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"I want to report a rape"
January 9, 2012 9:53 AM   Subscribe

Few audience members, except film buffs, realized that the recent silent film THE ARTIST used Bernard Hermann's score from Alfred Hitchcock's VERTIGO as the soundtrack for its climactic scenes. But Kim Novak, Jimmy Stewart's co-star in the older film, sure did. Oh, boy, did she ever.
posted by unSane (87 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Dear Kim Novak:

Someone recycling music from a movie you were in may suck, but I think calling it "rape" is a BIT much, don't you?....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:58 AM on January 9, 2012 [20 favorites]


I can't imagine why a movie that, in large part, is about the history of Hollywood film would use some of the most recognizable music from one of Hollywood's preeminent composers used in one of Hollywood's most successful films.

Oh wait, I totally can.

The problem with Nikki Finke, Deadline Hollywood, TMZ, and the rest of today's Internet paparazzi is that they don't just let older famous people shoot off their mouths quietly and instead of remaining everybody's favorite old film star, they become everybody's crazy old relative.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:03 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd like to report a murder. My interest in this matter has been shot by hyperbole.
posted by Behemoth at 10:04 AM on January 9, 2012 [35 favorites]


This is probably a really dumb question, but how can a silent film even have a soundtrack, much less steal one?
posted by double block and bleed at 10:04 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, I totally skipped over the trade paper ad. I take back that last paragraph. (Well, I do for this instance at least.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:05 AM on January 9, 2012


Wait, so did Kim Novak write the film score for Psycho, and they didn't get her permission to use the music she wrote? She's acting like it's her music, but I'm pretty sure, I mean if memory serves, Bernard Hermann wrote the music, and he probably wrote it for the whole movie, not for Novak specifically. She doesn't own the music, not even a little bit.

I really don't understand the outrage here.
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:08 AM on January 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


I like Novak. Her reaction sounds over the top at first, given that you sometimes hear film scores used in other films, but if you review pertinent discussions here and here, apparently a large chunk of the score was used wholesale near the end of "The Artist" to heighten the emotional effect. (Caveat: I have not seen the film, but I trust the writers to whom I've linked above.) It's not like "The Artist" just sampled a little bit of the score. Of course they had acquired the rights so it was legally "OK."

Herrmann and Hitchcock have both been dead for nearly 40 years so they can't speak up. Novak is one of the few people left who played a major role in the making of "Vertigo."

Herrmann's score is widely regarded as one of the best film scores bar none, and Vertigo is pretty high up there in most film lovers' estimations too. The film and the score belong together, although the score stands up very well on its own (NOT used as an Enhancement in another film!)
posted by Currer Belfry at 10:10 AM on January 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


For what it's worth, Kim Novak isn't the only one bothered by it. Here's film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum:

"Let’s be frank: we all have different thresholds when it comes to shameless bids for our affection, and these thresholds are invariably matters of taste. While I haven’t been able to forgive The Artist for pilfering and then brandishing a sizable chunk of Bernard Herrmann’s Vertigo score near its closing stretches to impart a sense of tragedy — even after I’ve forgiven Michel Hazanavicius for all his other outrageous breaches of period and silent movie syntax (in short, his diverse and mutifaceted ahistorical outrages), not to mention his abject appropriations of diverse narrative chunks from Singin’ in the Rain, A Star is Born, and Citizen Kane – I’m still periodically won over by some of his audiovisual ideas as acts of audacity and stylistic flourishes in their own right." source
posted by Awkward Philip at 10:10 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have to admit I felt every bit as violated as Kim Novak when I saw this State Farm commercial that uses the Cheers theme song. Massive cognitive dissonance.
posted by ericost at 10:11 AM on January 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


She was sitting in her living room, she put the DVD in, and then went into an absolute state of shock and devastation

We can be divas, just for one day.
posted by davebush at 10:13 AM on January 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is probably a really dumb question, but how can a silent film even have a soundtrack, much less steal one?

There are no dumb questions. But if there were... :-)

Silent means they don't talk. Back in the day movies were meant to be scored with music that would be played live in the theater. Usually this just meant a piano player who played upbeat or sad or whatever the mood suggested.

But some huge silent era blockbusters actually had full scores played by a live orchestra. Consider Abel Gance's Napoleon, sort of the Avatar of its day. Five and a half hours long, a massive panoramic image running on three screens showing three different reels of film at once, and yes, full symphonic score.
posted by Naberius at 10:16 AM on January 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is probably a really dumb question, but how can a silent film even have a soundtrack, much less steal one?

Silent films aren't, technically, silent. They have music. They just don't have audio for the actor's speaking (or any other sounds). The music, like in a "normal" movie, is added in later.
posted by asnider at 10:16 AM on January 9, 2012


The only correct response to this "rape" is the prompt dispatch of a Waaahmbulance. But my question is this: How exactly did someone so concerned about the sanctity of intellectual property get her hands on the DVD of a film several months before its small-screen release?
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:22 AM on January 9, 2012


How exactly did someone so concerned about the sanctity of intellectual property get her hands on the DVD of a film several months before its small-screen release?

