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Wire Framed

in Filmmaking
on Jul 25, 2008

Over at The House Next Door, Godfrey Cheshire explains his decision to walk out on a press screening of James Marsh’s documentary Man on Wire:

The reason for my discomfort was simple: The movie’s soundtrack contains frequent borrowings from the Michael Nyman scores of well-known Peter Greenaway films (as well as couple of other Nyman tracks, including one from Jane Campion’s The Piano).

This, for me, totally destroyed the experience of watching Marsh’s film. I would be trying to follow the story when, every three or four minutes, that familiar music would blare out and my mind would be whipsawed back to the images and moods of The Draughtsman’s Contract, Drowning By Numbers, A Zed & Two Noughts or another film. Eventually I realized this distraction would continue throughout, so I left.

Cheshire goes on to talk about how this decision of Marsh’s is unexplained in the film’s press notes. But Filmmaker‘s Damon Smith talks about this topic with the director in our current issue. Here’s how Marsh explains his decision:

Filmmaker: Nyman‘s score is such a crucial texture in the film, and his titles — “The Disposition of Linen” — are so odd. Did he write any specific music for you?

Marsh: The idea [of using Nyman] actually came from watching Philippe rehearsing on his wire in his backyard. He would rehearse to a whole load of musical textures, one of which was [Nyman‘s] memorial theme from The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, the Peter Greenaway movie. But we couldn‘t afford to pay a composer like Nyman the kind of money he would want to do an original score. Another [director] friend, Gina Kim, had just worked with Michael [on Never Forever], so she brokered a meeting between us in New York. He said, “I can‘t do a score because I don‘t have the time and we don‘t have the resources for it. But why don‘t you look at what I‘ve done in the past? Here‘s my whole back catalogue. Rummage around, I own all the rights to this — you can use what you want.” Then he came and had suggestions and we did some editing and he did a few versions for us. He became a collaborator. But you‘re right, it‘s a very distinctive musical choice, and I think it does give it an identity, even though some of the pieces are familiar to people from other films. But I think we own them for the purposes of Man on Wire.

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