From Coldplay to Nick Cave by way of Wings, this year saw some great films made even greater by inspired music choices. For what it’s worth, our money is on Mica Levi’s extraordinary soundtrack from Under the Skin for Best Original Score.
We asked Time Out deputy film editor Cath Clarke to choose some of her favourites.
Mason daydreams to Coldplay in Boyhood
You’ll know where you stand on Coldplay. But director Richard Linklater could not have picked a more perfect track than Yellow to open his film Boyhood – as a little boy lies on the grass staring up at a blazing blue sky. It’s 2000 and the boy is six-year-old Ellar Coltrane, and for this incredible film (my favourite of 2014), Linklater filmed Coltrane every summer for 12 years playing a character called Mason.
Each new chapter opens with a song playing on the radio (Mason drives to college listening to Arcade Fire in a closing scene). It’s an incredibly moving film about growing up and watching ‘Boyhood’, you remember how far music could reach into your heart as teenager. In this interview with Time magazine the director talks about recruiting young people – interns and friends’ kids – as music consultants to pick songs..
Nick Cave records Higgs Bosun Blues in 20,000 Days on Earth
What’s make this Nick Cave documentary a winner is that doesn’t shatter the mythology. Directed by artists Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, it’s a fictional day in Cave’s life – his 20,000th on Earth. There are some brilliant scenes, including a knockout moment as Cave hangs out with his young sons at home in Brighton, eating takeaway pizza in front of a movie. It seems uncharacteristically wholesome, until you realise they’re watching ‘Scarface’.
We also watch Cave and the Bad Seeds in the studio recording Higgs Bosun Blues, a track from their 2013 album Push the Sky Away. ‘I love the feeling of a song before you understand it,’ Cave tells us on the voiceover. ‘When we’re all playing deep inside the moment. The song feels wild and unbroken. Soon it will become domesticated… but there is a moment when the song is still in charge and you’re clinging on for dear life.’ He’s not kidding. Watch from 3.15 in the video. Cave and his band appear to communicate by telepathy.
Jennifer Lawrence rocks out to Live and Let Die in American Hustle
Possibly the funniest scene in the movies this year. Jennifer Lawrence (with the uppest-updo ever) is playing frustrated stay-at-home mom Rosalyn, whose two-timing conman husband is in up to elbows with the Mafia. Rosalyn has had enough. This is her declaration of independence. Dressed in leopard print dress and a pair of yellow marigolds, she rocks out to Wings’s ‘Live and Let Die’, lip-synching and taking her frustrations out on the sideboard with a duster. It’s an outlandish scene in an outlandish movie – based on a bizarre 1970s case, in which the FBI recruited a con artist to entrap politicians.
Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston dance in Only Lovers Left Alive
This one left me swooning. In Jim Jarmusch’s beautiful and eerie vampire love story Tilda Swinton is a centuries-old Eve, who arrives in Detroit where her musician lover Adam (Tom Hiddleston) is suffering from the blues. He is the tortured romantic type. Wearing a Keith Richards-meets-Victorian-bohemian gentleman’s dressing gown, Eve puts a soul track – 1971’s Trapped by a Thing Called Love by Denise LaSalle – on the record player, and reaches her hand out to Adam. He can’t help himself. It’s a gorgeous, exquisite moment. Jarmusch’s own band Sqürl perform most of the score.
Scarlett Johansson sucks the life out of man in Under the Skin
It didn’t get under mine. For all the five-star reviews, for me this was the year’s most overrated film – albeit with the best soundtrack. Scarlett Johansson stars as an alien in human form, preying on men in Glasgow. Until the end of the film we don’t see what’s underneath her human skin. But composer Mica Levi takes us there with her intoxicating, sinister orchestral score – inspired by everything from John Cage to strip club music. In this scene Johansson has a man in clutches, drawing him into a slick pool of tar-black goo. Here is Levi, writing in the Guardian: ‘If your lifeforce is being distilled by an alien, it’s not necessarily going to sound very nice. It’s supposed to be physical, alarming, hot.’ In the video below Johansson’s victim is a first time actor – picked up by Johansson on the streets of Glasgow.