As my first entry of 2016 in my Sound & Motion Pictures series I decided to revisit great combination of music with duel/fighting scenes. Sometimes it is the music itself that make all the difference and changes a rather normal fight in something more, other times it just underline the tension of the images or the combination of the two is so perfect that you cannot really tell what makes the scene special. Here’s my list of favorites, hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
1) Colonel Mortimer vs. Indio – La Resa Dei Conti, Ennio Morricone (1965)
There are many great duels in Sergio Leone’s oeuvre but this is my all time favorite. The chime is so haunting and from a device of hideous sport becomes a means of retribution. Ennio Morricone strikes again!
2) The Bride vs. O-ren Ishii – Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, Santa Esmeralda (1977)
This is Tarantino’s version of a Leone’s duel with oriental flavour, on the notes of a very up-beat cover of Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood with a flamenco component… just perfect!
3) Neo vs. Morpheus – Leave You Far Behind, Lunatic Calm (1998)
Techno music as soundtrack for a kung fu showdown (even an amicable one) is a radical choice. The Wachowski siblings have changed the way we view things a lot with The Matrix.
4) Sherlock vs. hulking guy – Rocky Road To Dublin, The Dubliners (2006)
Guy Ritchie comes up with a lot of inspired ideas in his movies and this fight is a great example: slow-motion and regular speed to show a bare-knuckle boxing match with an Irish traditional song to keep the blood pumping!
5) Obi Wan & Qui Gon Ginn vs Darth Maul – Duel of the Fates, John Williams (1999)
Although The Phantom Menace is my least favorite movie of the Star Wars saga, this duel is pretty awesome mostly because of Darth Maul, a pretty cool but very underutilised villain. John Williams’s score is effective and stirring.
Tracy Letts adapted his Pulitzer winning play for the screen and it is a very interesting study of characters and family dynamics. With John Wells at the helm, an old and honest hand at the craft, we get, alternatively, dark, stuffy interiors and burning summer light on the plains of Oklahoma, nice juxtaposition that underlines the inner turmoils and difficult relationships of the Weston family. The family members reunites under rather gloomy circumstances: the disappearance and then death of the patriarch, Beverly (Shepard). It appears clear to his eldest daughter Barbara (Roberts) that he committed suicide, having made arrangements such as hiring a help for his cancer-suffering, pill-popping wife, Violet (Streep), two days before vanishing. The audience slowly learns about the past of each character and how they became what they are, in particular we get an deep insight into Violet: the harsh childhood and difficulties of her early life, and her sister Mattie (Martindale), turned them both into strong-willed, unforgiving women and relentless mothers and wives. It is a rather dismal portrait of what people can do to the psychological health of their children. Barbara is the eldest and clearly the favorite but, being an opinionated, strong woman herself, keeps locking horns with her mother, unfortunately, in turns, she is alienating her soon-to-be ex-husband Bill (McGregor) and teenager daughter (Abigail Breslin). Ivy (Nicholson) is the mild-mannered, submissive daughter, who does everything to help her mother (she is the only one who lives nearby) and avoid confrontations (which seems a self-defense technique). Karen (Lewis) is the free-spirit but insecure one, always undervalued and dismissed by Violet, who either runs away from her problems or desperately tries to fix them finding the “right” man. Among this gallery of “terrible” women the men seems both helpless (and hapless) and the only ones who can achieve some redeeming qualities. While longtime alcoholic and poet Beverly finds that the only way through is to walk out of this raw deal, his brother-in-law Charlie (Cooper) attempts to be level-headed, patient and kind, proving to be the most balanced person of the whole family. Little Charlie (Cumberbatch) is the most pitiful of the lot: disliked and verbally abused by his mother Mattie, with zero self-worth and self-esteem, still shows a gentle nature and a kind soul. As always, family reunion will bring up old stories and things that rub the wrong way, including long-kept secrets. It is very far from the Brady bunch and not a edifying picture of familiar relations but, nonetheless, an amazing study of human nature with all its ordinary flaws. The cast as an ensemble is spectacular and makes the film, the lion share is, of course, taken in equal parts by Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, both stretching their acting chops very effectively. Special kudos to Cooper and Cumberbatch for their portrayal of decent men. Intriguing —7.5/10
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