Monday, May 11, 2009

Movie Studies - Ralph Bakshi's ~ American Pop (1981))



Before you read onwards, this post consist
Spoilers from the film American Pop (1981) directed by Ralph Bakshi.

So if you haven't watch it, go watch it first, it's a great movie especially if you like life movies and eclectic music genre.


Well... Saturday was "Watch A Movie" day ~ watch a movie, dissect it and study it. Compiled the studies into 14 pages and could have gone more for a few more scenes, but times up, maybe will write a part 2 for it in the future. The other scene which I didn't but would love to write about would be "Tony and Pete Bench Scene", a great scene to study character and subtle drama acting, twist and turning point.

Please pardon my un~grammar~ness hand writing with horrible spelling, was writing it on the fly as ideas, thoughts and opinions randomly pop into my head about the movie, so enjoy it if you can....

I won't be posting everything about the movie here, it'll just flood my blog if you want there's a link at the bottom of the page where you can go download the full movie study notes :) .... What I would be sharing is a scene, "Benny's Piano Suicide Scene". Especially about the characters behavior and thoughts during this scene as well as the importance of it.

Benny's Piano Suicide Scene

I chose to break down this scene because of the quiet, slow and subtle but powerful dramatic ending for Benny. Soft and subtle because through out the scene is mainly focused on the ruined abandoned interior and Benny playing the piano, for most of the time you hear him playing the piano and some shuffling of feet and furniture and then ending with brutal punctuation of the machine gun.

Besides the mood it was set in, the main reason I chose to this scene was the compelling characteristics of both characters and it's subtle deep underlying ~ well it's WW2, one of them a Nazi, the other a US soldier, face to face and at gun point, yet they don't start going berserk killing each other off, how much more irony can that get?

The scene a calm one, scene fades in and fades out when it's done, it's as though to showcase the last performance of Benny, the song he plays is like a lure for someone to look for him, an announcement to the surroundings that he is here and he is doing what he loves doing, playing the piano.

The dramatic power of how music could change a person, to make him take a different course of action. When Benny found out a Nazi soldier was behind him, he decided to play *"Lili Marleen". This song stopped the Nazi soldier from Acting on his primary objective ~ to kill Benny. Why did he stop? Why didn't he just killed Benny off? By procrastinating his actions he could have been shot by a US soldier, the song Benny was playing could have been an alert that Nazi was in the vicinity. So why risk blowing the cover? From my point of view, I believed that the Nazi Soldier knows Benny will one way or another killed by him, he knows Benny knows that too, the Nazi also knew he's not going to survive much longer either, injured and once he guns down Benny the other US soldiers will come swarm and surround him. So, he lets Benny finish the song before finishing him ~ in a way a gesture of appreciation, he even wishes thanks too.

Benny being Benny the person he is, he's cool, mellow fella, never really surprised or shocked maybe due to the upbringing of his mafia family but never followed their footsteps, just being him, alone in his own world of music. I feel that this scene plays an important role in Benny's life episode, not just to end his story in the movie but also to play out his true character and who he really is and why he really joined the army. The reason Benny gave his father was that he wanted a real job, as well as just married and going to be a father to Tony. But in truth, Benny just wanted to get away from his father, his wife and "The Family", he wanted to be free ~ even if it means dying and this scene proves it, it was suicide not execution that killed Benny.

When Benny found a piano in an abandoned house, he went to it and started playing... who in the right mind would start playing a piano in the middle of a battle field, it gave out his location and not only expose him but his comrades to the enemy. This shows that he doesn't really care for his nor his comrades life when it comes to music, that's all he cares about. When a Nazi soldier came out of hiding and sneaks up to Benny just to be foiled by a chair, Benny doesn't reach for his gun or tried to escape or begged for his life, he turned back to the piano and played "Lili Marleen" a German love song ... WHY?! Why even a German song? Why not just continue playing the same song.... As surprised as Benny could ever be, he cared less if he was killed or not, in a way he got what he wanted ~ freedom, freedom to live his life, free of the corrupt. he never wanted the luxurious life of the Mafia nor the burden of other peoples issues, forced to marry a Mafia's Daughter for his father as well as the responsibilities of a father to the child that was about to be born. All he ever wanted to do was play the piano, that's all. So when faced with the Nazi soldier, he knew his time has come, he also knew that the Nazi soldier wasn't going to last much longer as well. Being the eccentric prodigy pianist, Benny decided to play "Lili Marleen" for the success of the Nazi's kill ~ Benny. He knew that it would be meaningful both to the Nazi Soldier because would most likely be the last happy moment in his life to hear this song and to Benny the appreciation and opportunity to play it. Benny knew both of them are going to enjoy it and both of them are going to die and this is the last joy both of them are going to feel.

This scene had a simple setup, one word dialog (danka), maximum drama in characters minimal action performance and the choices they make, the underlying of the scene.

Mood studies, water colour on ink. Deep values of cool hues, purple, blue, slate blue, D.maroon, D.olive, D.brown, shades of grey.

* "Lili Marleen" Wikipedia

ww2 Lili Marleen (1939) Youtube

Well I think that's more than enough for now... go watch the movie it's a good one but might not be every one's cup of tea. It was certainly for me :)

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Download the Full American Pop Movie study notes :)

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