Screeners are regularly sent to Hollywood types for awards season.
posted by kmz at 10:24 AM on January 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


But my question is this: How exactly did someone so concerned about the sanctity of intellectual property get her hands on the DVD of a film several months before its small-screen release?

Studios send screeners to Academy members. As it says in the article: I just spoke with Novak’s longtime manager Sue Cameron, and she told me that the actress is an Oscar voter. When she popped in a screener of the film to figure out her ballot..."
posted by Awkward Philip at 10:24 AM on January 9, 2012


if you review pertinent discussions here and here, apparently a large chunk of the score was used wholesale near the end of "The Artist" to heighten the emotional effect. (Caveat: I have not seen the film, but I trust the writers to whom I've linked above.) It's not like "The Artist" just sampled a little bit of the score. Of course they had acquired the rights so it was legally "OK."

How is this different than using a classical music piece or modern popular song for emotional effect though? Apocalypse Now could have used some original music instead of Wagner, but it probably wouldn't have worked as well in the film. It's not as if there's an expectation when you see a film that all of the music is going to be completely original. Why would classic film soundtracks specifically be off-limits for using in a film, especially considering that the film itself is largely about the history of film-making?
posted by burnmp3s at 10:24 AM on January 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


This kind of “borrowing” could portend a dangerous future for all artists in film. “It is morally wrong of people in our industry to use and abuse famous pieces of work to gain attention and applause for other than what the original work was intended. It is essential that all artists safeguard our special bodies of work for posterity, with their individual identities intact and protected.
what

MS. NOVAK? YOU STARRED IN OF HUMAN BONDAGE in '64! WHICH WAS NOT THE FIRST BUT THE SECOND REMAKE OF THE ORIGINAL MOVIE THAT STARRED BETTE DAVIS!

Hypocritical, hyperbolic diva.
posted by zarq at 10:24 AM on January 9, 2012 [11 favorites]


I thought Lady Gaga using the score in one of her videos was worse.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:26 AM on January 9, 2012


Kim Novak expressed it poorly, but she's absolutely right. I myself was taken when the Hermann score welled up during The Artist (which was a very good movie). I actually think the Artist was diminished by co-opting one of the most recognizable soundtracks in the history of cinema. After that wonderful effort, the filmmaker couldn't find his own soundscape to enhance the experience? Recycling Vertigo's soundtrack? It cheapened the experience for me.
posted by thinkpiece at 10:27 AM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Okay, I didn't realize that's how the Oscar voting process worked. They watch them on DVD at home? I wonder how often those screeners are leaked to the web.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:27 AM on January 9, 2012


The problem with Nikki Finke, Deadline Hollywood, TMZ, and the rest of today's Internet paparazzi is that they don't just let older famous people shoot off their mouths quietly

Well, in their defense, Novak did put out a press release and a full-page ad in the trades. It's not like they overheard her bitching into her whisky and soda at a bar somewhere.
posted by Naberius at 10:27 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


taken aback
posted by thinkpiece at 10:27 AM on January 9, 2012


Her reaction sounds over the top at first, given that you sometimes hear film scores used in other films, but if you review pertinent discussions here and here, apparently a large chunk of the score was used wholesale near the end of "The Artist" to heighten the emotional effect.

Those discussions don't make Novak's reaction seem any less over-the-top to me. Someone legally acquired the right to put part of the score for Vertigo into another film. Why is this bad?
posted by 23skidoo at 10:28 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


This weekend, I was watching the short-lived sci-fi TV show Jason of Star Command, on DVD, and getting slightly annoyed at how they had re-used the communicator click sound from OST, for 90% of their gadgets, but felt amused at how they also used the OST standard 'dramatic cue' music as well.

Her complaint depends on the majority of 'The Artist' viewers having already seen her work; I'm not sure how popular her movies really are with the current film going generation, to claim that the emotional evocation was based on memories of her acting alongside the score, versus emotional evocation based on the music itself. When I was watching Jason, and they'd reuse the OST musical cue, it didn't remind me of Kirk.
posted by nomisxid at 10:28 AM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wonder how often those screeners are leaked to the web.

Often enough that they fingerprint them these days. People have gotten into serious shit over that.
posted by Naberius at 10:28 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Clearly, TWPL, the only correct response to this "hypocrisy" is the prompt dispatch of the RTFAmbulance.
posted by notyou at 10:28 AM on January 9, 2012


they had the legal right to use the music

End of story. STFUK.
posted by spicynuts at 10:32 AM on January 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


How many will recognize music from a film released in 1958?

Vertigo isn't a film released in 1958. Vertigo is Vertigo. Many people would remember this music. It's not immoral to use it in another context, but it's a very odd choice artistically.

How many will recognize music from a film released in 1977?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:32 AM on January 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


"How many will recognize music from a film released in 1958?"

Um, yeah. Lots of people. Vertigo and its soundtrack are inexorably linked, at least to me, probably to many others. Hearing a snippet of it used in a different context - like, say, in the new Sherlock film where they integrate a bit from Don Giovanni *before* they arrive at the opera, just to foreshadow what's coming - is a lot different than lifting whole chunks of it. It's not a "rape" (that's extremely offensive of her to say) but it sure is weird and jarring.

"STFUK"

No.
posted by HopperFan at 10:36 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


How many will recognize music from a film released in 1977?

