« Appy-polly-logies | Main | Off my lawn »

January 28, 2010


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Kenji Fujishima

The song on the radio Zhao Tao's character dances to alone in Jia Zhangke's "Platform" is one of these. It's one song from a Chinese pop singer whose music I grew up listening to during my earliest years in Queens (living near Flushing). Hell, a lot of the Chinese pop music Jia uses in his films are pretty near and dear to me personally, and I get unreasonably excited when I hear 'em on his soundtracks.

Tom Russell

About two or three years back I was astonished to hear "Figure Eight", the saddest if not eeriest of those old Schoolhouse Rock songs I grew up with, in a motion picture. I found it very moving even as I forgot the title of the film. Checking IMDb now, it must have been THE SQUID AND THE WHALE-- a picture that did indeed move me.

Daniel L.

Guided by Voices song (can't remember the name) at the end of Soderbergh's FULL FRONTAL.

Joseph Neff

Hearing Andrew Cyrille and Jimmy Lyons on the soundtrack to GHOST DOG threw me for a bit of a loop.

Doug Dillaman

Daniel - "Do Something Real", technically from the Pollard/Gilliard album SPEAK KINDLY OF YOUR VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT.

Blanking on if it was David S. Ware or William Parker on the soundtrack for JUMP TOMORROW; either way, it was unexpected and thrilling. (Research reveals William Parker and the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra. Has any film ever taken advantage of David S. Ware's genius?)

Arthur S.

I saw Frederick Wiseman's HIGH SCHOOL yesterday. I've been listening to Otis Redding's unintended swan song "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Back" for the last two weeks and then this film opens with that very track.


Hello Kenji, hate to bust into a thread like this with a dumb question, but - what is that song? The boy singing is one of those moments where the film just soared for me.

Also, in answer to the question, Phoenix's Too Young in Lost in Translation. Thought they were one of those 'best kept secret' bands - turns out the singer and director are an item. Ho hum.


Some Velvet Morning in MORVERN CALLAR. Anything by Can in anything (most recently - Vitamin C in BROKEN EMBRACES). The Louvin Brothers' Satan is Real in JESUS' SON. The brief snatch of King Crimson in CHILDREN OF MEN (though I think they kind of wasted the awesomeness of the song there). I could go on and on...

Bruce Reid

When a familiar piece pops up on a soundtrack, any surprise has far less to do with feeling I "alone" knew of it--after all, pretty much every artist I listen to began with a recommendation, from friends or critics or mentioned by other musicians in interviews (or, come to think of it, from showing up in a movie)--than how the film recontextualizes a favorite in ways I hadn't imagined.

Like Feldman's Rothko Chapel, so gloamingly modern to my ears, somehow perfectly in period for Davies's The House of Mirth. Or Zappa's arch, nasty I Have Been in You summoning tenderness and longing in Happy Together. Not to mention Morricone's great Ecstasy of Gold rising to a whole other type of climax in The Devil in Miss Jones.

Scorsese's musical choices are frequently brilliant and unexpected. But, all due respect to him and to the avant-garde, any director looking to pick my brains for a pleasant curveball to throw on their their soundtracks only needs to use "Gimme Shelter" to score a tender scene between two lovers for once.


Hi Helena: It's a female singer, actually. Here's a YouTube video of the song I'm referring to (best audio quality I could find; ignore the cheesy visuals accompanying it): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xz_osv7x6Gc

Also, fans of Jia's "Still Life" might recognize this one, from the same singer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ntop0HStvjw


Otha Turner's Rising Sun Fife and Drum Band playing Shimmy She Wobble on home-made fifes, recorded in a field outside Otha's house, sounded completely right over the opening scene of Gangs of New York, and gave me such a thrill that the rest of the movie really couldn't possibly ever live up to that beginning.

Michael Adams

Clarence "Frogman" Henry's "Ain't Got No Home" in THE LOST BOYS. It was a big hit in 1956 but a dusty relic by 1987.


Not quite answering the question - sorry - but when I was in school I made a film in which a man awakes to Velvet Underground's "Pale Blue Eyes." Little did I know (as I hadn't seen it yet), Anh Hung Tran had already done so four years prior, with THE VERTICAL RAY OF THE SUN. Needless to say, he did a better job of it.


I was very surprised to hear "Ruby's Arms" in FIRST NAME: CARMEN. The characters talked over my favorite line, though.


Not a movie but I was literally talking about it yesterday afternoon and the setting is- for my money- as good as any film released that decade. HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET- Pembleton and Bayliss know they have the goods on a government operative but they can't touch him because of who he is. The last scene of the episode finds them confronting him in a bar. Pembleton (god I miss seeing Andre Braugher every week) lays out what they know while the op prevaricates and ultimately leaves. Dire Straits' "Your Latest Trick" weaves in and out of the scene, rising and falling in the mix, to glorious effect.


A snippet of Phil Ochs' "My Kingdom for a Car" in Demme's MELVIN AND HOWARD.

