In Brief— A further continuation of the author’s lists of some of the books, movies and even music that have helped shape the person he is. Has this series put your mind into high gear and kept you awake at night yet? It might.
You Are the Sum Total of All Your Experiences—
I have said that a film is able to shape the viewer’s character in the same way as a book, but whereas a reader can picture the characters and environment, a film takes away that ability and substitutes the director’s vision. Sometimes that’s better, sometimes not. Moreover, music can make or break a film. In any case, here are some additional films and even music that have shaped me. Others may follow as my sleepless nights bring them to mind.
Groundhog Day directed by Harold Ramis. The film’s theme of repetition until you get it right stuck with me. My friend Lionel’s favorite line was, “I’m only going to show you this one more time.”
Seven directed by David Fincher. Two cops, one an old timer and the other an arrogant newcomer, match wits with a mass murderer who kills his victims based on the seven deadly sins. I believed this film to be filled with violence only to find that that the violence was in my head. The film raises the question of what you would do.
Patton directed by Franklin Schaffner. George C. Scott, masterfully portraying Gen. George Patton, is at his best in front of a huge American flag. A monumental figure made bigger by the performance. The echoing trumpets behind Patton’s musing over past lives shows how music can make a film.
Amadeus directed Miloš Forman. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, his incomparable music and his death. If music makes a film, as it does here, then this is the film for you. Powerful images. Powerful music. Which brings me to my next subject.
Playwright William Congreve said that music has charms to soothe a savage breast. I don’t know about the savage breast, but certainly music can make or break a film. The last two of the films above use music in different ways. Patton uses music to create a mood while Amadeus is built around the music of Mozart.
I’ve chosen here to include music that reaches me and is illustrative of not only the eclecticism of my interests but the times and phases of my life. Your comments can tell us of the music that appeals to you.
Gregorian Chants—Unaccompanied sacred male choral singing found in the Catholic Church. Emotionally moving and powerful.
Joan Baez—Folk and protest songs sung by Ms. Baez playing the guitar. Beautiful voice. Committed person.
Luciano Pavarotti—Probably the best tenor in opera. He filled the hall with his incomparable voice. He made opera live.
Janis Joplin—The raw, uninhibited voice of my hippie days. She made the blues live for me. Her Cheap Thrills is on my iPod.
Ella Fitzgerald—A voice like silk. With an ability to improvise, she blew me away me as I listened entranced in the wings.
Eva Cassidy—Gone too early, she sang blues, gospel and more. Play her “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” at my funeral.
Andrés Segovia, Julian Bream, Manitas de Plata—Show me a talented guitar player, whether classical or flamenco, and I’ll show you an aficionado.
Jaqueline du Pré—a classical cellist, her ability to make that cello talk was celebrated worldwide. It’s on my iPod.
The Bagpipes—The skirl of the pipes lives inside me. Must be my Scottish heritage showing.
Hair—The song “Hair” and that stage play got me through law school. I saw it seven times during my transition to hippiedom.
Riverdance—It was a stage show, I know, but that staccato, precise stepdancing set to Irish music gets my toes to tapping.
Swan Lake—Sublime music. Lovely ballet. Nureyev and Fonteyn. Watching them was like watching art in motion.
This is just a sampling of my wide-ranging musical interests. It’s a good way to close this series about the influences that helped shape me. I could go on with stage plays, dancers, artists, teachers and more, but I’ll stick with this as a way to tell you a bit about me.
Although this is just a partial list of my interests, it is important to always remember that everything a person experiences from those final days in the womb to our death adds to the person we are…to the person we are becoming.
You are invited to share your interests. You will not only reveal some of what you are, but your revelations can inspire the rest of us.