Tonight we were watching The Thomas Crown Affair (the wonderful 1999 version, with Rene Russo and Pierce Brosnan, which I’ve seen approximately 25 times — not the 1968 version, with Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway, which screams “60’s!” in every frame and is awful). As the movie began I was reminded, as I am on every viewing, how important background music is to my enjoyment of a film and my ability to immerse myself in it.
Thomas Crown features a complicated, improv-sounding piano score, interspersed with highly effective rhythmic sound patterns — the claps and stamping of flamenco dancers, for example. It’s perfect. (What was very much not perfect was my frustration when I bought the soundtrack and found that almost none of the piano music was on the CD. There’s no accounting for corporate decisions.)
And then we have the opposite case: films whose soundtracks feature music so jarringly wrong that I almost can’t watch. The movie that always jumps immediately to mind under this heading is Ladyhawke. Beautiful, talented actors working against a stunning backdrop of medieval sets and mountain scenery, all to the tune of … loud, obnoxious, heavily overdone synthesizers. The music has no perceivable connection to what’s onscreen; instead of drawing me into the mood, it screams about its own importance and distracts from the story. Yuck.
- Batman Begins (as soon as the movie started, I knew the music was going to be incredible; but then, it’s an awesome film)
- Blade Runner (Vangelis)
- The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy (perfect; absolutely perfect; keeps me completely absorbed every time; excuse me, I need to go watch them again now…)
- The Fifth Element
- Highlander (OK, so you have to appreciate Queen)
- Ocean’s Eleven (jazz; the new version; another case where the new completely whips the old)
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- The Thomas Crown Affair (incredible piano and body-induced sound effects)