Quentin Tarantino Has the Best Ear in the Film Business
While much ado is made of how big a film fan the boy genius of indie film was before he got his start, he must have been an eclectic music fan as well. Herein, we take a look at some of his soundtrack choices for his films with which to make a case that nobody picks a soundtrack (and revitalizes a band's career) like Q.T.
The opening title song "Little Green Bag" by the George Baker Selection introduced the world to the excellent taste of Tarantino's music choices. It's a raucous but rhythmic ballad, with this Dutch band somehow perfectly capturing the spirit of L.A. (where the film is set) with a blend of jazzy urban rock and Mexican-American style. But the show-stopper is definitely Stealers Wheel's "Stuck in the Middle With You," played over the harsh cop-torturing scene. We call this method 'countering' in which a light song is played over a violent scene to minimize the shock impact and at the same time ironically comment on it.
You almost can't single any song out here, they're all used brilliantly. The pumped-up surf-rock "Misirlou" shoots us in the vein with adrenalin for the opening, "Son of a Preacher Man" and "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon" serve to bookend the disastrous date scene while "You Never Can Tell" is the centerpiece, "Flowers on the Wall" by the Statler Brothers is the perfect song to sing along to while you drive away from a scene where you left the goon who might have killed you for dead, and if you're going to be ravaged by a circus of porno freaks in the basement of a pawn shop, it might as well be to the growling savage sound of "Comanche."
Again, the music choices here are a perfect match for the show, having a lot of soul and music that evokes the '70s blaxsploitation genre perfectly. But the centerpiece is definitely The Delfonics' "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)," which is used three times in the plot itself; once to introduce us to the soul of Pam Grier, once to show that Robert Forster is falling in love with her, and finally - oops, left the cassette in the radio! - to almost tip off Samuel L. Jackson that the two are working together to plot against him.
By this time, we're so used to being blown away by Tarantino's music choices that we've come to expect the kind of excellence delivered here. It's hard to believe that Nancy Sinatra's "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" wasn't made just for this film, the 126.96.36.199's do their barefoot best to rock us through the O-Ren Ishi encounter, Johnny Cash's "A Satisfied Mind" sets the tone perfectly for the Budd confrontation, and "About Her" by Malcolm McLaren, which takes a few bars from The Zombie's "She's Not There," goes perfectly with the transition from the rediscovery of BeeBee to going off to confront Bill.
By the time of Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino had backed off the music for showing off, so we'll just conclude by pointing out that the show-stopper scene of Death Proof< is definitely the lap dance, with "Down in Mexico" by The Coasters and written by the Brill Building genius team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.
And incidentally, Inglourious Basterds was the first Tarantino film to have a custom score. We're hoping he goes back to the pick 'n' chose soundtrack method for future projects; he's certainly the best in the business at it.