Pete Segall

It's hardly a song known only to me but the moment I keep coming back to is Mogwai's "Auto Rock" flowing in during the climactic shootout of Miami Vice, a far too somber selection for the scene.

Brad Olson

not long ago i saw The Firemen's Ball and had my mind blown when i realized that a polka being played was the Beatles' From Me to You...I wonder if that was ever actually licensed for the film? No one tell Sir Paul (or the estate of Michael Jackson).


Kenji, turns out I was thinking of the song's appearance in Still Life, so many thanks for answering my question so thoroughly.

And another add, a few notes from Talk Talk's last album Laughing Stock rising up out of nowhere in Audiard's Un Prophete.


It's not a movie, but (I think) it's along the same lines: I was almost bowled over back in the late 1980s when a character in the comic book Love and Rockets had the Replacements' "Valentine" playing in the background.


another Demme

I may be remembering this wrong for it was a late-night hotel room watch…and years ago:

There is a scene in the remake of the Manchurian Candidate where the camera is going through some cars on the street and one of the cars is playing “New Year’s Eve” by The Walkmen. It was a personal “holy shit” moment at the time.


In James Marsh's troubling, flawed, fascinating film THE KING, melancholy Christian rocker Paul Dano takes the mic and performs a secular song for his congregation. What song does he sing? "Sad and Beautiful World" by Sparklehorse. One of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands.

Ian W. Hill

I knew that Rudy Vallee's "Deep Night" had been used in BONNIE AND CLYDE when I named my senior film at NYU Film after it, and used it prominently in the film several times, but I didn't think anyone else would know that track anymore. Then, just as I finished editing my film, it shows up scoring an entire scene of MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO. Argh.

Two songs I had been waiting to use onstage in my plays that I thought would be so obscure that NO ONE would know them are "No More Hot Dogs" by Hasil Adkins, which showed up in Robert Rodriguez's ROADRACERS and "Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)" by Peter Sarstedt in Wes Anderson's HOTEL CHEVALIER. At least I got "Gladys" by Sagittarius into a play before someone used it (I've been sure someone will find that track, which is BEGGING to be the score for something).

James Keepnews

Tim Hodgkinson makes it into a Scorcese film?!? Damn. Can Evan Parker or Charles Gayle in a Clint Eastwood flick be far behind? Hope not.

Doug -- Ware was the subject of a short documentary "In Motion". I haven't seen it but it's available in (cue fanfare) VHS format overseas.

Also sorta-not on-topic but worth mentioning again in this forum: the father of the AACM himself, Muhal Richard Abrams, turns up as a >ahemhttp://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=33855&pg=2

Beyond that -- John Zorn's bellerin' in both versions of Funny Games are unquestionably my favorite moments in either. Tim Buckley's "Once I Was" at the end of Coming Home. Eno in a bunch of films from 9 1/2 Weeks (!!) to Traffic. And since someone's crossed media and mentioned Homicide, few things delighted me more over the first couple of seasons of The Sheild than the regular appearance of tracks from The Funky 16 Corners. Which we all own. Right?

James Keepnews

Sorry -- was trying to say above that Mr. Abrams turns up as a }}AHEM!!{{ "real black militant" in Medium Cool, and George Lewis, who wrote the peerless history of the AACM in A Power Stronger than Itself, discusses it at the link above. Fun with HTML characters!


Of course we do, James. Also on TV, but one season of Lost begins with someone playing iconic rocksteady song "My Conversation" by the Uniques which kind of blew my mind.

I recently saw The Last King of Scotland and that entire soundtrack is something of a best-of of obscure West African afro-funk, which is something of a minor obsession for me. So one song after another was pretty astonishing. Of course, very few, possibly none, of the songs were Ugandan, but still.


While I hope I'm never completely surprised that someone else has heard of a published musical artist, there is still that gleeful gratification that feels an awful lot like surprise when you recognize that you and a complete stranger like the same stuff. The most recent of these that I can recall was the use of "Last Words" by The Real Tuesday Weld over the opening sequence of Nick & Nora's Infinite Playlist.


I was pretty thrilled when the Boy Scout troop started marching down the road, chanting a song by Meredith Monk in TRUE STORIES.


In 1982, when I saw E.T., my jaw dropped when Elliot's older brother (Robert McNaughton - whatever happened to him?) sang a snatch of Elvis Costello's "Accidents Will Happen." While Costello was already a critical darling by then, of course, he wasn't exactly ubiquitous on radios and stereos in my Kentucky neck of the woods. I don't think I personally knew anyone else who was into him at the time.

otherbill: Andre Braugher can be seen every week on TNT's MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE, with Ray Romano and Scott Bakula. I haven't seen it, and I'm sure it's a far cry from HOMICIDE, but reviews have been quite strong.

Tom Russell

I was also surprised to hear "Inch Worm" in the Danny Kaye Hans Christian Anderson-- which is a testament to how far the song has travelled (especially as performed by Henson and his muppets), since that film was the song's birthplace.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Tip Jar

Tip Jar
Blog powered by Typepad