Thursday, May 29, 2008
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
The Return of the Errant Professor
The adventure starts with a breathtaking Death Proof-esque car sequences and opening credits that made me feel like I was watching a 1980s film - so much for preserving the original spirit (maybe too much?). Minutes later the reunion with the professor takes place and this is exactly the point where Spielberg's genius is most evident. I'm going to spoil it with the comfort of knowing that the trailer already did that before me: In a subtle yet glorious scene, we first see the fedora hat on the dirt floor, then his shadow over the truck and then -finally- the man himself. Spielberg is as enthusiastic at this point as an ancient prophet revealing an idol to be worshipped. All the other characters get their own share of similarly-attentive introductory scenes; especially Mutt the motorcycle guy and the villain Irina Spalko. Without further ado, we are dropped in the middle of all the action and combat, with frequent references to the professor's past adventures.
Let me take a break here.
They had the chance to achieve that, which deepens my regret. The villain, as she's written, is extremely promising; and instead of ridiculing the communist ideals without any basis and for cheap laughs, they could've taken these characters seriously to create a unique dynamic between Indy and his foes that would've kept the show going. In this case, the ending would've been much more satisfying, assuming that they would've done a better job with Irina Spalko's fascination with the 13 kings and their collective mind that makes them stronger when they're together than they are by themselves. I'm not expecting Nobel-worthy deep, thematical elements here but it would've been interesting to see clearly what Irina Spalko is after (seriously, what happened at the end?!) and how it contributes to the communist cause. Indiana Jones franchise has always been simple but never this childish.
Some people will complain about the story, blaming it for being too far-fetched for an archaeology adventure but I really like the fact that sky is the limit when it comes to Indiana Jones. I wasn't really bothered by the logical and factual errors scattered like seeds throughout the film - as long as everything else is great, logical accuracy should not be a concern for the audience in this one. After all, isn't that why we loved Indy in the first place?
*REVIEW: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull by Luke Harrington in Movie Zeal
*Oie Boie by Rob Humanick in The Projection Booth
*Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull by David DiMichele in The Movie Fanatic
*Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - The Film Babble Blog Review by Daniel Cook Johnson in Film Babble Blog
*Fletch's Film Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull by Dylan Fields in Blog Cabins
*Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull by Michael Kabel in Screaming Blue Reviews
Monday, May 26, 2008
Hasn't It Always Been Like This?
Spider-Man 3 holds an impressive 2nd place in my list of weirdest movie-watching experiences.
Let me explain.
Last summer, I rented the dvd of Ben-Hur to put into progress my long-awaited meeting with this legendary epic. I inserted the first DVD and the film started, as it’s customary in old epics, with an overture. I was taken aback when the story began abruptly, without any old-fashioned introductory sequences or narration, which had me alternating between admiring the originality and feeling confused about the characters and the plot. The story progressed more or less as I expected, I was able to see the big picture but was quite lost on details. Just as I was wondering why they would place the iconic chariot race scene at the very beginning of the film (and to what context it was serving) the first disc was over; and much to my puzzlement, credits started rolling. I had read, at many different websites, that the film lasted close to 4 hours and I was still denying the notion that I had just finished watching a 3+ hour epic.
Then it struck me to try the second disc. As soon as I put it in and when the film actually began this time, everything started making sense. It appears that they had somehow mixed the labels of the two discs and I, mistaking the intermission for overture, had started watching the film from its second half. I was relieved to be properly introduced to the characters, to learn their backgrounds, to see why they did what they did in the second half and most importantly, the context of the chariot race. It was a unique experience, watching an old classic as if it’s recut in a more modernist style, the whole first half presented as a flashback.
Not that I’d recommend this over the normal way you watch the film but it’s still my weirdest movie-watching experience.
