Tuesday, July 23, 2013

MOVIE MUSIC MOMENT: NIGHTCALL / DRIVE

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"Nightcall" by Kavinsky (Feat. Lovefoxxx)
as seen and heard in
Drive (2011)

In honor of Nicolas Winding Refn's new film hitting theaters (Only God Forgives) this week's Movie Music Moment comes from his last film, Drive. After a refreshingly realistic yet ice-cool getaway scene we're treated to the film's opening credit sequence. An establishing shot looks down upon a downtown Los Angeles at nighttime just as Kavinsky's "Nightcall" begins. It's a synthpop spiral of keyboard punctuated with a repeating drum-track. It whispers '80s sensibilities while the hot-pink half-cursive credit font shouts it. I say the music whispers because unlike true '80s beats it doesn't feel sanctioned and dated (case in point: the Wildstyle Pirate Radio station in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City). This is largely due to the vocals.

Onscreen we're following the smoldering face of Ryan Gosling as he drives down the ghostly streets of the city, occasionally seeing his path via aerial view. He is simply making his way home where he parks and takes the elevator up to his bachelor bad, passing a certain neighbor on her way out to work a nighshift. Someplace where she needs a small rectangular name tag... He doesn't bother turning on the lights when he reaches his flat. He drops off his duffle bag and heads back out to his car. His apartment is just a storage-room and a workshop. The streets are where he sleeps drives.

The vocals on "Nightcall" switch between Kavinsky and Lovefoxxx. Him and her. His are rather scary on arrival, like a auto-tuned monster who lost his way in the recording of something beautiful, dark and twisted for a recent Kanye West album. To me it's Nosferatu, who is also terrifying on the surface, but if you just listen to what he has to say there is more than meets the ear. Then there's what she says in reply. Her voice containing what femininity sounds like: soft, caring, sensual, cautious. Here are their respective verses (in the full track these are repeated): 

HIM:
I'm giving you a night call to tell you how I feel
I want to drive you through the night, down the hills
I'm gonna tell you something you don't want to hear
I'm gonna show you where it's dark, but have no fear

HER:
There's something inside you
It's hard to explain
They're talking about you boy
But you're still the same


Besides making for a stylish opening this all works to set up the parable of Drive. The Driver (Ryan Gosling) and Irene (Carey Mulligan) embody these stanzas. There's not a lot of dialogue in the film. The soundtrack and its lyrics are part of the script and speaks for two leads. The film is mishmash of lovely scenes and brutal violence, they converge in that infamous elevator sequence later in the film (the same place the two pass each other in the opening credits themselves). The Driver himself has a sweet side and a sadistic side. Such is with "Nightcall." Such is with Drive.

What are your thoughts and interpretations of the opening credit sequence in Drive? Any other memorable Movie Music Moments from Refn films come to mind? (Only God Forgives has a few, but they'll have to wait for a future edition.) Please join the conversation in the comments below. Until next time, keep watching and stay listening.

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