That's so weird, because I could have sworn that Jaws came out in '75!
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 10:38 AM on January 9, 2012


Generally I would agree (minus the preposterous hyperbole.) I see a lot of plays that reference earlier plays, but for no reason other than to piggyback on the significant of other plays, and it bothers me there. Hollywood just does this as a matter of course -- it's simultaneously the most intertextural medium around nowadays, and the one that makes the most cloying, most cliched, and least effective use of its own references. As a result, movies sometimes start seeming like degraded ninth or tenth generation photocopies.

But this is a rather unique case, in that here wee have a film whose whole point is its film-ness -- where being a film is a stylistic choice, and so it endlessly recycles and references earlier films tropes, the most obvious ones from the silent era, but also more contemporary versions. It uses the "Vertigo" soundtrack, not simply to borrow the significance of the earlier film, but to literally enhance the film-ness of the current movie. When a movie is based around the fact that it is a movie, and references it constantly, this sort of borrowings make a lot of sense.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:39 AM on January 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


"But this is a rather unique case, in that here wee have a film whose whole point is its film-ness -- where being a film is a stylistic choice, and so it endlessly recycles and references earlier films tropes, the most obvious ones from the silent era, but also more contemporary versions. It uses the "Vertigo" soundtrack, not simply to borrow the significance of the earlier film, but to literally enhance the film-ness of the current movie. When a movie is based around the fact that it is a movie, and references it constantly, this sort of borrowings make a lot of sense."

Huh. That makes sense.
posted by HopperFan at 10:41 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


<doctorow>But what about the remix culture?</doctorow>
posted by The Tensor at 10:41 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


If Quentin Tarantino did this, it would be considered an homage.

I haven't seen The Artist yet. Were the scenes using the Vertigo music attempting to evoke the same scenes from Vertigo?

I generally have no problem with the repurposing of music, so long as it is done in a somewhat explicit manner. It speaks to the effectiveness and universality of the score.

Otherwise Tchaikovsky might be pissed to learn how often his Nutcracker Suite has been repurposed to tell stories that have nothing to do with Mouse Kings.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:41 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder how often those screeners are leaked to the web.

I watched a few of these screeners the week before Christmas (Warhorse and Incredibly Close--both terrible). For those who haven't seen them, the screeners begin with a TOS which include destroying the DVD by breaking it in half once you're finished watching. You have to click "accept" for the movie to start.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 10:43 AM on January 9, 2012


"How many will recognize music from a film released in 1958?"

Everybody who knows Hitchcock movies. It's a very important movie, by a very important director scored by a man that many consider to be one of the very greatest film composers (some might say the best, but that's another discussion.) So, quite a lot of people.

However, if the rights were legally acquired, then my only objection is that there are lots of great living film composers that could have used the opportunity/work.
posted by ob at 10:45 AM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Someone legally acquired the right to put part of the score for Vertigo into another film. Why is this bad?

Can you imagine someone appropriating the theme to the Godfather for another movie? It just seems like a lazy way to evoke a whole other movie's-worth of complex integrated emotion and narrative and performance, to use for your own work.
posted by thinkpiece at 10:50 AM on January 9, 2012


Vertigo and its soundtrack are inexorably linked, at least to me, probably to many others.

The question isn't "How strong is the connection between Vertigo and its score, for people who note a connection?". The question is "What percentage of the population will know this piece of music is from Vertigo." It may jump right out at a small percentage of people, but I think the majority of people would hear that and just think "old-timey dramatic movie score". Just because Vertigo is a great movie doesn't mean that most people have seen it and have its score memorized.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:53 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, Kim Novak is still alive. So it's not all bad news.
posted by chavenet at 10:57 AM on January 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


How many will recognize music from a film released in 1977?

Well, you know, you raise an interesting point. That musical riff immediately became so iconic that it has been used repeatedly, in many, many different films. Usually for comedic effect. It's something that's played over a contrasting image to the shark, like the jet's tail slicing through the clouds in Airplane, to get a laugh. But when it's done it's done with the full expectation that the audience will get the reference and indeed it's done specifically to call up viewers' associations with Jaws.

The scope might be smaller, but is that all that different from what's going on here?

I still don't agree with Novak, especially on the "rape" thing. But the more the discussion goes on, the more sympathy I'm finding for the argument that this isn't as simple as "they had the legal right to use the music, end of story."
posted by Naberius at 10:58 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can see some small shred of validity to the more subtle idea at the core of her argument that is entirely drowned out by her shrill rapey analogy, but I get it. I'm all for freedom to quote and sample and remix, but what the Artist does is somewhat different. There's no distancing effect in their use of the score, and it's a not a "quotation" as such - they're just importing wholesale the emotional effect from Vertigo to produce the same effect in their own film. Regardless of whether people consciously associate the music with Vertigo you're still adopting something that is pretty well pre-embedded in the public imagination.