As for Spider-Man 3, I had the film for a very long time but never got myself to start watching it, mainly because I wasn’t a particular fan of the first two Spidey movies and because of the fact that the third installment received even worse reviews than the previous two. Yesterday, I started skimming it for reasons still unclear to me, watching certain scenes and jumping forward whenever I started getting tired them. This mostly meant that I got to see the action sequences and skipping the actual storyline. In the middle of the final and ultimate fight scene, I stopped when I realized that I was really impressed with the quality of these action sequences and that I really wanted to learn what the actual story behind the film was; why was M. J. so pissed off at Parker, what was the tragedy of Sandman and where did that black, sticky symbiote came from - although I was kind of familiar with all of them from the cartoon versions of the story that I used to love as a kid. So I took it all back and re-started watching it, not skipping a single scene although, more than once, I was strongly inclined to do so.
Turns out, there was no story after all. Not one worth mentioning anyway.
It was a weird experience because my first attempt to watch it, by skipping whenever I felt necessary, left a better impression on me than the second one where I sat through the whole thing. But I’m not here to pick on the film with artsy, pretentious sentences because;
1) The guys at Rotten Tomatoes are better at that than I am (e.g. “The utterly simplistic theme of revenge weaves through this jumbled hodge podge of depthless character stories.” or “As the Goblin and Sandman and whatnot multiply and start whizzing about, the proceedings in this grand hodgepodge are so disordered that it would be no surprise were a Nazgûl to wing into the scene, perhaps ridden by Dr. Zaius.” or 2/5"Aesthetically and conceptually wrung out, fizzled rather than fizzy, this latest installment in the spider-bites-boy adventure story shoots high, swings low and every so often hits the sweet spot, but mostly just plods and plods along.")
2) I really liked the action sequences and...
3) I don’t have much to say about the film itself. I think everything is quite simple.
I’d rather talk about the hypocrisy surrounding the critics and fan circles regarding where they place this last chapter, which is, I believe, is as low as it shouldn’t be. Granted, it’s the worst of the three, but when you look at the trilogy as a whole and try to see the big picture, isn’t it the same cheesy romance, one-dimensional drama, cartoonish characters, talentless Tobey Maguire and failed attempts to delve into the complexities of being a superhero? Didn't we all choose to endure cheap morality tales in exchange for some quality aerial action? Hasn't it always been about the breathtaking visuals, fight sequences and our childish, guilty pleasure? I’m really curious about what some people couldn’t find in Spider-Man 3 that was actually present in the previous films, maybe with the exception of a more decent plot for the first one.
Why did everyone betray Spidey?
I’m inclined to think that the franchise is starting to feel a little tired and people, failing to realize this, are attributing their disappointment to the actual quality of the film. Or, some other Marvel adaptations have raised the bar so high that the naive pleasure these films used to give us have suddenly disappeared. Or maybe the 'sticky symbiose' was a fan favorite among Spider-Man villains and its superficial handling caused an extra disappoinment. Maybe it would've been better if its screen time was not divided between Sandman and New Goblin - would having a single villain worked better? I'm not sure about the reasons, but for me Spider-Man films have always been about admiring the action and tolerating the flaws in nearly everything else; so I’m having a hard time following the sudden shift in feelings when it comes to this last installment. Am I really missing something?
: Wesley Lovell from Oscar Guy
: Thomas Peyser from Style Weekly (Richmond, VA)
: Manohla Dargis from New York Times
Thursday, May 22, 2008
A Brief Introduction
Now for introductions:
10. Teeth (2007) by Mitchell Lichtenstein
09. Iron Man (2008) by Jon Favreau
Contrary to my expectations, the hype did not die down so despite the initial disappointment, I am still planning to give Iron Man a second chance; although I don't know if I'm willing to spend that much for a first-class theater again.
08. Standard Operating Procedure (2008) by Errol Morris
I don't have much to say about this because I think the film is quite self-explanatory in terms of why it can be anticipated. It has a quite recent and crucial subject matter, definitely worthy of a documentary directed by a master like Errol Morris. Roger Ebert's praising review also contributes to my hopes. I haven't seen anything by Morris except the opening video he prepared for 2007 Oscars, so I'm quite looking forward to a reunion.
07. The Forbidden Kingdom (2008) by Rob Minkoff
The union of Jet Li and Jackie Chan, despite being exciting news, is not enough by its own for me to get excited about a ordinary-looking historical action flick. Unlike many others. In this case though, the visuals I witnessed in the trailer reminded me those of Hero; and if a film brings back my all-time favorite Asian movie, it's worth a peek no matter how brief the resemblance is.
