This chapter explores the music soundtrack as a central element in contemporary popular films. It argues that the classical film musical's use of diegetic musical performance to express dramatic developments or emotional intensity has been effectively replaced by a 'postmodern' model of the film score in which a pre-recorded soundtrack is foregrounded, a soundtrack which may also be ironised through parody and distanciation. In exploring the relationship between music, performance and affect the discussion will focus on three important films made in the 1990s, Forrest Gump (1994), Pulp Fiction (1994) and Boogie Nights (1998), all of which deploy popular music as a way of evoking the cultural moments of 'the sixties' and 'the seventies'.1 While each in quite different ways effectively revisits and remakes the past for the present, all achieve this through the affective dimensions to pop music's address - its emotional discourse. The chapter therefore considers the cultural implications of this practice and its significance for the musical as a genre, as well as the ways in which it has contributed to the production of a 'preferred' history of the mid to late twentieth century.
The End of the Musical?
The apparent decline of the film musical as a popular genre needs to be understood in the context of wider shifts in popular music and in film production during the late twentieth century and in the early twenty-first century. Although musicals are no longer a regular feature of mainstream cinema, occasional examples of explicitly nostalgic versions of the genre, such as Pennies from Heaven (1981), Everyone Says I Love You (1996) and Chicago (2002), as well as self-consciously spectacular movies, such as Evita (1996) and Moulin Rouge (2001), have continued to secure audiences.2 Equally importantly, films exploiting popular new music and dance styles such as rap (Krush Groove, 1985) and the lambada (The Forbidden Dance, 1990) appeared throughout the 1980s and 1990s. This suggests that the relationship between popular music and popular cinema remains central even if it is differently mediated. Moreover, the tradition of the musical's affective use of music - to produce and organise an emotional response that is overtly presented as part of the film text - retains its importance in cinema. However, in place of (and sometimes as well as) the diegetically produced and visibly performed numbers of the traditional musical, the cinema audience now increasingly encounters a film soundtrack composed of discrete and previously released pop songs. This represents an important shift not only in the production of films, but also in their formal aspects, the configuration of the cinema audience and modes of reception - and in the idea of performance itself.
The use of the music score as a central element in a film's reception and marketing has its origins in the changing place of music in the history of popular culture as well as in specific cinema traditions. The retailing of song-sheets linked to mainstream feature films, for example, was part of Hollywood's marketing strategies from the 1930s onwards, and led to early versions of the soundtrack album as the major studios moved into the music business in the 1950s.3 Another significant factor was clearly the development of 'pop' music as a distinct genre separate from its older sibling, popular song. The arrival of rock 'n' roll in the 1950s rapidly led to its identification by Hollywood as an exploitable commodity in the production of films for the emergent teen audience, although Thomas Doherty notes that attempts to incorporate rock and pop music into the existing traditions of the musical, such as in those films that starred Elvis Presley, struggled to combine performance and narrative.4 In many cases, the musical performance was dealt with as a relatively discrete 'moment' outside the development of the story, as it had been in early sound films. It was not until the mid 1960s that the pop soundtrack became more fully integrated into film texts in terms of narrative as well as spectacle, but this process brought with it a clear shift away from the conventions of the integrated musical, a shift that would inform the ways in which the soundtrack film produces meaning. It was The Last Picture Show (1971) and American Graffiti (1973), both of which featured an early example of what Jeff Smith calls a 'compilation score' of recordings from the late 1950s and early 1960s, that would be most influential in developing the soundtrack as an alternative to standard orchestration, and in shaping its dominant cast as a vehicle for nostalgia.
Later, the cultural impact of Saturday Night Fever (1977), together with the increased integration of the entertainment industry, helped develop the use of the musical soundtrack as part of the cross-promotional 'packaging' of a film.5 In the 1980s, productions such as The Breakfast Club (1985) and Stand By Me (1986) were marketed in this way, while the fortuitous choice of Roy Orbison's song, 'Pretty Woman', as the title and soundtrack to the central montage sequence in the eponymous 1990 film further secured the relationship between the film score and pop nostalgia. The growth of the music video as a cultural form during this period - aided by cable-based music television channels such as MTV - shaped the development of a video-derived aesthetic of stylised images directly matched to the structure of a song in a way that clearly influenced the use of music in film. As 'the musical' with its live and immediate performance of feeling through song and dance declined, then, the cultural mediation of powerful images with music diversified. For Smith, the soundtrack film 'emerges as a curious hybrid of the musical and the traditional classical Hollywood score', offering both diversity and unity while also extending the frame of reference beyond the conventions of classical Hollywood to the wider arena of popular culture.6 It is this deployment of pop music to produce what Smith calls 'extramusical allusions' that is central to the power of the soundtrack film.
