Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Variety of Music in Scorsese's Life Lessons

Lionel Dobie is an artist that needs "an erection to paint and it never goes down because it never gets used." (Richard Price, Gangster/Priest) His erection? Paulette. His current assistant who wants nothing more than to have the talent Lionel has. Unfortunately, Lionel can't destroy his artistic morality and lie about her art being good, which leads to her departure. But never fear, the next assistant is here. And so the cycle continues.Throughout the story, many different artistic elements are used to accent aspects of the story and the characters. One of these aspects? The music. From diagetic to non-diagetic, the choice of music in the film is very interesting and it's clear that much thought went into what would be heard by the audience to support the visuals.In Martin Scorsese's, Life Lessons, different varieties of music are used to reveal character traits, drive the story forward and establish a tone. 

Let's start with the primary genre of music used in the film: Rock. The majority of Lionel's "painting music" is are songs like Night and Day by Ray Charles that represent the feelings Lionel has whilst painting. Lionel needs a woman, or a muse, around to drive his art and the fast, powerful music clearly shows this. I believe that the reason rock music is played the most throughout the film is because Lionel is constantly feeling turned on by Paulette and the "rock hard" music totally brings out his emotions.

On the other side of the spectrum, an operatic song is used when Paulette takes Ruben home with her. During the night, the power/romance of the opera brings out Lionel's desperateness. The song climaxes while we're in close up on Lionel's face, bringing out his heavily dramatic feelings. The song is then used the next morning as a way to intimidate Ruben after he asks for coffee. The quite sudden playing of the music scares Ruben as Lionel demonstrates not only his artistic power, but also the power he believes he holds over Paulette.

Finally, onto the film's theme. The song is Whiter Shade of Pale by Procol Harum and is key to the feelings Lionel feels whilst "turned on." The theme plays three times at the beginning: (the opening inserts, Paulette walking off the plane and the title sequence) and then plays once at the end. I believe that the song ties primarily into Paulette walking off the plane (coming to Lionel) and when he eyes his future assistant at the end of the film (also "coming" to Lionel). The heavily romantic song shows how Lionel feels about his lovers and clearly gives us his perspective on these women.

All of these songs show aspects about Lionel and his relationships and are a huge part of the film. Without the use of music in the film, many of the interesting elements are lost.