Portrait of Phil Johnson

Phil Johnson's Filmic Mixtape

Posted on Wed 15 Nov 2017

Filmic co-creator Phil Johnson shares his 'Filmic Mixtape': his selection of inspirational film and music collaborations.

Phil Johnson, St. George's contemporary music curator and co-creator of Filmic shares his inspirations for the season, explaining why each of his choices are ultimate examples of exemplary collaboration between music and film.

Phil says:

We can all drift around the city creating our own filmic version of reality. Bristol is a very filmic place. Some of our most famous bands Massive Attack, Portishead – quote from and refer to the conventions of film music, with the result that the ‘Bristol sound’ is, essentially, cinematic.

The first three tracks from my own mid-80s mixtape 'Music for the film in your head' are 'Diary of a Taxi Driver' by Bernard Herrmann, from Taxi Driver; 'Generique' by Miles Davis, from Lift to the Scaffold and Joe Jackson and strings from 'Round Midnight.

a personal, non-definitive choice...

  • Vertigo with music by Bernard Herrmann
    (Dir: Alfred Hitchcock, USA, 1958)
    Some films are unimaginable without their music. Bernard Herrmann's score for Hitchcock's 'Vertigo' animates the whole film, adding forward-driving momentum to the enigmatic, stop-start story, together with a spookily unreal undercurrent of haunted mystery.
  • Woman in the Dunes with music by Toru Takemitsu
    (Dir: Hiroshi Teshigahara, Japan, 1964)
    Like Herrmann with Hitchcock, Toru Takemitsu's music for his three films with the director Teshigahara, which also include 'Pitfall' (1962) and 'The Face of Another' (1966), are as important as the images in determining the audience's response. Takemitsu draws from ethnic sources, found sound and European modernism including musique concrete to create a disturbing audio-collage that parallels the story's weird clash of culture and ritual.
  • Battle of Algiers with music by Ennio Morricone
    (Dir: Gillo Pontecorvo, Italy, 1966)
    Sometimes, music in film can be most effective when used sparingly (as in Michel Legrand's masterly score for 'The Go-Between'). Here, Ennio Morricone's martial, tension-inducing rhythms - big on twanging bass guitar! - are contrasted with 'natural' sounds - a muezzin's call to prayer, street noise, silence - while an Arabic flute motif leads gradually into the grand, classical strings of 'Ali's Theme' to invoke a suffering Christ-figure as the hero is carted off to prison.
  • Get Carter with music by Roy Budd
    (Dir: Mike Hodges, UK, 1971)
    There's not a lot of Roy Budd's music in 'Get Carter' but everyone remembers the shimmering, distressed-keyboards theme, with Chris Karan's tabla drums echoing the train's rhythm as Jack Carter returns to Newcastle, and to his death. "Roy's main theme was absolutely terrific", the director Mike Hodges told me in an interview, "and buried in the introduction was this very simple introduction that I asked him to extrapolate into an extra track on the vibes, and which I then used at various points in the film."
  • Ascenseur Pour L'echafaud with music by Miles Davis
    (Dir: Louis Malle, France, 1958)
    The legend behind Miles Davis's music for 'Lift to the Scaffold' is that Louis Malle simply projected the film on a sheet in the studio and Miles and his musicians improvised as it played. In fact, there were two recording sessions and Miles prepared beforehand, even requesting a piano in his dressing room on a series of French concerts so he could work on the score. It's the ultimate noir-jazz soundscape: lonely, existential trumpet heard against rain-sodden Paris streets.
  • In the Mood for Love with music by Various
    (Dir: Kar Wai Wong, Hong Kong/France, 2000)
    Original music by Umebayshi Shigeru and Michael Galasso is combined with Chinese popular song from the Forties and Nat 'King' Cole's Spanish-language Fifties hits to form a kind of audio mise en scene that gives Wong Kar Wai's film such a distinctive and doomy, ultra-Romantic feel.
  • Goodfellas with music by Various
    (Dir: Martin Scorcese, USA, 1990)
    From the Moonglows' 'Sincerely' to Sid Vicious singing 'My Way', 'Goodfellas' creates a powerful digest of everyday pop fluff - the potency of cheap music? - that sums up the passing from one era to another, and from its hero's innocence to experience. Like 'Mean Streets' and numerous other Scorsese films (and who could forget the use of 'All the Way to Memphis' at the beginning of 'Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore'?), it represents a jukebox-approach to film music that can be as effective as any written-to-order score.
  • Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters with music by Philip Glass
    (Dir: Paul Schrader, USA/Japan, 1985)
    Philip Glass's original score to Paul Schrader's intense, colourfully operatic biopic of Japanese author Yukio Mishima contains some of his most satisfying music and perfectly complements the formally daring structure of the film, which interleaves Mishima's life with fictional episodes from his novels. The closing sequence is particularly successful, the swirling music building towards a dizzying climax.
  • Hana-Bi with music by Joe Hisaishi
    (Dir: Takeshi Kitano, Japan, 1997)
    Takeshi Kitano's philosophical rogue-cop flick features a lush orchestral score by Joe Hisaishi that sounds at times like a pastiche of classic French thrillers. Re-working a small number of motifs endlessly, the music connects the generic revenge-movie action to placid Zen meditations on the meaning of life, ending with a dance-like prelude to death on a beach.
  • Touch of Evil with music by Henry Mancini
    (Dir: Orson Welles, USA, 1958)
    Famed for its opening crane-shot sequence set to composer Henry Mancini's sleazy, Latin-jazz mambo, Orson Welles' bizarre noir-thriller is one of the first films to use elements of the new rock 'n' roll craze, evident in the leather-clad gang members on screen and Mancini's rocking, guitar and sax boogie (played by Barney Kessel and Plas Johnson, among other Hollywood session-men), on the soundtrack.

Read Filmic co-creator Mark Cosgrove's selection.