Obviously Novak is not pursuing a legal avenue, she just wants to raise some amount of public shaming, presumably with the objective that Michel Hantavirus (sic) feels kind of bad, and the practice doesn't gain traction. And if that happens, I'm not seeing a downside, even though I found her language distasteful.
posted by anazgnos at 10:58 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


"majority of people would hear that and just think "old-timey dramatic movie score". Just because Vertigo is a great movie doesn't mean that most people have seen it and have its score memorized"

I dunno, I think that the majority of people going to see 'The Artist' might be the sort of people who *are* interested in film and its history, and because of that would be far more likely to recognize the score. It doesn't require any "memorizing" - it's just that unique. Like the Indiana Jones theme, for example.
posted by HopperFan at 10:59 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think calling it "rape" is a BIT much, don't you?....

How about "surprise scoring"?
posted by mediated self at 11:00 AM on January 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


Oh damn it. This is what I get for posting too quickly. I didn't actually follow justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow's link, which is to Star Wars, but was responding to BigHeartedGuy's response, which referenced Jaws.

So anyway, if anyone's confused, that's what happened. I think the Jaws point is interesting, even if it's not what the original comment was talking about at all.
posted by Naberius at 11:01 AM on January 9, 2012


I think calling it "rape" is a BIT much, don't you?....

Well, it's not much unlike that twit Natalie Portman equating eating animals with rape.
posted by ReeMonster at 11:01 AM on January 9, 2012


Vertigo isn't a film released in 1958. Vertigo is Vertigo. Many people would remember this music. It's not immoral to use it in another context, but it's a very odd choice artistically.

I agree with this 100%.

But only a tiny, tiny portion of the population (consciously) cares about film scores. Of us, 90% (or more) revere this particular score. I have been listening to it for 40 years, and I've seen "Vertigo" maybe 25 times in my life. Each motif in the score evokes a specific image from the film for me. Again, I realize that this isn't true for most people. I'm just reporting what it's like from my side of the fence.

Putting that score in another movie is, for me, like making a monster movie and having the monster climb the Empire State Building while clutching a blonde girl and then getting shot down by airplanes. It's odd UNLESS the goal is to specifically evoke "King Kong" in a moment-by-moment, shot-by-shot way.

I haven't seen "The Artist," so maybe that IS the goal. Maybe the filmmakers want you to think about the way Novak tilts her head when she's kissing Stewart. But my guess is that isn't their goal. They probably just want to evoke the mood of "old movies" and leave a little Easter Egg for those few people who know the "Vertigo" score. If so, they will achieve their first goal and mostly fail in their second. To people who know the score, this would be more of an ostrich egg than a chicken egg.

I felt the same way when I watched the first episode of "American Horror Story," in which they also chose to use music from "Vertigo" (is it on sale or something?) and some other classics. My wife, who isn't an old film buff, watched without noticing. But I was totally distracted and couldn't focus on the show at all.

What would be awesome is, as a result of this controversy, more people listened to the score. It's fantastic and haunting.

Original Score on Amazon

Re-recording on Amazon

iTunes
posted by grumblebee at 11:02 AM on January 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I haven't seen "The Artist," so maybe that IS the goal.

I have; it's not. It was actually distracting, for cinephiles. Three of us kind of craned our necks at each other and shrugged, wondering what the Vertigo "quote" was about.
posted by thinkpiece at 11:12 AM on January 9, 2012


Well, it's not much unlike that twit Natalie Portman equating eating animals with rape.

....Your point being?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:13 AM on January 9, 2012


If this is her reaction to a film essentially about film, then is it no wonder that Hitch never won an Oscar during his lifetime. It seems silly that Actors ( with a cap A.) get to vote on Oscars simply because they Members of The Academy. It's like getting judged by a jury of your peers when the only people who show up for Jury duty are either too stupid or too old to figure a way out of it. Some of these people wouldn't know a good Film if they were hit in the head with a projector.
Witness some famous Oscar snubs: This is the same Academy that failed to award Jimmy Stewart the Oscar for his role in Vertigo.
posted by Gungho at 11:15 AM on January 9, 2012


I'm of two minds. While I love "Vertigo," I don't think that Hitchcock would have had the same reaction as Novak. He would probably be gratified and bemused that his film's music is being referenced almost 50 years later. Now, I don't know how wholesale the usage is -- so maybe it's probably as bad as it sounds. Herrmann might have been pretty damn furious. But the use is a legal use. In any event, I'm not exactly dying to see the movie, and this will only add to that "meh" feeling.

"How many will recognize music from a film released in 1958?"

Has Mike Fleming never heard of TCM? Not that TCM shows "Vertigo" as often as it does crappy Novak movies like "Boys' Night Out," but .....

23skidoo: The question isn't "How strong is the connection between Vertigo and its score, for people who note a connection?". The question is "What percentage of the population will know this piece of music is from Vertigo."

No, the question is, "How many will recognize music from a film released in 1958?" The answer is, Enough to matter. How many people who go to see a movie like "The Artist" -- which is "about" movie history as much as it is about anything else -- will not recognize the music? What is the movie's demo? Isn't most of the point of using the music to evoke the association?

Anyway, for more context, here's what Hazanavicius has had to say about the subject:

AVC: Like your OSS comedies, The Artist has a Hitchcock influence—you use Bernard Herrmann's Vertigo score for a pivotal moment in the movie. Was that intentional?

