Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

Same Song, Different Movie: Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy

Continuing my thoughts from February regarding the use of song in film, “needle dropped” tunes are not officially considered part of a film score — those orchestral, choral, or instrumental pieces some consider background music. I think both are utilized as cues by filmmakers for a specific purpose or to elicit certain reactions by the audience. I’m fascinated by this in general, and movie soundtracks have long intrigued me. A convergence of the music and film arts I’ve allocated much time toward. Some movie soundtracks (many my favorites) have incorporated those songs the director or music programmer have showcased in their movie along with the film’s score.

A few have made it part of their filmography to incorporate popular song as a regular element in their work. A good number of them do this very well. I think the use of music remains very much a part of the movie experience and related to its composition. I continue to watch out and listen for it in my movie viewing. Giving credit where it is due, I never would have started anything like this series if not for my blogging colleague over at Fog’s Movie Review. It was his excellent, Tossin’ It Out There: What’s YOUR Favorite Song From a Movie?, that kicked it all off:

“… there’s a deep connection between the two arts, and sometimes that winds up creating an inseparable bond between the two in the viewer’s mind.”

It should be noted The Right Stuff (1983), reviewed last JanuaryAtonement (2007), reviewed last year, and the recent Byzantium (2012) were others that needle-dropped this song into their stories.

Once more, I’ve selected a song used in more than one movie. We’re again in the classical music genre with a work by Claude Debussy. From one of his most famous piano suites, in fact. Clair de lune is the third piece of the Suite bergamasque for that instrument. This reflective movement was used in a pair of very different films by two equally dissimilar filmmakers at different stages of their careers. Yet, both used the music in beautifully thoughtful scenes in two divergent genres within a year of their releases.

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Stephen Soderbergh is a stellar jack-of-all-trades filmmaker. An American film producer, screenwriter, cinematographer, editor, and award-winning film director. His modern remake of the 1960 Ocean’s 11 heist film, retitled Ocean’s Eleven, proved to be a commercial and critical hit back in 2001. Though scored by David Holmes, the soundtrack included a number of Holmes’ own distinct retro-hip and cool jazz-funk tracks to match the film’s screenplay, along with a number of other well-known songs dropped in. Yet, the most dramatic, and what I believe is easily the most remembered, was Debussey’s famed piano piece. One which highlighted the figures in tune with the backdrop, that of the Bellagio Casino’s celebrated dancing fountains, in a culminating scene late in the film. The telltale aspect in this sequence is that the classical melody is considered a character piece (used in traditionally romantic music to express mood and moments). The melody is particularly reflective in this sequence. It worked very well as it framed the con men’s relief in pulling off the elaborate gig with a successful heist.

Dog Soldiers (2002)

On the other hand, Neil Marshall is another multi-talented filmmaker, though one who usually haunts darker realms of cinema. The younger Brit performs film director, editor, and screenwriter duties in his movies. And his ferocious début film, Dog Soldiers, heralded a stunning entrance for Marshall, and for fans of the werewolf genre. It’s almost the antithesis to Soderbergh’s work. Yet, both share a cleverness with each film’s subject matter, especially byway of this music (Mark Thomas did the score). Marshall’s film has a lot less quiet moments, for sure. But, in between the mythological meat-grinder the soldiers have been caught in, the scene where the local who’s been helping them, Megan (Emma Cleasby), sits by the piano and begins to play the piece is sneakily telling. Twofold. “Clair de lune” means “moonlight” in French (fitting for a werewolf picture, wouldn’t you say?). The other is that the song indirectly reflects back to Soderbergh’s film. Without giving too much away, the plain fact is deception remains the prime ingredient in both motion pictures, and all linked care of this song.

The entire series can be found here.

15 Responses to “Same Song, Different Movie: Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy”

  1. John DuMond

    Love that scene from OCEAN’S ELEVEN. I haven’t seen DOG SOLDIERS yet, but it looks interesting, I’m going to have to check it out.


  2. ruth

    Oooh, I remember the Ocean’s Eleven one but I haven’t seen Dog Soldiers. I love Bellagio Casino’s dancing fountains, when I was there I could stare at that thing for hours, ahah!


    • le0pard13

      They are simply a mesmerizing sight. Have spent time there myself, when I’ve visited the Vegas of recent times. ‘Dog Soldiers’ is along the lines of ‘An American Werewolf in London’. I know this isn’t your genre, but if you ever take it on, both are a grand place to start. Thanks, Ruth.


  3. Paula

    I love this piece. To this day, I cannot go by the Bellagio without thinking of OCEAN’S ELEVEN. Plus, It’s my favorite Google doodle []. Great post as always. I love how you highlight the details that really elevate films from good to great.


  4. Carol Triefler

    I remember a movie with Helen Hayes starring, where Clair de Lune was predominantly part of the sound track , but cannot remember the name of it. I believe she was In love with a soldier who was killed. I remember her pulling out some letters she had saved, tied with a ribbon. It made me cry, and I must have been a teen ager when I saw it – now 84. I wish someone could remember the name of it so I could see it again. Jose Iturbi played Clair de Lune on the piano. It was so beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • le0pard13

      Welcome, Carol. You’ve certainly intrigued me with that memory. Makes me want to find the film you speak of. If I do, I will reply with the title. Many thanks! :-)



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