assassin hunts down androids which look human
Actually: contains one of my favourite piano scenes ever, with Rachel's diegetic piano playing swirling in and out of Vangelis' background music.
One to watch? Definitely.
Piece to remember: Unfortunately, I've never found the sheets for this, or even what it is.

Top Gun
Superficially: action-fighter pilots show off in fast aircraft for two hours
Actually: see it for the "Great Balls of Fire" scene. Man, I've been hankering for a copy of the music ever since.
One to watch? As dumb fun goes, this is as good as it gets. Just do me a favour and watch it on the loudest sound system possible.
Piece to remember: Great Balls of Fire

About a Boy
Pianist: Toni Colette
Superficially: a lazy rich guy finds redemption when he becomes friends with a disfunctional kid
Actually: the leaping point for some of the most quoteable piano moments ever - "the worst part was when they closed their eyes" - as well as "Santa's Super Sleigh", the Xmas-cash in classic.
One to watch? If Hugh Grant is your kind of thing, then certainly. If he and his films irritate you, then don't switch off, keep listening. It's still worth a shot - the script is amusing and satisfyingly bleak at times.
Piece to remember: Killing me softly wiht his song

Just missing the cut
Groundhog Day - lots of piano lessons
Corpse Bride - piano duet
Commitments - most of it
Godfather - the piano interlude in the middle
The Blues Brothers - again, most of it

Now somebody give me sympathy!

3 comments:

Rob said...

That's no good, I'm sorry to hear you must leave behind your most prized of all possessions :(

The piano-lite, the keyboard, was the only instrument I ever learned, and that was years and years ago. Actually, I regret giving it up, because it puts all the musical toll of the other person in my band; a vocal-keyboard duo named Jingle Jangle's Spiritual Mind-Expansion Collective.

When does university start over there?

Ninquelosse said...

Thank you :) I'll be off in late September - you?

My short-lived band was called Follow - JJ'sSMEC is an awesome name!

Rob said...

Our school runs through a calendar year, so I'll be off to university around February next year. I'm in my final year of high school at the moment. I'm considering taking a gap year before university and traveling. Maybe to America, maybe around Europe.

Haha, thank you. We played at our school's Battle of the Bands, where they thought us to be serious contestants.

I think they figured it out around the time we stopped the music to tell 10 minutes of the worst jokes we could.
"Well, that song was an original"
"Oh really? Because I prefer....salt and vinegar!"

One of the marks we received was 10/100, where the judge merely said "It felt like I was in a gay bar, and I kind of liked it"

 
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