Alex and friends in Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange
  • Alex and friends in Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange
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Video:

Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini

...from <em>Somewhere in Time</em>

...from Somewhere in Time

With the massive celebration of pop culture over (Comic Con), I’ve been inspired to take a look at the best use of classical music in movies. This is not about original motion picture scores but about the use of previously composed music in the movies.

Video:

Excalibur

...symphonic ending

...symphonic ending

I’ve chosen five here based on nothing in particular except that they are somewhat off the beaten path. These five are not the end all be all. There will be more in the future.

Somewhere in Time, starring Christopher Reeve, Christopher Plummer, and Jane Seymour, introduced Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini to the country at large. The movie is a fantasy about a romance created by self-hypnosis. Forgive the wretched second half of this clip.

Video:

A Night at the Opera

...from <em>Life Is Beautiful</em>

...from Life Is Beautiful

Excalibur is a cult classic and lines up well with the Comic Con zeitgeist. It uses Carl Orff’s Carmina BuranaI’m not a fan — and Wagner’s prelude to Tristan und Isolde, but it is Siegfried’s funeral march from Götterdämmerung that concludes the movie.

Video:

Ravel's Bolero

...from <em>10</em>

...from 10

Life is Beautiful was the moment many Americans realized Italy makes movies. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone to name an Italian movie and keep track of the answers. I guarantee it’s La vita e bella and Cinema Paradiso. It’s interesting that the classical music in Life is Beautiful is by the French composer Jacques Offenbach and not an Italian.

Video:

Beethoven's Symphony No. 9

...from <em>A Clockwork Orange</em>

...from A Clockwork Orange

Ravel's Bolero from 1979’s 10 became connected with the sexuality of the early '80s. Suddenly the rhythmic monotony of Ravel became a most happy repetition.

Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange uses Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 but not in its traditional, fully endowed form. The piece shows up in a shopping mall while Alex observes girls devouring phallic popsicles. I shall allow Slavoj Žižek to do the explaining.

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Comments

Visduh July 26, 2016 @ 7:05 a.m.

Here I was sure one of the pieces on your list would be Mozart's Piano Concerto No 21 that was used as the theme in the movie "Elvira Madigan." That was a Swedish movie made in 1967. Anyone who saw the movie will remember the impact of the "theme" music, with few knowing that it was part of a piece by Mozart.

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harrykessler July 26, 2016 @ 6:47 p.m.

But Visduh, it is highly likely that Mr. Harris wasn't even born in 1967. If he had been of an age to attend movies at that time, then his list of "sure answers" for Italian movies might have included such masterpieces as Nights of Cabiria, La Dolce Vita, L'Eclise, La Notte, Open City or any one of a hundred other films that influenced American (and British) film makers at the time.

And as for "classical" music in film, few come even close to the use of the Mozart Clarinet Quintet in Agnes Varda's LE BONHEUR. No one who has seen it ever forgets it. Among others, Julia Migenes singing the "La Wally" aria in Diva...not to mention the haunting Lucia paraphrase in THE FIFTH ELEMENT.

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Visduh July 26, 2016 @ 8:05 p.m.

OK, OK, you made your point. But that "Theme from Elvira Madigan" has a memorable and haunting quality that is unforgettable. After all these many years, when I hear those strains that movie comes right back to me.

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Garrett Harris July 28, 2016 @ 8:29 p.m.

Ha! I haven't seen the movie but remember the cognomen Elvira Madigan on the album cover from DG.

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