MH: For The Artist, the music from Vertigo came in post. I guess all the directors in France are influenced by Hitchcock, because he’s the perfect visual director, in my eyes. So I guess, yes, certainly he was an influence, but it wasn’t a reference. I mean, I wasn’t watching Hitchcock movies, I was watching silent movies. But when I was writing the script, I was listening to a lot of classical composers, and there was a lot of music from movies in that, and the music from Vertigo was one of them. So when we were editing, I went back to the script and told the composer, "There are nine narrative blocks where we need nine big scores." So I gave him all the points of what kind of emotion the music should have. And for that particular scene you're speaking of, I wanted something special. I wanted it to be the final movement. I wanted a slow love theme, and the music from Vertigo just fit perfectly. And it's not Herrmann's score, in fact, but the score re-orchestrated by Elmer Bernstein [from 1992]. After seeing that sequence cut together, our composer [Ludovic Bource] used that style as an influence for the rest of the music he created for other parts of the movie. I'll admit it's strange to have the music from another movie in your movie, but finally I chose to accept it.

posted by blucevalo at 11:15 AM on January 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Sorry, I meant "over 50 years later."
posted by blucevalo at 11:21 AM on January 9, 2012


“It is morally wrong of people in our industry to use and abuse famous pieces of work to gain attention and applause for other than what the original work was intended.

This just in: Carl Orff has risen from his grave and wants to cut a bitch.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:22 AM on January 9, 2012 [11 favorites]


I've seen the Artist. And I've seen Vertigo, but not recently. I consider myself reasonably knowledgeable about movies. I don't know how many movies the Artist borrows from, including ones set after the period it was set in (1930±a few years)—I caught some references, but the thing is, this is not only a movie about movies, like Singing in the Rain, it's a movie that references movies about movies (like Signing in the Rain). Very meta, although not in a navel-gazing way.

I did not recognize the soundtrack as being lifted from Vertigo. I thought it worked really well. I can imagine that if I did recognize it, it would be a bit jarring. Rape? No.
posted by adamrice at 11:24 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Only 9 days into the new year and already we have an example of someone taking a reasonable artistic opinion, dressing it up with offensive analogies and hyperbolic over-statement, and spending their own money to run it in trade press. Gonna be hard to top this level of self-indulgence and jerkyness but I have faith in you, 2012!
posted by phearlez at 11:24 AM on January 9, 2012


In light of blucevalo's comment, I see that they had a composer, and that he used the Hermann score as a template for his, which sort-of explains why they used the original, and sort of doesn't. I mean, there are famous examples of temp tracks making it into the final product, but those are usually pre-existing pieces of concert music, not other film scores, let alone a score as iconic as Vertigo.
posted by ob at 11:26 AM on January 9, 2012


23skidoo: The question isn't "How strong is the connection between Vertigo and its score, for people who note a connection?". The question is "What percentage of the population will know this piece of music is from Vertigo."

No, the question is, "How many will recognize music from a film released in 1958?" The answer is, Enough to matter. How many people who go to see a movie like "The Artist" -- which is "about" movie history as much as it is about anything else -- will not recognize the music? What is the movie's demo? Isn't most of the point of using the music to evoke the association?


"Enough to matter" is a dodge and you know it. If the overwhelming majority of the people who see this movie don't recognise that part of the score is from Vertigo, then it doesn't matter. At all. I don't see "The Artist" being pushed as some piece of stuffy film history: it's a gimmicky movie with a lot of Oscar buzz. All kinds of people are going to be seeing it, not just people who recognize the score from Vertigo.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:28 AM on January 9, 2012


Grumblebee, you make the point--well--that this is music which has taken on a life well beyond its particular filmic origin. You point out that it is available on CD and that you have often listened to it simply as a piece of music. So how, then, does this particular film usage differ from, say, the frequent use of Barber's Adagio or Mozart's Requiem, or the Carmina Burana or any other piece if music not composed specifically for the film in which it is used? Music is always used to import particular emotional coloration to a scene--and in some sense that is always an emotion that is "unearned" by the film itself (that, after all, is why the music is needed--Vertigo would be a lesser film without that score, which does not gain its emotional force simply by association with the scenes over which it plays).
posted by yoink at 11:31 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Enough to matter" is a dodge and you know it. If the overwhelming majority of the people who see this movie don't recognise that part of the score is from Vertigo, then it doesn't matter. At all.

Wow. I'm not going to say you're wrong, because it's a matter of personal values and aesthetics, but BOY do you and I differ on this point!

I spend a lot of my life directing Shakespeare plays. There are a lot of nuances to things like the meter of the verse and the pronunciation that will only matter to 1% of my audience.

Pleasing that 0.01% matters to me -- a LOT. It doesn't matter to me more than pleasing the other 99%, but it matters. The 1% cares about the same things that the rest of the audience care about: good acting, etc. But they have additional cares. So if I please them, I please everyone.

