Saturday, October 28, 2023

Book Review: The Needle and the Lens

What movie do you think of when you hear “The Sound of Silence”? Better yet, what song comes to mind when you think of The Graduate? The link between film and song endures as more than a memory. It is, in fact, a sort of cultural symbiosis that has mutually influenced movies and pop music, a phenomenon Nate Patrin tracks through the past fifty years, revealing the power of music in movies to move the needle in popular culture.

These commentaries run the gamut from comedic irony to cheap-thrills excitement to deeply felt drama, all of which Patrin examines in pairings such as American Graffiti and “Do You Want to Dance?”; Saturday Night Fever and “Disco Inferno”; Apocalypse Now and “The End”; Wayne’s World and “Bohemian Rhapsody”; and more.

The Needle and the Lens will be published on November 28, 2023. The University of Minnesota Press provided an early galley for review.

I am both a fan of music and movies, and a great soundtrack is something I always enjoy. So, this look at the impact of certain songs in key scenes of films was definitely of interest to me as well.

Admittedly, I have not seen all of the sixteen films Patrin discusses in these pages. Still, for the ones I have seen (some several times), the discussion offers an insightful way of looking into those films through the focal point of selected songs from their soundtracks. The longer essays are followed by a final section in the back which lists an additional twenty-four films and songs with brief commentaries (the ones that did not make the cut due to length of the project). Again, some were more familiar to me than others.

Overall, Patrin knows his stuff. He is clearly a student of both film and music and can speak well to the symbiotic relationship the two can have. Recommended for fans of the two mediums.

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