Still, I don't hold my expectations too high for an original story and interesting characters. All I'm looking for is 300-esque action sequences, clever choreography and lots of eye candy in between. I'll be positively surprised if I see more.
06. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) by Woody Allen
The news in Page Six of New York Post made my heart skip a beat: "Scarlett Johansson has a steamy lesbian sex scene with Penelope Cruz in Woody Allen's upcoming Vicky Cristina Barcelona." According to some sources, it is also extremely erotic and people will be blown away, even shocked. Penelope and Scarlett go at it in a red-tinted photography dark room, and it will leave the audience gasping. What's even better is, the women later have a threesome with Javier Bardem, who plays Cruz's husband.
As beautifully put by The Top Socialite: "We all pretty much owe a debt to Woody Allen that can never be repaid."
I mean, seriously...
What the hell?!
Ok, that was me with my male hormones talking. Truth is, I do love the films of Woody Allen, both the older legends like Manhattan and Annie Hall, and the ones after the dark twist he embraced such as Match Point. No matter how productive he might be, I am still excited when I hear him completing a new project. It doesn't help that Vicky Cristina Barcelona was once described by a trusted source as the Barcelona counterpart of the film Manhattan, which is my all-time favorite Woody. Do I need any more reasons?
05. In Bruges (2008) by Martin McDonagh
This is another one that I'm lagging behind. I first came across In Bruges when it made a cameo appearance in the IMDb Top 250 list, after which came the favorable review of Roger Ebert and some other critics that I frequently read. To be honest, the trailer made me sceptical; I'm not a huge fan of Colin Farrell and I sensed a huge risk of the whole movie being too forced to appear hip and smart. I'm calling it the Lucky Number Slevin syndrome. But the city itself when I visited a couple of years ago, looked like the perfect place for unique inspirations and I'm curious if they've done justice to that kind of potential. Also, Colin finally gets to perform in his native Irish accent which might've helped to get a decent performance out of him.
04. Speed Racer (2008) by Andy & Larry Wachowski
The countdown is about to come to end with this one, as I'll probably get to see it in the upcoming days (hopefully). Introduced to me by the same friend who showed me the trailer of Teeth (and of There Will Be Blood for the first time last year), Speed Racer was something that I was sure would blow me away. Unique visual style is one of my cinematical fetishes and still to this day, even after the loathing reviews it received from many critics, I have faith in the film mainly because of this reason. Somehow, it seems like the perfect setting for a 3rd class 1960s anime series adaptation. A show that "was cheapo Japanese animation: flat, static, dubbed into badly translated English and barely "animated" at all, given that the frame only seemed to change approximately two times per second and the "moving" backgrounds were made up of about four cyclically repeating drawings instead of the eight or so we were used to seeing in Hanna-Barbera cartoons. The faster Speed went, the slower the sequence of backgrounds." (from Jim Emerson in his review of speed racer). I'm expecting it's going to be great for the same reasons Grindhouse was great; because it does justice to the original material and kindly makes fun of it at the same; all the while being immensely funny, entertaining and absorbing.
I was sad when everybody seemed on the agree on the idea that it was a worthless piece, but a few positive reviews out there still prevent me from giving up my hopes.
03. Burn After Reading (2008) by Ethan & Joel Coen
"I am always thrilled when I hear Coens are working on a new project" (the words of a wise movie blogger)
Combined with the ensemble cast and the promising story, the above sentence explains it all. To be honest, the news that they're engaged in comedy reminds me more my disappointments with Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers rather than my fascination with The Big Lebowski; but these guys gave me No Country For Old Men last year, so I guess owe them my allegiance.
For those of you who hate life so much that they want to expose themselves to the script before seeing the movie, it's available for viewing here. But please don't do it.
02. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009) by Terry Gilliam
This is the latest film on the list, and nearly nothing more than a single photo is revealed. The unexpected death of leading star Heath Ledger halted the production for some time, leaving the fans disappointed; but shortly afterwards news arrived that Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell agreed to share his remaining parts and complete the project. It tells the story of a travelling theater company and a certain magical mirror that allows the audience to travel beyond reality, allowing Doctor Parnassus to enslave their imagination using a deal he made with the devil himself. Since Ledger's character, we hear, would be travelling through this mirror, these newly-listed trio would play three different reflections, justifying the change of actors.