In any case, even if no one cared, I would care. If you could guarantee that all the expert Shakespeareans wouldn't be coming to my next show, I wouldn't relax a bit. I aim for excellence. I continually fail and I always will, but that's my aim. I think it's a noble aim. No matter what you do, whether it's directing plays or painting houses, I hope you aim for excellence too. I hope that every little details matters to you, and that when you do a job for an average Joe, you conduct yourself as if you were doing it for an extreme enthusiast.
posted by grumblebee at 11:34 AM on January 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


You point out that it is available on CD and that you have often listened to it simply as a piece of music. So how, then, does this particular film usage differ from, say, the frequent use of Barber's Adagio or Mozart's Requiem, or the Carmina Burana or any other piece if music not composed specifically for the film in which it is used?

There's no universal answer to this. I can only explain how it differs to me. It differs to me because I FIRST learned the score by watching the film over and over. And it's a unique score that is deeply woven into the fabric of its film.

As evokative and wonderful as it is, I can listen to the "Godfather" score without continually seeing the movie. But the "Vertigo" score, note by note, evokes its film shot by shot. For me.

I disagree with everyone, including Novak, who sees a moral dimension to this. I see only an aesthetic one, and I'm an aesthetic relativist. So if you're asking me to defined a view that sees what the producers did as WRONG, I'm not going to do that, because I don't think they did anything wrong.

I think they did something that a small portion of the population -- people who have been primed in a particular way -- will find distracting, distasteful and ugly.
posted by grumblebee at 11:39 AM on January 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Here's a similar example: In the wonderful film "Cold Comfort Farm," there's a character, Seth, who is a huge fan of film. His cousin Flora conspires to get him into the pictures, bringing a casting agent, Mr. Neck, to the farm to meet him. Neck immediately offers Seth a contract, and as Seth goes to say goodbye to his cow, dramatic music swells.

Not just any dramatic music, but the music from "Gone With the Wind." It works precisely because it references (and, in this instance, slightly parodies) an earlier work.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:42 AM on January 9, 2012


...already we have an example of someone taking a reasonable artistic opinion, dressing it up with offensive analogies and hyperbolic over-statement, and spending their own money to run it in trade press.

Given that the the traditional comment (at least since the 1820's) for this sort of thing would be to liken the makers of the film to the people who desecrated to body of the king of Israel and no one would bat an eye, I'm surprised 2012 went eight days without an artistic flap turning into offensive analogy and hyperbolic overstatement.

Hyperbolic swooners gotta swoon.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:49 AM on January 9, 2012


They should have used "Twisted Nerve"
posted by mmrtnt at 11:57 AM on January 9, 2012


Bunny Ultramod, I love that movie too! But it presented itself as kind of a satire, don't you think? The GWTW music was like a little further nudge to the audience in that scene to cap that, no? That's not what happens in The Artist ...
posted by thinkpiece at 11:59 AM on January 9, 2012


Oh, I suspect this level of cray-cray runs around the block a few dozen times before breakfast, Kid C. It's really the devotion to this opinion such that she'd take money our of her own pocket to run it in ad form that really makes it notable, I'd say. Complaining bitterly to anyone who will listen or calling some (pretending to be) sympathetic media person I'd expect.

Or maybe that's what she did, and said person said "you know, if you really want people to know how offensive this is..." and drove some more revenue their own way.

Maybe that's just my cheapskate nature talking. I thought twice about spending my $5 here and I've gotten WAY more ranting and raving done with that pittance!
posted by phearlez at 12:03 PM on January 9, 2012


"Enough to matter" is a dodge and you know it. If the overwhelming majority of the people who see this movie don't recognise that part of the score is from Vertigo, then it doesn't matter. At all.

What exactly am I "dodging"? My point was, a whole lot of cineastes, movie buffs, Hollywood types, and plain ol' Hitchcock fans have seen or are going to see this movie, whether they know about the use of the "Vertigo" score or not. And some of them will maybe care about, or at least be jarred by, a piece of music that was in a film that was released in 1958 being strip-mined for use in a 2011 film to no rational end other than, hey, it's dramatic classical-sounding love music!

But, I have to concede that you're right -- in the greater scheme of things, it probably doesn't matter at all. Unless you're Kim Novak.
posted by blucevalo at 12:04 PM on January 9, 2012


That's not what happens in The Artist ...

No, the artist was using it non-satirically, as genuine swelling movie music; but I think in both cases the intention is to highlight the essential movie-ness of the moment.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:07 PM on January 9, 2012


I don't vehemently agree with Novak on this issue, but I have a lot more respect for her opinion than I have for the flat dismissal of it by people who basically complain on the internet for a living.

Kim is a product of another time and another Hollywood, her ideas about art and film aren't necessarily going to line up with most of ours. When The Artist's filmmakers decided to go this route with the music, they open themselves up to this sort of transgenerational scrutiny and, frankly, ought to have anticipated this.
posted by hermitosis at 12:59 PM on January 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


The problem with Novak's opinion that this is lazy co-opting of another movie's emotional payoff... is that she doesn't just say it's a lazy co-opting of another movie's emotional payoff.

Instead she likens it to a sexual assault, goes on to say it is an abuse of the original work, then assigns a moral value to it rather than just calling it mediocre art.

Putting aside all of that over-reach, this is in reaction to an Oscar screener, presumably not the first one she's ever received. So she's viewed all manner of other cinematic abuses of different cultures, women, public figures, and grod-knows how many insulting adaptations of authors' works, yet somehow she managed to resist the temptation to send out press releases about those artistic mis-steps.

