' ' Cinema Romantico: Borrowing Another Movie's Riff

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Borrowing Another Movie's Riff

"I love records. They're not for everyone, you know? You really have to take care of vinyl. It's very delicate, it can get wrecked so easily. You really have to love it." (Pause.) "Do you hear how full it sounds? You want to buy a thicker record. They're more stable, the grooves in them are deeper and wider. You can get more detail. They're heavier, they're harder to carry around, but they're worth it. My parents have this amazing turntable. It's vintage cherry wood Victor 45. Perfect turn. All the original parts. Can't wait to hear it again."

This is a speech Keira Knightley’s Penny delivers in the final third of “Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World.” As I heard her recite these words while giving the film a second viewing, I was struck by their similarity to the speech Paul Giamatti presents to Virginia Madsen regarding the delicacy and finer points of his favorite wine, Pinot Noir. “Pinot,” he says, “needs constant care and attention.” The point, of course, is that Giamatti is talking about himself as he talks about Pinot Noir just as Knightley is talking about herself as she talks about vinyl. “It’s very delicate, it can get wrecked so easily.” Noting this, I then noted how “Sideways” probably cultivated this speech better than “Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World.”

But then I thought about it some more, and I wondered if this was the right way to approach it? To say “X” is better than “Y”? Vinyl is used to play music, obviously, and musicians are constantly riffing or borrowing or straight-up stealing previous material recorded by others for their own material.

At this past year’s South by Southwest Festival, keynote speaker Bruce Springsteen explained and demonstrated how he lifted the riff of The Animals’ “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” for his own personal gain. In his words: “It’s the same f---ing riff, man.” (When Bruce does it, everyone chuckles. When Lady Gaga does it, everyone cries heresy. But don’t get me started.)

Writer/Director Lorene Scafaria merely borrows a “Sideways” riff for “Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World.” I didn’t mind. I’ve decided I like them both equally.


Andrew K. said...

Let me get it out of the way that I do really like this film (and Keira in it).

But am I alone in wishing - in moments like that very on-point monologue - that the films whole was better? I mean it's a good film, sometimes very good, but there are times where it flirts dangerously with being an even better. And, god, I know I'm being a glutton but I wanted more.

(Aside: Apologies for not visiting more often. It's been a weird confluence of not being familiar with the films you've touched on and being....umm...incapacitated. Better blogging days ahead, matey.)

(Aside #2: Yes, matey.)

Nick Prigge said...

You haven't had time to visit! You're Santa Claus! (If I wasn't on Twitter I wouldn't know these things.)

And I kind of know what you mean. I really do like this movie a lot but watching it that second time made me realize how some of the individual scenes just don't CRACKLE like they should.

Derek Armstrong said...

Glad to hear neither of the previous commenters love this movie, because I like it less than both of you. Its promise is the greatest thing it has going for it. In fact, what they encapsulated in the party scene was the perfect blend of tones that the rest of the film needed to capture -- funny but wistful, with a hard truth or two waiting to punch you in the stomach.

And so it was disappointing to me that I spent the last half-hour of this movie being repeatedly punched in the stomach. What happened to the laughs?

Nick Prigge said...

Personally, I didn't mind so much that the laughs went away. I really did like the opening, and I really do think that could be a good movie on its own, but the Steve Carrell character, to my eyes, didn't belong in that movie. He belonged in something more (dare I say it?) whimsical.

And the execution of the last two acts is not always perfect but I liked the way it ended. I thought that last scene was just right.

Derek Armstrong said...

"Steve Carell belongs in a different movie" is what we said almost word for word.

I do like the very last scene, but I'm not sure if I love that the two of them are in such different spaces emotionally in it.