In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week: songs from classic movie and T.V. montages.
Wes Anderson is one of those rare directors who has a knack for making the first film of his that you see lodge itself in your heart, forevermore, as his best. His sensibility and aesthetic are so specific, so pointedly and unambiguously his own (even while his work stands, like Tarantino’s, as a veritable Cuisinart of influences), that your first encounter with it can often feel like encountering a brand-new best friend. Or, depending on your tolerance for his particular brand of whimsy, like meeting an unpleasant new enemy. For me, it was the former, and it came mere minutes into my initial encounter with his work: the 1998 film Rushmore.
The fantasy sequence opening of Anderson’s second feature doesn’t give you much to go on, in terms of character development, other than the knowledge that our main character is a bit of a dreamer. But after impressing Bill Murray’s weary industrialist, Herman Blume—mostly by agreeing with his thoughts regarding their alma mater—Blume remarks, “Sharp little guy.” And with a resigned sigh, headmaster Dr. Nelson Guggenheim says, “He’s one of the worst students we’ve got.” And with that, we launch into a musical montage that tells us so much more about young Max Fischer.
It’s the first real announcement of the Anderson aesthetic, and it makes a profound impression, not only of its teenage protagonist, but the idiosyncratic style of the filmmaker. And for revealing the far-ranging interests of Jason Schwartzman’s character, Anderson chooses the debut single from English rock band The Creation, “Making Time,” as the soundtrack, originally released in June of ’66. The band had a number of singles and only one album (We Are Paintermen, not even distributed in the U.S. at the time), before continuous lineup changes and tumultuous relationships did the group in a mere two years later. But the high-energy music and astounding musical pedigree of the various members (like Ronnie Wood) has meant The Creation’s small body of work has endured. Nowadays, they are seen as a minor but noteworthy link in the chain of ’60s British psych-rock.
The lyrics revolve around working in a clock factory, the clocking in and out mirrored by the building of the timepieces that govern the day, as the workers all listen to the same songs on the radio, day in and day out. As such, it functions as a perfect illustration of Max, a young man who is continually starting club after club, as a way to avoid his real scholastic responsibilities. They’re all, in short, just ways that Max revels in the existence of Rushmore itself, a place that seems to make his life worth living. But the events of the film throw all of that out of whack; it’s no coincidence that Anderson ends the montage on the line “Actin’ the fool.” Max Fischer’s lucky streak is about to go sideways, at the very moment that the film that contains it strides unequivocally toward greatness.