SOUNDTRACK: TINDERSTICKS-Claire Denis Film Scores 1996-2009: White Material [CST077] (2009).
White Material is the most recent soundtrack that the Tindersticks created for Claire Denis. It was recorded between their “reunion” album The Hungry Saw and their latest album Falling Down a Mountain.
This is a very moody soundtrack. The guitars set a brisk but desperate-sounding pace. There are feedback squalls that echo for even more tension. The feedback could be any number of things as well: squeaky machines, industrial noise, or simply disconcerting sounds.
There is a repeated motif throughout the score that morphs and blends with the tone. The overall feel of the soundtrack is unified but it never sounds like you’re listening to the same few notes repeated (which is actually what it is, the songs use a very limited palette).
For such a limited palette of music, they really manage to give a diverse picture of the movie. The way “Andre’s Death” builds, using those same few notes and feedback is truly amazing. The tension that has been building throughout the score really comes to a head in those 2 minutes. Contrarily, the flute that plays over those same notes in “Children’s Theme 2” is a haunting exploration of the theme.
This soundtrack isn’t as industrial/weird as L’intrus, but it is probably more intense and spooky. It’s amazing how evocative these guys are.
[READ: June 22, 2011] Merit Badges
Sarah brought this book home, but she didn’t read it. It sounded pretty good (I mean it won the 2009 AWP Award for the Novel), so I decided to give it a go.
The book seemed strange to me in the way it was set up: it seemed to have a very specific structure but it didn’t always follow it exactly. So, there are four main protagonists who write chapters of the book. But they don’t each get a turn, in fact one, Barbara doesn’t really have much to say until much later when her story becomes very compelling. It also advanced over the years with no real explanation of pacing or even of when a new narrator has jumped ahead several years.
I assumed this was going to be a story of four people looking back on their high school years. But indeed, it’s about four people looking back on their whole lives, as they grow together, drift apart, come back into each others lives and then disappear again. In that way, it was also a bit hard to get my bearings. It was also hard for me to keep all of the characters straight. Because even though there are four narrators there are many many more kids introduced in the beginning of the story.
Each chapter opens by stating who the narrator is. The first few narrators are Chimes Sanborn (Prologue), Quint (Woodwork), Slow Slocum (Cooking), Chimes (Drafting), Barb Carimona (Music), Quint (Mammals), Quint (Crime Prevention) etc. So it’s not consistent.
But also, as you can see, all of the chapter titles are named after Merit badges (which I liked quite a bit). The subtitle describes what you have to do to achieve the badge (and the chapter does indeed kind of work within that stricture).
So far so good, but we’re also introduced to ancillary characters who appear quite often: Dickie Burpee, Pooch Labrador, Smash Sarnia, and a psychopath named Tulep. With all of the nicknames and rotating narrators, I admit to losing track of who was who, which I fear lessened the impact of some of the events.
Of course, that’s all structural. And while I felt like I probably missed out on moments of impact, the overall storyline was not hard to follow. And, indeed, complaints aside, the story was pretty intriguing. It is set in the (fictional) small suburb of Minnisapa, Minnesota. It feels very true to me (having lived in a small town, myself) as do the choices (bad and good) that the kids make.
The story opens in Junior High, with “The Greatest Moment in Junior High History” which involves a movie theater, Dots and an apple. But the first proper chapter shows that the book isn’t going to be all funny, when Quint King learns that his father has died unexpectedly.
Quint goes through a pretty bad spell (as does his mother), and this is where I was started to get confused. Quint starts hanging around with some rougher kids, but he doesn’t seem like he would have hung around with the other boys before hand. I guess it felt like I could have used a bit more explanation of their earlier connection.
Despite the individual personalities of all of the kids, most of whom were not like me at all, I found all of them relatable and real. They were flawed, but they were also introspective and aware of their flaws. I felt like I could relate most to Slow Slocum, who compulsively made lists of things (best names for their intramural teams, etc). But I also related to Chimes who is sort of the stabilizing force among the kids.
All of the kids manage to escape the stifling small townness of Minnesapa except for Chimes, who winds up taking over the local bowling alley (and who becomes something of a fixture in town–just witness the donut!). While I never saw myself as being stuck in the town I grew up in, I related to the inertia that Chimes represented.
It’s when the characters grew older (in what was often five to ten-year increments) that I found myself relating less (even though I’m an adult myself) to their situations. Slow Slocum turns out to be a very devout Catholic (which causes the ruination of his first engagement); Quint becomes an ex-alcoholic; Barb gets involved with an abusive guy and Chimes, well, he is the rock of the group.
Despite my seemingly hesitant praise for the book, I did find many of the story lines quite compelling through to the end. Indeed, I didn’t like Quint’s in the early stages but found his to be far more interesting by the end. And while Barb is somewhat sketchily drawn, her adult life was charged and interesting.
And yet, I just didn’t love the book. I’m glad I read it and I felt it was worthwhile, it just didn’t evolve the way I expected it to.
But I also don’t want to end this review without mentioning a number of things that I really liked about the book. Most of them were little details that not only made the story more real, but also were quite funny. I loved that their catch all phrase for being a jerk was “dube” as in “My dad’s been a total dube lately.” I loved the random lists they made, and I especially loved the way this one played out:
we were talking about a kid named Duane Einwald, who had just moved here from some farm town. We decided that he was cool but that “Duane” wa sa dube name. So we thought about a possible new name, but we kept coming up with strange stuff, and finally Chimes or somebody said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we just gave him a new name every week?” And for the next three years, we did.
My favorites were:
Duane “Crazy Legs” Einwald
Duane “Em-Dash” Einwald
Duane “The Motivator” Einwald ….
I’m not really sure what he thought of this.
I also really enjoyed the description of an intense ping-pong match and the awkwardness of going to a) a party with friends you haven’t seen in years and b) going to a bar in a strange town if you don’t really drink.
Yes, the details were very good, indeed.