The idea reminds me of Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which is a film to die for. It's something that could get the best out of Terry Gilliam, and considering what he was able to achieve with the material presented to him for Brazil, the stakes are extremely high this time.
01. The Dark Knight (2008) by Christopher Nolan
I think millions of others share my impatience for the next installment in the Batman franchise, which also marks the second time Christopher Nolan is in the director's seat for a Batman film. Thanks to the phenomenally successful marketing campaign (and, sadly, the passing of Heath Ledger), even the trailers are highly anticipated.
I am an avid fan of original Batman, so much that I never thought that something better could come out of the same concept. Jack Nicholson playing The Joker was like a dream come true; and Gotham as a Gothic, cartoonish city, so befitting to the style of Tim Burton, was an idea that was never surpassed to this day.
Rather than the actual comic books, Nolan's Batman seems to be more focused on Frank Miller's interpretation, with a much darker, serious atmosphere and a creepy, gruesome Joker. With the words of a man no less than Sir Michael Caine himself (who, by the way, forgot his lines once during the shooting when Ledger's performance gave him a genuine fright): "Jack was like a clown figure, benign but wicked, maybe a killer old uncle. He could be funny and make you laugh. Heath's gone in a completely different direction to Jack, he's like a really scary psychopath." I have another type of admiration for Frank Miller and his works, Sin City being one of my top 10 movies of all time; so I guess a blend of his dark, stylized graphic novels and DC's flamboyant Batman franchise is the best thing that I can hope for.
I resisted. Believe me I did. But eventually, everyone will fall under the spell of the top summer blockbuster of the year, so resistance seems futile.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Since I finally got myself around and wrote the article for 2007, I feel myself ready for the next round.
For now, I think I'll keep the poll open for two weeks. Please stop by to vote and don't forget that everything we are planning to write will depend on the public opinion reflected on this poll.
Anyway, to the movies.
Before evaluating further, here are the results of the latest poll:
However the true value of No Country For Old Men lies within what it's trying to say on a much deeper level. In this sense, it's quite similar to Barry Lyndon which, contrary to popular belief, is not about the 18th century Europe, Seven Years War or the rise and fall of an Irish rogue but rather the nature of human existance and how it's totally meaningless on the macro scale. Without this existential undertone, Kubrick's film is just another technically-impressive costume drama. Similarly, No Country For Old Men is as much about chance and its cruel games on human life as it is about the lost two million dollars. On this totally different layer, the film connects with one of our deepest fears; the collective fear that life is a sum of probabilities, a sequence of endless possibilities and a huge game of chance rather than the work of a pedantic mastermind. If this is our nightmare, Anton Chigurh is the incubus. He is 'evil' and 'horror' personified.
In another level, the movie also connects to the fear of old age. It's a relentless celebration of youth, much like Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray; and the tragedy that is confronted by the Sheriff stems from his old age, the incapabilities brought along with it and nothing else. The film (and especially the final scene) is empowered by Ed Tom's initial denial, his struggles to overcome the slow realization that he cannot avoid later on and the eventual confession followed by his melancholic retirement. Tommy Lee Jones is probably at his best when delivering, with subtle intonations in monologues and narration, his character's doubts and fears that he did not fully honor the position he inherited from his father. I think he deserves as much credit as the audience-and-critic-favorite Javier Bardem, whose charm is less subtle but equally powerful. Further thematical analysis will reveal that No Country For Old Men indeed exceeds the boundaries of a typical drug-related crime movie at many different points. The scope of its themes goes as far as the ultimate questions regarding life and death.