So yes, I may complain on the internet for (not-a)living but I'm perfectly comfortable dismissing her in this.
posted by phearlez at 1:09 PM on January 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


I always thought Herrmann lifted that theme from Wagner anyway. Maybe Lars von Trier is behind all this Oscar shitflinging?
posted by minkll at 1:14 PM on January 9, 2012


So she's viewed all manner of other cinematic abuses of different cultures, women, public figures, and grod-knows how many insulting adaptations of authors' works, yet somehow she managed to resist the temptation to send out press releases about those artistic mis-steps.

As stated above, since she's one of the only surviving figures heavily associated with the film, it seems she is in a rare position to speak with at least some authority on the subject. Anyhow, her message could have used a little smoothing out, but I'm glad she spoke up.
posted by hermitosis at 1:16 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


It never seems like a big deal when Tarantino uses old Ennio Morricone scores in his films. I don't see what the big deal is. I might not care about this though because I am not a fan of Vertigo.
posted by SteveFlamingo at 1:18 PM on January 9, 2012


So she's viewed all manner of other cinematic abuses of different cultures, women, public figures, and grod-knows how many insulting adaptations of authors' works, yet somehow she managed to resist the temptation to send out press releases about those artistic mis-steps.

She didn't star in or otherwise have involvement in all of those other atrocities. Minor point, but I don't think anyone else took out ads about those cinematic horrors either.
posted by blucevalo at 1:34 PM on January 9, 2012


Good Artist borrow. Great Artist steal.
posted by Capt. Renault at 2:04 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's as awful as Kim Novak thinks.

Films have been pilfering music from the classical repertoire since the beginning of the sound era; of course, the composers were usually long since dead, and the music was in the public domain, so there were relatively few people to complain. One notable exception to that would be "Rite of Spring" -- Stravinsky was very much alive when FANTASIA was released, and reportedly detested the adaptation of the score, the resulting performance, and the accompanying animation. He only got twelve hundred dollars to use the piece, too.

Kubrick was fairly mercenary about the whole thing, justifying his use of classical music in 2001 thus: "However good our best film composers may be, they are not a Beethoven, a Mozart or a Brahms. Why use music which is less good when there is such a multitude of great orchestral music available from the past and from our own time?"

So, I think how you feel about this depends on which artform you privilege over the others: if you're an opera buff, even the best use of opera in film (like Malick's use of the Rheingold overture for the beginning of THE NEW WORLD) may be a little jarring; if you're not, it's just beautifully /perfect/ music for the scene. (It's actually a bit worse when the lift is a piece from an opera, I think, since the music in opera is already supporting and is interwoven with a particular dramatic narrative, unlike something like the Blue Danube.)

For film buffs (and I'm definitely more one of those than I am an opera buff), it was a little odd hearing the famous love theme for VERTIGO, designed to accompany a tragic, intense, doomed romance, accompanying the ending of THE ARTIST. But I smiled when I recognized it, and allowed the emotion it summoned up to permeate and enhance the scene. Which was fine: all music in movies is attempting to borrow emotion from somewhere else to support and strengthen the narrative on screen, I think.
posted by orthicon halo at 2:22 PM on January 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Artist is a pretty wonderful little movie. It also happens to be pretty heavily promoted for the Oscars by one Harvey Weinstein, somebody who has already collected more than enough enemies in his illustrious career. I'm certain that most of them will consider persuading (and possibly financing) a Tinseltown legend to spill venom on "his" film all over the trade papers to be par for the course, especially considering Mr. Weinstein's own ways in elbowing his way to the Oscars.
posted by Skeptic at 3:38 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


This discussion is fantastic.

When I listen to the track, I recalled the Hermann score in another movie's key dramatic scene: the infinite death scene of 12 Monkeys when the LeMat Revolver toting fugitive Cole, played by Bruce Willis, is shot in the back as he chases Dr. Peters, played by David Morse (who does a fantastic George Washington in John Adams) through airport security. Dr. Katheryn Railly, played by Madeleine Stowe, wearing a sun dress, screaming, arm outstretched, running in slow motion, reaching for the mortally wounded Cole, shot two through the chest.

The thing is, Gilliam has transformed this piece in a powerful way. He brilliantly quotes the Hitchcock film itself in a key scene, then uses the music alone in the above scene. It haunting in Vertigo. Gilliam quoting Hermann's theme in a time-travel movie intensifies the tension by quotation without losing any of the dramatic quality. As the Jaws reference in Airplane makes clear, literal quoting is often a parody.

I have not seen The Artist, but I won't be able to see the film now, and not know this story. IMHO, the only sure way to quote any other famous work artistically is to mask the recognition of the original. Not a chance with Ms. Novak on the case. I say get yer stank on Ms. Novak!
posted by xtian at 4:08 PM on January 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Here's my question: was the scene with the cue supposed to be Brechtian, "post-modern" or distancing? Because the only iron I have in this fire has to do with that. I don't care about "stealing" from "Vertigo." "Vertigo" is what it is, no matter who does what with its assets. My question is about "The Artist" and how this cue works in it.

