Location: Palo Alto, California.
Adapted from a book of loosely connected short stories written by James Franco, based on his hometown of Palo Alto, California. Scored by Devonte Hynes of Blood Orange fame. The opening sounds of ‘Palo Alto’ are your first steps into this pink hued suburban teenage oasis.
Dev Hynes lays down the mood to expect for the next 100 minutes and immediately, I recognized that this wasn’t your average teenage angst. More boredom and exasperation rather than anger and sadness are experienced through the eyes of April, Teddy, Fred and Emily. As compelling as the story, what drew me in even further was the significance allocated to mood and ambiance. The color of the sky. The color of their eyes.
‘TM’ catches Teddy plucking a calm lo-fi riff in his room while shots switch between April and Teddy. Both in their rooms doing their individualised versions of what the other is doing.
As opposed to the raging up tempo music that are the norms of house parties, their parties are as laidback as the music being played. We have ‘Champagne Coast’ from Blood Orange and ‘Ode to Viceroy’ by Mac Demarco.
A majestic film with a majestic score dedicated to finding yourself, finding yourself away from others, finding love and acceptance in true unrushed adolescent fashion.
LOST IN TRANSLATION
Location: Tokyo, Japan.
‘Tokyo’ places us in the heart of Tokyo’s bustling streets. You walk into Charlotte’s loneliness with the flanged guitars of Keith Shield’s ‘City Girl’. The Shoegaze landscapes have been painted and the smell of distorted riffs waft through. The awkward stumbling of falling in love.
Sebastian Teller’s ‘Fantino’ lets us explore Japan with Charlotte as we all search for something, anything, remotely interesting to remind us that we’re alive.
The early 2000’s were a completely different time. Charlotte is woken up by the whirring of a fax machine bearing an ‘Are you awake?’ fax at 4 am, instead of the common notification ding of a ‘U up?’ text.
Tracks aside, the sounds from one scene blend into the other. Note how the sound of laserfire slides into the coin drops and lever pulls of slot machines. The fire drill alarm. Bob’s annoying flip phone ringtone. All these contribute to the overall soundscape terrain of the film.
The age gap between Charlotte and Bob is highlighted during the silly karaoke scene at George’s where Bob picks the 1979 classic (What’s so Funny ‘Bout’) Peace, Love and Understanding, and Charlotte picks the 1992 shoegaze ‘Brass in Pocket’ by Suede, a cover of the 1980 track originally by The Pretenders. Even with the difference in age, I could see that Bob and Charlotte are more alike than I thought.
The entire film is sprinkled with glassy dream pop synths that feel like fingernails softly scratching against glass.
The underlying message of it all seems to be “You’re not hopeless”and this is true. You are not. And the same way the music bridges the age gap between Charlotte and Bob, it bridges the language barrier between them and the rest of Tokyo. Between us and them.
THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER
Location: 90’s Pittsburgh, USA.
Often soundtracks accompany albums. They can be separated and replaced with equivalent versions effortlessly. With Perks, this isn’t the case. Anyone familiar with the story knows this. “Asleep” was the song Charlie found on a mixtape that he couldn’t stop playing. “Heroes” was the unnamed song that gave them infinity.
The soundtrack itself plots out teenagehood. “Dear God” was questioning our faith and justifying it to ourselves. “Could it be another change” was being bigger,sadder and different.”Temptation” was being 19 and realizing that this isn’t going to last forever. “Teenage riot” was solemnity and rebelliousness. And “Come on Eileen” was fuck it, three more shots won’t kill me.
It flits and cuts through the movie beautifully. The scene at prom where “Come on Eileen” played will forever be etched in my mind. I never went to prom but in those few short minutes I felt the anxiety, nervousness, and pure unbridled joy of it. Call me sentimental but, as with all events, my life can be split into before I saw the scene and after I did. Everything didn’t seem to have the weight and permanency I always felt it had. It was seeing into your soul through someone else’s. It was knowing that there’ll always be someone for you. It was knowing that you don’t always have to be alone.
Oh and if you haven’t seen these movies, please do.
Image: Official posters for the respective films