Sunday, February 15, 2009

Blurring (Kwaidan, Saw)

I've been watching Kwadian (1964, d. Masaki Kobayashi) lately; the 20-minute spurts while I eat lunch haven't been ideal viewing intervals, but it's quickly becoming one of my favorite films. As far as I can tell, it's entirely shot on a soundstage, even though most of the action takes place outdoors, and Kobayashi exploits this staged quality to give the film a mannered, presentational atmosphere. I've read that shooting averaged about three takes per day on set. The soundscape is heavy on the silence, and Toru Takemitsu's haunting score often blurs the line between whether or not the music is "in the scene" or a psychological/ artistic occurence. Highly recommended.

I've also been watching the Saw movies, 'cause why not, and I like the score for these as well but it's more of a kitchen-sink industrial/ electronica approach. I've read a couple interviews with composer Charlie Clouser (formerly one of Trent Reznor's Nine Inch Nails worker bees) where he talks about how these scores fly in the face of the usual scoring philosophy (keep it simple, and don't get in the way of what's happening onscreen). I noticed this as I was watching the movies: the music often introduces sounds of pounding, scraping, sizzling, etc endemic to the world we're in but not what we're seeing at present, as if we're hearing more action through the wall or something. Clouser says he was pushed to increase the density in that manner, so it's good to know it's a case of giving the director what he wants rather than mere self-indulgence. And again, it's interesting that the score blurs the line between action in the scene and psychological atmosphere. Nice to see these "rules" broken effectively.

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