I know people for whom all scenes in all movies are Brechtian, whether that was the intention of the filmmakers or not. These folks simply never forget, even for a second, that they're watching a fake, made-up story. I know other folks who do, at least at times, "suspend their disbeliefs," but it doesn't much bother them to be reminded that they're watching artifice.

I'm a member of a third group. I primarily watch movies to believe what I'm watching is real. The closer I can get to forgetting it's made up, the more fun I have. And when the stars align (often the ACTUAL stars aligning with a great script, masterful editing, etc) I can do this for long stretches of time. I want to fall in love with the characters and be crushed when I later remember they're not real. I want to really get scared that the monster is going to kill actual people. I don't think my way of enjoying movies is superior (or inferior) to anyone else's, but it's the way I've been enjoying them for almost 5 decades.

But even given my tastes, I wouldn't call, say, the breaking of the fourth wall in "Ferris Bueller" a mistake. It's clearly part of the core style of the movie. It may not be a movie for me, but I see what it's trying to do and I see that it does it consistently and artfully. I respect the well-thought--out craft behind it.

On the other hand, I would call foul if, in the U.S.S. Indianapolis scene in "Jaws," Richard Dreyfuss turned to the camera and said, "That was quite a story! Wasn't it, folks?" And I hope most of you will agree, whether you care about "suspending your disbelief" or not, that this would be a stylistic error. Maybe dream-like, naive immersion isn't the only reasonable way to enjoy "Jaws," but I hope you can see that the movie makes such enjoyment possible -- or tries to.

So if the "Vertigo" moment in "The Artist" is intended to make me think about "Vertigo" -- and about the fact that I'm watching artifice and the crafters want me to notice some link between Hitchcock's film and their own -- then I can't necessarily fault the craftsmanship, though I might not enjoy the movie. But if the music comes at a point, as it did in "American Horror Story," when the movie is supposed to be working as a standard, immersive narrative, then the cue is a mistake in my opinion.

It's not a mistake that will bother many people, but it's a mistake that will DEEPLY bother a minority of people, and had they avoided using that cue, NO people would be bothered.
posted by grumblebee at 4:36 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fair enough. And I wish bloody Tarantino would leave Morricone alone. Better to get Hans Zimmer to make a shoddy copy than rip it off wholesale.
posted by chrisgregory at 5:20 PM on January 9, 2012


" ... a product of another time and another Hollywood, ... ideas about art and film aren't necessarily going to line up with most of ours."

Age cohort analysis, anyone? Those who grew up seeing Vertigo in the theatre as a first-run movie have a gut reaction to this music. Hitchcock invented the use of sound in film, some would say. Once I was in a film class that showed Hitchcock scenes with no sound to make the point.

AND ... those who are younger and have only seen the film on DVD will probably not have a clue about this maudlin attachement to sound. Music/soundtracks today are intended to be re-purposed ... mashed up. In fact the makers of The Artist missed the boat; they should have been more creative with the Hitchcock soundtrack -- added a hip hop beat or house segue or something. They could have done a better homage to art.
posted by Surfurrus at 6:07 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Kim Novak Story.
posted by ovvl at 6:45 PM on January 9, 2012


Nine days in and we may have already had 2012's best example of how to respond to a hyperbolic attack -- though it being a US presidential election year, I'm sure we will see many more entries in the competition:

'The Artist' Director Responds to Kim Novak
:
The Artist was made as a love letter to cinema, and grew out of my (and all of my cast and crew’s) admiration and respect for movies throughout history. It was inspired by the work of Hitchcock, Lang, Ford, Lubitsch, Murnau and Wilder.

I love Bernard Herrmann and his music has been used in many different films and I’m very pleased to have it in mine. I respect Kim Novak greatly and I’m sorry to hear she disagrees.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:05 PM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Never mind the rape. We need to address the genocide that is the Hollywood Blockbuster System.
posted by seanyboy at 1:07 AM on January 10, 2012


Still conflicted about the situation, but anyone who publicly acknowledges the influences of masters like the ones Hazanavicius lists has my respect.
posted by blucevalo at 8:20 AM on January 10, 2012


Vertigoing is the new Swedeing.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:52 PM on January 11, 2012


This had long been percolating around the back of my mind until I heard Herrmann's Vertigo "Love Scene" - where had I heard that LOTR motif before?
posted by Guy Smiley at 8:31 PM on January 11, 2012


Cinema-goers complain that Oscar favourite The Artist has no dialogue: The Artist is being tipped to collect a raft of Baftas – but some cinemagoers are demanding their money back because it is a silent film.
posted by homunculus at 12:35 PM on January 19, 2012


I just saw the Artist recently and while the Vertigo cue did take me out of the story a little, especially given the very different context in the storyline, I think it works. In fact, it could probably be fodder for a decent film-class-style essay referencing the themes from Vertigo at that point in the film: a doomed attempt to recreate a fantasy of the past, the realization that that past wasn't what it seemed in the first place, and the final moment of enjoyment before the fantasy is and must be discarded — a catharsis. This also lends itself to meta-themes such as the director's complicity/obsession in creating Vertigo, the Artist, and even Tears of Love (the film-within-a-film). Some interesting stuff to think about, for sure.
posted by stopgap at 10:05 AM on January 30, 2012


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