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Flightless Bird

twilight-poster1So. I’m working on a piece about vampire lit for the July issue of The Australian Literary Review (the June issue of which is in tomorrow’s Australian, just btw) and as a result I’ve spent the last few weeks reading more crappy vampire novels than any sane person should have to. But having waded my way through the books I’m now having to get to work on the movies, which is why, last night, I found myself in front of Twilight.

Now even before I saw it I knew it was meant to be at least interesting, if only because it was directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who directed Lords of Dogtown and Thirteen (and who, if memory serves, was rather unceremoniously dumped off the sequel after Twilight was deemed too “arty” by the studio) but I have to say I wasn’t expecting a lot, so the reality came as something of a pleasant surprise. In fact the film itself is a bit of a treat, at least until the grinding of the plot machinery takes over in the second half. Bella and Edward are a little dull, but everyone around them is wonderful, and Hardwicke lends the otherwise fairly routine material a slightly off-kilter sweetness that’s difficult to resist. Even small scenes, such as the one in which Bella’s father introduces her to Billy and Jacob are beautifully staged and composed. Of course it all goes wrong once the plot takes over, but until then there’s a lot to like.

Less obvious is the sheer gorgeousness of the film as a film, not just in terms of its cinematography and use of location, but in terms of editing and sound and, rather more obviously, music. Rather than the bombastic rock one might have expected, Hardwicke has assembled a soundtrack built around guitar music by Carter Burwell and a collection of tracks by Paramore and Linkin Park. But pride of place in the film goes to ‘Flightless Bird, American Mouth’, the stunning closing track from Iron & Wine’s 2007 album, The Shepherd’s Dog.

I’m not sure The Shepherd’s Dog is the place to start for anyone new to Sam Beam’s very particular genius (I’d probably send a newcomer to Our Endless Numbered Days) but anyone wanting a taste of what he’s about might want to spend a moment or two listening to the live recording of ‘Flightless Bird, American Mouth’ below.

And if you’re marvelling at the beard, apparently he doesn’t like to talk about it. (Annoyingly I read something just the other day about the cultural significance of the crazy beard thing, but I can’t remember where it was, so if anyone else saw it, and knows where it was, please let me know).

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5 Comments Post a comment
  1. imagestoliveby #

    Great post. I loved Twilight (the movie, I haven’t read the books). I remember that as a teenage girl I was fascinated by the Dracula story, and I thought Hardwicke certainly managed to convey that sense of inchoate and inarticulate adolescent yearning. And a lot of that is done through the cinematography, editing, music as you point out. The music was spectacular: I actually went on iTunes the next day to see if Carter Burwell’s score was able to be purchased. It’s interesting to ponder how the film’s atmospherics would have been ruined by a thumping rock soundtrack (and no doubt the sequels will be vulnerable to this, if Hardwicke has been fired from the projects).

    [I watched Twilight the night after watching In Bruges, which is also scored beautifully by Burwell, and it is another example of how intelligent and counter-intuitive music choices really add to a film’s impact.]

    June 4, 2009
  2. She’s really good on the awkwardness of adolescence, isn’t she?

    And it’s a while since I saw In Bruges, and I’ve actually forgotten the music. What I do remember was getting to the end, and discovering, after I totally loved the film, that it was by that bloody genius, Martin McDonagh, who wrote the Leenane trilogy (which is one of the most exhilarating bits of theatre I’ve ever seen, especially the skull smashing scene) and the Cripple and the Lieutenant of Inishman, and having it all suddenly make sense.

    June 4, 2009
    • imagestoliveby #

      Oh yeah, The Leenane Trilogy – doh! I had not put those together. Thanks for pointing it out! 🙂

      And I’m interested to see your comments on the Iron & Wine bits and bobs, I’ve been thinking of buying it myself. I love the idea of the old school hiss… Maybe I will make this a pleasurable task for next weekend: to buy the CD, and to look for the Harkaway book, which I enjoyed reading about (and would now like to read!).

      June 15, 2009

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  1. Some more Sam Beam « city of tongues
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