One thing that realism hasn’t been able to eliminate from the movies is music. The sound of stringed instruments still accompanies a pensive walk down the beach, even when there isn’t a stereo or violinist in sight. There’s been so much great use of music in movies. What are some of the best instances? My nomination for the best use of music in the movies is Charles Burnett’s “Killer of Sheep,” which is one of the perfect American movies. He made the movie on a budget of $10,000 in the 70s and couldn’t release it because he couldn’t afford the royalties on the carefully-selected soundtrack. It was shown only at a handful of festivals–until recently. The soundtrack is superb, a kind of history of black American music in the twentieth century. What makes the use of the music so great is that the tunes are as much the movie as the camerawork is. The images reflect the music. The music reflects the images. It’s as if he’s saying, “This is where the music comes from; this is the style of existence.” Here’s one great example, Burnett’s use of the knockout song by Faye Adams “Shake a Hand”:
Every song in the movie is absolutely beautiful, from classics like Louis’ “West End Blues” and Elmore James’s “I Believe” to lesser known gems like Cecil Grant’s version of “I Wonder.” Click that last link!