When you have an attention span as short as I do, silent movies are the way and the life. back in the 20th century, people knew better than to make a movie more than an hour long (actually, that’s not true, but that last forty minutes of Metropolis is fast-forwardable). And the other joy, the primary joy, is that you can supply your own soundtrack. Now, I’m not a professional movie soundtracker (though clearly I should be) but my instincts for what music goes with what movie are impeccable. My best successes in the last few days:
1. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1919) with Charlie Parker’s Live at Massey Hall
German Expressionist cinema backed with fiery 1940’s bebop? Yes fuck yes! Dizzy Gillespie and Bird yelling SALT PEANUTS! SALT PEANUTS! while Dr Caligari is rousing the eery somnambulist just fucking kicks, really.
2. Man Ray’s Un Retour a la Raison (1921) backed with Bob Dylan’s It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry
Man Ray = 1920’s experimental surrealistic photographer, friend of Antonin Artaud and Anais Nin. The film is about two and a half minutes of pure analogue fuckery – messing with film strips to create gorgeous light and sound effects. Shots of nails fluttering and flickering backed with DON’T THE SUN LOOK GOOD GOING DOWN OVER THE SEA – AND DON’T MY GIRL LOOK FINE WHEN SHE’S COMING AFTER ME!
3. Salvador Dali & Luis Bunuel’s Un Chien Andalou (1928) backed with Maker’s Elephant Strut
Big mistake. Nasty surrealist imagery, including chopped up hands, the first ever rape scene put to film, and a woman’s eye getting slit by a razor, all to the saucy tune of a porn movie bassline and sexy moaning. I love sexy moaning, don’t get me wrong, but this just conjures up all the wrong associations.
AND THE ULTIMATE ABSOLUTE WINNER-
4. Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North (1923) backed with the Velvet Underground’s Sister Ray
Nanook is credited as the first ever documentary – it follows an eskimo tribe kayaking and hunting and trading and igloo building and it’s generally pretty fucking amazing. There is no doubt in my mind, though, that the absolute best music to harpoon walrus to is Sister Ray, a twenty minute fuzzed out heroin-laden masterpiece from 1968. Lou Reed singing that he was “Too busy sucking on my dingdong” and John Cale playing these warped screeching guitar passages while the whole tune just mushes into fuzz, and meanwhile Nanook and his buddies are skinning a walrus and eating it bloody and raw in the snow. In my whole life, nothing I’ve ever achieved matches up to my bringing together of these two simple items.