For the Love of Film

Casey Simonson ’16

From the December 2015 Issue

Music was my first love.

This is probably blasphemous to say in a magazine about films, in a piece entitled “For the Love of Film.” But I’m going to say something crazy here, and please hear me out: Music and cinema are one in the same, largely because of the connecting thread of rhythm.

The concept of film as rhythm didn’t hit me full blast until I first viewed Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, a film so attached to its soundtrack that it often plays as a glorious retro-electro music video. But my first taste of truly understanding how film could be rhythmic, in both a musical and nonmusical fashion, came from a viewing of both volumes of Kill Bill with my father. General complaints about the work of Quentin Tarantino aside, both films play with rhythm beautifully, and utilize editing in a fashion that weaves in and out of different temporal spaces, with a variety of colors and styles of cinematography. Not to mention the score, by RZA of Wu-Tang Clan, played upon its own musical rhythms and blended with the visual rhythm as well. It became a visual orchestra, and suddenly the art of cinema made sense to me.

Despite this, I still don’t watch enough films. Every year, it becomes another failed New Year’s resolution: “Watch More Films,” or “Watch a Film Everyday,” or “Just do it, seriously it’s not that hard to watch movies, man.” I always fail, without question, as the strain of life rarely lets me have two uninterrupted hours to enjoy the cinematic world, and I have unfortunately caught a pretentious bug that makes watching cinema on a television screen feel unholy to me. But not taking in enough cinema is a terrifying notion to someone who wishes to spend the rest of his life writing about, creating, and breathing this stuff.

But alas, a friend of mine, a collaborator, told me recently that on each of his films, he uses a metronome as he writes to determine the pace of the film in his head. He composes his images like a song, the tempo and rhythm planned well in advance. Meanwhile, Winding Refn has said that his films are more influenced by music than they are by other films. Both of these revelations have helped me rid myself of the guilt I feel when I choose to listen to Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain” rather than watch Seven Samurai (I swear I will get to it. I have the Criterion Collection Blu-ray, but goddamn, if it isn’t intimidating to set aside three and a half hours). But to me, that is all cinema is. A composition where, rather than instruments, we have colors, motions and movements, and visual crescendos and flurries of cuts that weave in and out of a soundtrack, creating the oxymoronic beautiful cacophonous mixture. Cinema is sight; cinema is sound, and when both are used correctly together, cinema is the most powerful medium of communication.

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