The recent Romanian directors, such as Cristi Puiu, Cristian Nemescu, Corneliu Porumboiu and our guy Cristian Mungiu (so much for similarity in names), have roots in the Italian neo-realist movement of 1940s, with their stark realism, stories inspired by the serious national problems and lack of eye candies, artificial sets & stylized lighting. That's probably why I like to group the likes of 12:08 East of Bucharest, California Dreamin' (Nesfarsit), The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days together and call them 'Romanian Neo-Realists'. As a brief reminder, here are the other main ideological and stylistical characteristics of their Italian ancestors that I think also applies for the Romanian directors in question:
01. A new democratic spirit, with emphasis on the value of ordinary people.
02. A compassionate point of view and a refusal to make facile (easy) moral judgments.
03. A preoccupation with Italy's Fascist past and its aftermath of wartime devastation (or, in our case, a preoccupation with Romania's totalitarian past and its aftermath of economical devastation).
04. A blending of Christian and Marxist humanism.
05. An emphasis on emotions rather than abstract ideas.
07. A documentary visual style.
08. The use of actual locations--usually exteriors--rather than studio sites.
09. Use of conversational speech, not literary dialogue.
10. Avoidance of artifice in editing, camerawork, and lighting in favor of a simple "style-less" style.
The only thing that consistently bothered me about Italian neorealists was the adamant use of non-professional actors and how it never seems to work; and it seems to be the only thing that is abandoned by their Romanian counterparts, which is a plus.
The genius of 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days is how it uses so little editing and cuts, telling so much with a static camera. Basically, the film is a clever montage of a handful of long takes, where Cristian Mungiu places the camera in such a critical location that shows us exactly what we need to see for a long time - nothing more, nothing less. The film tells a horrific story but it's neither a euphemism nor an exaggeration. I am not a particular fan of static camera in movies because mostly I think it's an unnecessary sacrifice of an expressional tool; however Mungiu escalates this style to new heights. The angle of the camera in every single scene is extremely important and nothing seems arbitrary. I'm guessing it must have required meticulous planning because I don't remember seeing so much through an immobile lens, maybe except for a couple of Tarkovsky films.
The film is powerful also because it's capable of making the audience feel the exact same emotions that the characters are experiencing. An overall feeling of uneasiness is what marks this experience, which is only reasonable considering the story it's telling. It's Requiem for a Dream without all the make-up, which means it's a huge success because without the aid of music and visual alterations, it's much more difficult to absorb the audience.
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
Monday, May 12, 2008
I've recently realized that the films I anticipate play a huge role in my life. I spend more-than-necessary amount of time re-watching the same trailers, doing research on these films, visiting their imdb pages several times a week and always looking out for updates. What's worse, I force my friends to watch those trailers, harassing them with all the unnecessary trivia and news that I am able to gather; so much that sometimes I find myself having memorized every detail to make better stories out of them. I was kindly advised by my psychiatrist that I could use the internet to share my enthusiasm and leave my friends alone, which supposedly would make all of us healthier individuals.
So from now on, on the left sidebar under the title 'Most Anticipated' you'll be able to see the 10 movies that I can hardly wait to see. It's partly a recommendation list that makes me look like a real pundit since it implies that I can make suggestions without even seeing the movies. I'll keep the list updated as I see some of the movies (and as I hear about new movies), at the same time doing my best to fix the number at 10. From time to time, I might also post updates about the existing films on the list or short information about the new entries.
Needless to say, there has to be some rules here as well. First and foremost, only movies listed as 'post-production' or 'completed' in imdb can qualify because, as you might have noticed, it's a very serious list and I don't want it to be swept away by rumors. Second, it would be pointless to see Apocalypse Now on the list for obvious reasons so I'll keep it limited to the movies that still have a buzz going on. Sometimes I get excited about seeing older movies too but I won't include them here.
When I told this idea to one of my friends, I saw such pure, childish happiness in his eyes that I instantly knew I was doing the right thing.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
And Three Prominent Directors Who Can Do That
But what can I possibly mean if I say 'understanding' the soundtrack of a certain movie or 'interpreting' a director's choice of music? If it looks like a pointless question to you at first, the reason might be this: For us, as a generation who witnessed the late period of cinema, the charm of film music has been mostly lost; nearly as much as the magical feel of seeing sequential pictures transform into movement on screen. But are we the only ones to blame? I don't think so. As much as the audience who prefer not to contemplate on the hidden musical expressions of movies, the directors also contribute to this alienation; directors that made us used to this by not going further than decorating their movies using identical orchestral compositions, preventing us from forming the unique links between the film and its music. In reality, musical notes are capable of doing much more than merely enhancing the emotions being delivered by other cinematical elements. They can exist and matter on their own.
