WOODY ALLEN in CONCERT
THE MUSIC OF SCOOP
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perhaps for the very overtly apropos use of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in
Blue" in his now classic 1979 film "MANHATTAN,"
a discussion of the films by Woody Allen, the most cerebral and prolific
of American filmmakers, rarely touches on the music. Yet if one re-viewed
his films and gave even only half an ear to the music, one would soon realize
that music - whether as backdrop or as a topic for conversation or debate
among his fictional characters - is an important element of his works, and
conclude that Allen has got to be also the most musically literate of American
The "matching type" quiz below should prove the latter point. Allen's movie music is never made-to-order. He relies on extant sources, drawing from his beloved jazz, old-fashioned American songs, and the classical works of men long dead - as he did in "Scoop" and a good number of his other films, such as those in the table below.
Jog your memory a bit and see if you can match the classical work with the movie in which it was used as backdrop or in dialogue.
Allen's 2006 film SCOOP is a hilarious, suspenseful admixture of romance
(young American journalism student, played by Scarlett Johannson, falls
in love with young English aristocrat-businessman), murder-mystery (involving
a serial killer - could it be the young aristocrat?), and the supernatural
(a newly-disembodied ghost is Johansson's unlikely source of tips for
a news scoop, and the revelations happen mostly while she is inside a
performing magician's magic box). One would not instinctively lean
on the classical composers to supply the background music. Yet,
some of the most familiar works in the classical repertoire provide much
of it. Who among us ordinary mortals cannot hum a melody or two from Tchaikovsky's
Swan Lake and Nutcracker Suites, or Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite, or a
perky tune from Johann Strauss' Polkas? The film is packed with extended
excerpts from such works, recorded by no less than such ensembles as the
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna State Opera Orchestra, and London
Symphony Orchestra - interrupted here and there by titillating pieces
of Rhumba and other Latin music. An odd combination? Yes. But Allen ,
ever the magician - and he plays the role in the film - makes it all work.
And surprisingly, his use of all-too-familiar music breeds, not contempt,
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clever use of music in his films speak of finely honed musical instincts.
Is there a musician lurking in Allen's soul? Yes is the only answer. Because
in fact, he is one - a jazz clarinetist by avocation, but skilled enough
to play to the gallery. And as the NEXT
article will show, he seems to have the greatest fun being one.
If filmmaking is the first of Allen's cerebral passions, music must be
a close second.