By Andrew Harwood
Music has been an essential part of everyday life since the beginning of time. Whether you’re an audiophile, a shower singer, a composer or maybe even a film score enthusiast, music is an immersive and forever popular medium.
When it comes to cinema, sound is one of the core elements of production. From original compositions to pop culture songs, music almost acts as a skeleton when it comes to a film’s narrative.
It is important to note, though, that not all films rely on their score or matter of fact have one, per se; this is a true and simple artistic choice.
However, for this week’s Cinephilia, we’re going to be focusing on not just score in film, but films that revolve around music. We, of course, are talking about musical films.
Characterized by their use of music and/or musical numbers, dance sequences, costumes, set design and sweeping style, musicals are, at heart, an exciting cinematic experience.
Some great musical films (and definite recommendations) are “La La Land,” “Rocketman,” “The Sound of Music,” “An American in Paris,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Moulin Rouge!” and, for our film of the week, “Sing Street.”
I know, I know, I know. How can I not pick “Singin’ in the Rain,” “The Sound of Music” or “La La Land” to analyze this week? To be honest, very easily.
Overall, I pride myself on introducing my audience to new, probably lesser-known films. At the end of the day, you could be the one of millions who saw and rave about “La La Land,” or you could be the outlier, yet one of thousands, who connected with “Sing Street.”
Written and directed by Jon Carney, “Sing Street” tells the story of Dublin teenager Conor “Cosmo” Lawlor’s journey of creating an alternative rock band during the Irish recession of the 1980s. With the help of an aspiring model, his band of misfits and his elder brother’s support, Conor stands to turn his dreams into his reality.
What makes “Sing Street” unique is how it strays away from the Golden Age of Hollywood musicals, much against that of “La La Land.” Of course, “La La Land” was produced as an homage to these films, so it makes sense why that film follows such criteria.
In no way do I think “La La Land” is a bad film. It’s not, and to be honest, it was one of the first films to actually make me shed a tear. But what “La La Land” lacks and what “Sing Street” presents is a plot that is progressed through music.
It almost seems unfair to compare “Sing Street” to “La La Land,” given the two different scopes of each film. However, I would argue it isn’t. The former relies on images, color and fantasy to sustain its plot, while the latter encompasses soundtrack and progression, something a musical film should do.
Musical numbers don’t appear out of nowhere in this “Sing Street.” In fact, they rely on the main character’s band (which happens to take the name “Sing Street”), as if the audience were its roadie. As the viewers, we experience the formation of the group, the first music video, the first gig and all the band’s other “firsts,” just like we are along for the ride.
A soundtrack is what establishes a musical and the film itself, and a film that builds its soundtrack around the progression of the plot automatically cultivates a greater immersive feeling and connection, as opposed to one with a sweeping scope dance number.
Maybe I’m biased given my love of alternative rock and Irish culture, or maybe I’m just still not over the ending of “La La Land.” Regardless, in closing, “Sing Street” is a feel-good musical that delves into the charming, and sometimes irreverent, world of music.