There are some directors who let the melodies in their films find their own voices and deliver emotions only by themselves; who accept their choice of music as a part of their artistic style and who set the musical pieces free from the trivial connections embedded in human mind, connections that we're able to make without thinking. They add dimensions to the art of cinema and enrich it in a very unique way. Their fight is against monotony and ordinariness in at least one important aspect of cinema - don't they deserve respect for this, if for nothing else?
Stanley Kubrick: Classics With A Twist
I can write pages long about Kubrick, even if it's only going to be about the man's musical choices. This is either a sign that he makes deep and complex movies which are so unique that they each deserve an independent evaluation; or that he's overanalyzed by the intellectual circles who also tend to use his films as a masturbatory tool to ejaculate their pretentious remarks. In all honesty, it's difficult to come up with generalizations about a director who engages in a different style with each film and redefines the conventions of a certain genre each time; but to be able to examine his extraordinary vision is well worth the effort.
One can easily claim that the primary motivation of Kubrick when making a film is to share his burden of thought with the audience; to share the questions to which he was not able to find answers by himself. Probably that's why his films are mostly far from making definitive statements. From time to time, the musical pieces in his films take the center stage to continue telling the story by themselves, when all other cinematical elements fail to deliver his concerns properly. At these times, it's music and music alone that sweeps the audience towards the deeper and hidden layers of the movie.
A question: Why is 2001: A Space Odyssey such a special film? Aside from the fact that it bears groundbreaking visual effects for its time (for which, ironically, Stanley Kubrick received his only Oscar) does it have anything that makes it exceptional? My humble opinion is that, along with the likes of Blade Runner, it's one of the rare airholes in a genre which is constantly being dominated by high-paced action. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but variety is a gift. As opposed to the conventions, Kubrick's vision of the future is extremely slow, calm and routine; but at the same time it's more horrifying than many other dystopian movies. To finalize this portrayal, Johann Strauss often assumes the position of the storyteller with his 'Blue Danube' whenever Kubrick is out of breath. It helps the audience to both understand and feel the director's interpretation.
A contrast rather than a harmony is evident when A Clockwork Orange is at hand. Watching graphic violence and/or rape scenes behind the compassionate classical compositions, which are normally associated with peaceful and tranquil images, is not an easy experience. This approach might be serving many reasons. First possibility: Kubrick wanted his audience to respond to the content and not to the technical tricks. That's why he might've avoided using creepy music, shadowy ambiances and distant, antipathetic characters in a movie as dark-themed as A Clockwork Orange (for a anti-hero like himself, I think Alex is surprisingly likable). Without the directions set by these elements (especially the music), audiences can think more deeply and feel more freely. Another possible motivation might be his will to surface the violent and creepy undertones present in many classical pieces - despite how cute the composition sounds like. After all, instrumental music is always more open to diverse interpretations.
The contrast between a certain musical piece and the context in which it's presented, definitely contributes to the element of dark, ironic humor present in many Kubrick films. Full Metal Jacket is probably one of the films where this element becomes most predominant. Remember the songs 'Hello Vietnam', 'Happy Birthday Jesus', 'This Is My Rifle, This Is My Gun' and the lyrics of the drill instructor's cadences; and remember the scenes that accompany them. It's hard to miss.
Besides everything, Kubrick uses his film music to play tricks on his audience. Here is a little test to see what he has managed to do so far: Compare the images in your mind that were associated with the following compositions before you got to know Kubrick, to those that are present now: '9th Symphony', 'The Blue Danube', 'Sarabande', 'The Thieving Magpie' and 'William Tell Overture'. If the second movement the of the '9th Symphony' directly reminds you the face of Alex; if rotating space crafts have replaced the graceful human dancers for 'The Blue Danube', if the five-times-faster version of 'William Tell Overture' makes you recall a threesome instead of an angry Elmer Fudd on his horse; if you find yourself in 18th century with 'Sarabande' or in New York (next to a naked Nicole Kidman) with Shostakovisch's 'Waltz 2 from Jazz Suite', it means Kubrick stealthily and mischievously went through your memory, replacing the innocent pictures you had there with his own, unique images.
