Seeking synthesiser solace in the 'Drive' soundtrack
Who's saying what
Consequently, my daily commute, occasional walks, computer sessions and washing-up have all been scored by the same pulsing synths: Cliff Martinez's outstanding score, and the five songs included with it.
Guys, I've got something to share with you...
"Hi everyone. My name is Clem, and I can't stop listening to the Drive soundtrack."
*everyone claps, says "Hi Clem"*
It's not the first time something like this has happened.
When I saw The Dark Knight, in a similar preview time-frame, I was bewitched. Fortunately, the distributors had left a copy of Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard's excellent score on each seat. I listened to it, particularly Zimmer's "Joker" cues, non-stop for seven days straight.
(This is a good time to bring that great anecdote of Christopher Nolan's about his experience of first hearing Zimmer's work for the film: Zimmer sent everything he'd come up with - about 13 hours - and Nolan listened to it on a plane trip from London to America. When he touched down he apparently felt like he'd had a nervous breakdown.)
That was because I loved the score as a stand-alone work of art.
In Drive's case, on the other hand, I do like the score - I particularly like the use of Chromatics' Tick Of The Clock in the outstanding first, er, driving sequence:
But listening to Drive on repeat isn't really about appreciating the beauty of the score, because the score itself is effectively an ambient work. I couldn't tell you the difference between the various pieces in the same way I can easily identify which track is Why So Serious? and which is Aggressive Expansion.
(Martinez's similarly fine Contagion score is a bit more "hooky"; They're Calling My Flight has made its way, solo, into my phone's 'iTunes shuffle' line-up alongside, you know, actual songs.)
((Tangentially, I find it utterly and inexplicably hilarious that Martinez played drums on Red Hot Chili Peppers' Freaky Styley.))
Instead, it's a way to prolong the film's strange beauty between viewings, since the music is - despite its ambient tendencies - so integral to that grimy throwback feeling that characterises the film.
In many ways, Drive is a mood piece; despite Winding Refn's predilection for exploding heads, you could arguably place the film in the same basket as Sofia Coppola's Somewhere.
That film's obvious and extensively expressed love for the sound of a Ferrari engine, and later its blank meditation on the odd boredom of special effects prosthetics (Johnny Marco gets covered with alginate; Driver is fitted with his prosthetic rubber head), was one of the first things I thought of while watching Drive.
Somewhere had an elegiac quality that I found very affecting, and so did Drive.
Everybody laughs when Albert Brooks' slimy producer recalls his Hollywood past: "I used to produce movies in the '80s. Kind of action films, sexy stuff. Some critics called them European!" I didn't laugh. There's a real wash of sadness in the way he recalls the critics' assessment of his work (a sadness that, being a hard man, he then covers up with "I thought they were shit", lest anyone think he's gone soft).
He's not remarking that those idiot critics thought his films were European, he's lamenting the death of his filmic career; there's not much that's European about NASCAR racing and small-time crime, no matter how you frame it.
That sadness is reflected in Martinez's score; indeed, there are more than a few moments when it recalls that other great work of sorrowful ambient scoring, Brian Eno's Apollo (the original score of the beauteous NASA documentary, For All Mankind).
It's the perfect soundtrack for that strange mournfulness you feel when you can't watch a film you desperately want to revisit. That used to be the break between the theatrical and the VHS (and, later, DVD) releaseof a film; for me, in this new(ish) line of work, it's the gap that opens up between a review screening and the general release.
I remember seeing Avatar six times, because I was so certain it was a "cinematic experience" that wouldn't work on home video (as it turned out, thankfully, I was wrong).
I have a feeling I'll have a similar reaction to Drive, when it hits cinemas.
Even though it has its roots in the crummy, slightly feverish "car films" of the '70s and '80s, I don't know that it will make the jump to home video; those shitty ("European") action films that go to seed on ancient VHS were less self-aware. Drive has been expertly crafted to be a VHS movie for the big screen.
But at least if I sink into that comfortable sadness again once the film is no longer readily accessible, I have a go-to requiem in the form of Martinez's score.
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