Many films are famous for their extensive use of pop or rock songs, integrating them so well into the script that they are part and parcel of storytelling – Saturday Night Fever, Footloose, Almost Famous and Pretty Woman are good examples of this. Some films films hit songs even when the songs just appear at the end or in one scene – think Titanic (My Heart Will Go On) and Rocky II (Eye of the Tiger). These songs have sometimes become more famous than the movie they were featured in. For every such hit song, there are as many great movie soundtrack songs that go completely under the radar. In the past year, I have stumbled upon 5 such tracks that are worth listening to in their own right, but also utterly suited to the films they have appeared in. I am covering 2 of the 5 songs in this post:-
The Fighter (2010) is an Oscar-winning boxing drama continuing the Hollywood tradition of emotionally powerful films like Rocky, Raging Bull and Million Dollar Baby. Directed by David O. Russell, it stars Mark Wahlberg as boxer Micky Ward and Christian Bale as his half-brother and coach Dicky. The film chronicles Micky’s tortured attempt to rise up the boxing ranks, battling with several family related issues involving his over-protective mother, brood of ever-present sisters, a crack-addicted and frequently unreliable brother and his combative girlfriend who is intensely disliked by the rest of his family. Ultimately, they set aside their differences and come together to help Micky deliver an upset victory and claim the world welterweight title. Although a boxing film, it is really a story about family dynamics and blood ties. The film ends with the two brothers sitting on a sofa being interviewed; Dicky talks into the camera, so very proud of his brother, struggling to contain his emotions. The scene then cuts to the 2 brothers walking down the street while Ben Harper’s Glory and Consequence plays in the background. I am not a fan of Ben Harper’s vocal style, but I love the arrangements and musicianship on this song and the lyrics. It is the perfect uplifting, inspiring song to end an emotionally draining 2 hour film. Sadly, the song seems too complex to reproduce live; I have listened to a few live recordings and the song always comes across half-baked or rushed. Best listened to on the original The Fighter OST recording or on his 1997 The Will to Live album.
Earlier this year, Richard Linklater released the 3rd film in his ‘Before trilogy’, titled Before Midnight. The films brings back Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as the soulmates who met by chance in Vienna in 1995, then reunited in Paris in 2004 and are now married with kids and on vacation in Greece in 2013. The film deals with the inevitable anxieties and regrets of a couple entering middle age, who feel they have sacrificed a fair bit for each other but are not receiving the expected appreciation or support. The climax of the film features an extended and bitter argument between the couple in a hotel room, which is almost too painful to watch. It seems impossible that there could be any reconciliation after such a showdown, but somehow they find a way to sit together at the restaurant downstairs and tentatively start a conversation. As the credits roll on this hopeful scene, a soulful love song called Gia Ena Tango plays out. Sung by Greek songstress Haris Alexiou, famous for her earthy voice, it creates a heartbreaking coda for an outstanding film and an outstanding trilogy of love stories. I don’t think the song is featured in any of Alexiou’s albums, I see it listed only as a single or as part of the Before Midnight soundtrack.
In Part 2 of Serendipitous Songs, I will talk about two Brazilian songs and one from an American indie film.