Monday, June 7, 2010

Crime and Romance, USA: Carl Orff - Gassenhauer/from the movie "Badlands" (1973)

Carl Orff - Musica Poetica-01 "Gassenhauer" (1895 — 1982).

This is a piece of classical music I've always found engaging. I came across it shortly before hearing it on the soundtrack for the movie "Badlands". It is a color film, but still has the essense of the post-war emergence of "film noir" movies inspired in part by the experiences millions faced in the Second World War and the rootlessness and urbanization that began to characterize American life after the dust began to settle on a more prosperous but anxiety-filled nation.

The violence and controversy of The Vietnam War, racial tensions and the rise of teenage culture in America gave these newer 1970's "noir films" an added boost of nihilism.

Here's the trailer for the film:

'Badlands" I feel owes some of its hypnotic power to other road films of the time such as "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967), "Easy Rider" (1969) and the lessviolent but disturbing "Five Easy Pieces" (1970).

All these films show characters who somehow don't fit into society and face a journey we know will not end with a rosy sunset and a new start in life.

Terence Malick's--a director who has only made a handful of features since--captured the underbelly of American life in a very unflinching way.

In the film Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek playing a pair of young Midwestern misfits--he a young adult man, she barely a teenager-- who go on a killing spree in 1959 Kansas. It was based on actual events.

A story about an outlaw couple is nothing new in itself, expect that the characters remain fully dimensional if totally reprehensible in their actions. The development of the movie is flawless in my view. This is what makes the mayhem and murders in it all the more disturbing.

Part of the reason the film works is contained in the soundtrack, which incorporates this Carl Orff masterpiece at key moments in the film.

But, of course, the music stands alone and can be appreciated by itself, which I hope you will find on display here.


  1. This is one of my top ten favorite films, and the music was a large part of the reason. I saw the film when it first came out in 1973, and have found that it aged well - unlike so many made back then which got far higher ratings.

  2. I think I've only seen this film once and I recall it having a powerfull effect on me.

    The music on the other hand I've heard often and have always loved, I can see how it could be used to great effect in a movie with such a dark theme.

  3. It's one that I'd rate very highly as well Astra. Very off-beat and original, whic his probably a big reason why it still holds up.

  4. I started one just wanting to profile the music, Jim, and then I realized ,too, that it was impossible not to spotlight "Badlands". I has had a powerful effect on me and other friends as well back in the Seventies. Bruce Springsteen wrote a song about the film after he saw it.

  5. Jen and I are just reading a little about Orff, an odd man to say the least!

  6. Genius is odd, most times.

    Orff was a genius. That's why his stuff holds up today.

  7. Yes, Jim, I need to find out more about him myself.

  8. Maybe a good definition of genius can be distilled there, Astra.

    A sign of artistic genius can be from a work of art---taken as odd by viewers and listeners who are used to only hearing works of "talent"--which grows in stature rather than diminishes as time passes.

  9. Interesting doug. I haven't seen this film, so it was good to see this clip. You could tell they were on the road to no where, couldn't you?

    The use of background music was interesting. At the times I've looked in at a film clip and my sound system hasn't worked, I've realised how much part of a film's success is the music.

    Thanks again for a chance to view this, doug.

    Sorry I'm still not getting alerts for your loadings.:-(

  10. Exactly Cassandra. You see this theme in other American films. The feminist road movie "Thelma and Louise" (1990) is another more recent example. They literally decided this was the end of the road.

    "Badlands" is not the easiest film to find at the video/DVD store , but it's worth seeing if you are in the mood for something off-beat. By today's standards, the violence is not very bad, but it still could be disturbing as the victims certainly become more and more random as the film goes on.

    I really think a large part of my musical education has come from watching movies. I've always been keen on how directors handle a musical score--especially when they employ music not originally composed for the film.

    The spaceship cruising to the moon near the opening of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: Space Odyssey" (1968) with its use of "The Blue Danube" was the first time I think I heard music that bowled me over when used in a movie.

    I wish I knew why you weren't getting alerts. I'll check my settings. Thankfully the Lady from Rome might get the alerts. Anyway, glad as always for your comments.

  11. I use to like some of the James Dean films. The theme was usually desperate to be loved and understood, then going off the rails, heading for that no through road in life.

    I'll keep my eye open for the film. Our secondhand bookshop has an old video section. I have picked up some really good films from there. I prefer DVD if I can get it, they take up less room.:-)

    I once lost the sound on ET, it seemed rather flat without it, but once the sound kicked in I realised what a clever musical score it is, of course how could it fail having been written by the wonderful John Williams and directed by Steven Spielberg. I wonder what John Williams would have done to the music of Alexander Nevsky's film. :-/

    The use of the the Blue Danube in "2001 Space Odyssey" was inspired.

    There are times when I'll get an alert for your loadings. There are a couple of others on my contact list who I won't receive alerts for. I think it's a multi thing...

    Thank you doug.

  12. Hahaha, a word of advice, doug. Don't slam the shed door in that background piccy.