Quentin Tarantino - Out Of The Past
His name stands for a whole career built on the ideas of 'style over substance' and 'entertainment before everything else'. He's often taken lightly by some serious intellectuals, who zealously preserve their expectations of a life-changingly deep content in every movie they see. These are the people that have a hard-on for 'deep meanings' and 'movies that made them think' and they're in a complete disregard of everything else. So it's only reasonable that Tarantino's impressions on these people will not be noteworthy. The debate over his style, his importance and his artistic quality is always hand-in-hand with the huge-scale, never-ending discussions regarding post-modernity, so I think there's no need for vain verbosity on this subject here. Instead, maybe I can have your attention if I declare him as the most 'intertextual' director of our day and claim that his postmodern approach on film is apparent also in his choice of music.
The first time Tarantino used original music that is composed solely for his use was when he was making his fourth movie Kill Bill. Before that, he was dressing up his movies using old and forgotten hits or songs that he loved as a kid that never achieved high amount of popularity, recognition and acclaim. This approach is very similar to how he recreates mise en scenes from older movies - it's a direct reflection of his understanding of filmmaking in general. I guess this is the point where he gave start to the discussions regarding the thin line between 'plagiarism' and 'homage', which is a valid debate still short of a consensus.
Tarantino's case is interesting not only because of these homages but also because he has the power to turn any song into a populer culture icon simply by using it in his films. Remember the unforgettable 'Misirlou' from Pulp Fiction, the opening music 'Little Green Bag' in Reservoir Dogs and Kill Bill's 'Twisted Nerve' and 'Bang Bang' for which techno remixes were made. There is no point in looking real far for the reasons behind this movement, because the explanation is quite simple: Tarantino is, above everything else, a successful film composer. He intuitively connects many different dynamics of a film to create a memorable composition, which is easily engraved on the audience's mind and then survives in mobile phones, huge-scale entertainment broadcasts (like NBA) and repertoires of certain bands. Considering that he is postmodern enough to shape every detail in his films with the same "borrow-adapt-use" cycle, I don't think he should be disturbed by this particular trend.
Krzystof Kieslowski - Cinematical Puzzles
The films of Kieslowski are woven with many unknowns. Most of the time what we see are parallel stories that connect and interwine with each other as the film progresses. Towards the end, the gaps are filled, mysteries are solved but even at the end not all questions are fully answered so that the viewer will get the unique pleasure of finalizing the story in his/her mind by doing some thinking afterwards. I believe this is his secret of making movies that absorb the audience despite their slow natures and difficult subjects.
When it comes to the compositions that he made for Kieslowski films, Polish composer Zbigniew Preisner is surprisingly attentive to details and perceptive for emotions. It's roughly true that he works with a single composition for each Kieslowski film, but he does not generously present it all at once. The audience, while mentally busy with following the complex story unfold, also tries to get familiar with the main musical theme, which is presented to them piece by piece, like a puzzle. This way, Preisner enhances the fragmented nature of the films, wandering among the tranquil themes and images of the director and expressing a huge variety of emotions with merely the variations of the same musical theme. Only at the end he reveals the full glory of his composition, at which point the viewer is done with putting the story pieces together and is able to see the big picture. The harmony between the film and its music is never shattered.
Another interesting note: Preisner's compositions are also heard by the characters in these films. They talk about them as if they are the works of a fictional 18th century Dutch composer named Van den Budenmayer; so the music turns into a something that both the audience and the characters are able to experience. When it blends in to the movie as beautifully as this, the music has no longer an artificial feel about it. Most of the time, its role in the story is also important: like 'Song for the Unification of Europe' in Three Colors: Blue (Trois Couleurs: Bleu).
After all these stages, it's impossible to deny how much music must have meant for Kieslowski and how much it contributed to his capabilities of expression.
Final Note: I have chosen these three directors to examine not because I think they are the only ones who fit into this category, but because these are the guys that I felt I was most capable of rambling about and because three is a good number to stop. I'm not sure how many more examples are out there that I'm missing but if you think you can come up with more names, I'd definitely want to see you discussing them here.