Musical soundtracks have become pivotal to the circulation of a film's extra-textual meanings, both in terms of marketing and at the different moments of reception. As David Shumway points out, whereas the goal of the traditional film score was to cue an emotional response in the viewer without calling attention to itself, recent sound tracks, consisting mainly of previously recorded material, are put together on the assumption that the audience will recognise the artist, the song, or, at a minimum, a familiar style.7
As Shumway goes on to argue, the affective experience of popular music is intensely powerful. By condensing meanings already in circulation through their intertextual relationship to a particular style of music, performer or historical moment the soundtrack can evoke emotions and associations without having to produce those elements directly through narrative. The 'back catalogue' of popular music thus becomes a cultural bank with (apparently) instant access.8 Like Smith, Shumway also identifies American Graffiti as the main precursor of the nostalgic soundtrack film and argues persuasively that its romanticised evocation of a 'lost era' of American innocence helped to shape the particular ideological cast of later texts.9 The score here, and in one of my case studies, Forrest Gump, operates as a quasi-ironic musical commentary on the public history of the US. It exploits the nostalgic pleasures and transgressive promise of pop music while also offering a narrative trajectory that is profoundly conservative. The use of music specifically to produce and organise the affect of nostalgia is hardly new, as Caryl Flinn notes in relation to the score of Star Wars (1977), which explicitly invokes Erich Korngold's romantic compositional style for adventure movies such as The Sea Hawk (1940).10 In the soundtrack movie, however, music is often overtly linked to a lost golden age, even if this is as relatively recent as the late 1980s.
The centrality of the compilation soundtrack therefore has particular significance when it comes to films which seek to tell or re-tell events from the 'just remembered past' (in Roger Bromley's phrase) of the years since the 1960s and 1970s.11 It is not coincidental that so many soundtrack films depend on nostalgia for much of their emotional impact, nor that the primary 'moments' for such nostalgia are the decades when youth culture was itself young. It is, significantly, the years of the 'long sixties' (identified by the historian Arthur Marwick as 1958 to 1974) that have been raided most regularly by films from the 1980s to the present.12 Such films are symptomatic of the wider cultural valorisation of youth in Western societies, as well as examples of a hard-headed desire to maximise the cinema audience by appealing to teenagers and their parents. The nostalgic tone of many of these texts is also symptomatic of contemporary anxieties about the present and future, marked by a tendency to mythologise the youth culture of more recent decades as well. It is noticeable that soundtrack movies produced during the 1990s such as Grosse Pointe Blank (1997) and The Wedding Singer (1997), for example, use the same techniques to commemorate the 1980s.13
Fredric Jameson has argued that nostalgic texts render a period, or more generally, a 'pastness', through a process of stylistic connotation in which meanings are invoked through cultural references.14 In its use of musical quotation and pastiche, in its knowingness about textuality and the relationship between texts, and above all, in its restructuring of the past at the level of style, I would add that the soundtrack film's nostalgia may be read as close to instant - and depoliticised - history.
The repackaging of pop music's back catalogue as nostalgia may therefore be understood to involve its emptying out as an expressively radical or oppos-itional form, something that has been impelled by pop's journey from the cultural margins and its current dominance in contemporary life. As Larry Grossberg argues, '[rock's] public and discursive existence has been transformed from a crisis of social rhetorics and shared historical events to a powerful and pervasive popular sensibility, infiltrating many of the spaces of social and everyday life'.15 For Grossberg, this process has involved 'rearticulating many of the possibilities of people's cultural investments'.161 want to go further here, however, to argue that it is because popular music has increasingly become part of the processes and pleasures of commodification that the idea of 'cultural investment' becomes crucial. The cinema audience's investment in the pleasures offered by a particular film is intensified and extended by the soundtrack. Indeed, where a film's narrative discourse is incoherent or fractured the musical soundtrack can 'fill the gaps' by speaking to the audience in ways in which the narrative cannot. It is quite possible that without its score of classic pop numbers Forrest Gump, for example, would not have had the degree of critical and popular success it enjoyed, and would certainly have been a very different kind of film.
Importantly, the increasing dominance of the soundtrack in contemporary film is not just a matter of stylistic or formal shifts in film production, it is also implicated in changing notions of musical performance. In the classical musical, performance is usually transparent and expressive of sincere emotions or it is linked to the theatrical presentation of 'talent' or star charisma; often, it may draw on a combination of these elements, but regardless of the specific musical sub-genre, the performance itself is represented as authentic. One of the most interesting features of the way in which the soundtrack film developed during the 1990s was its recovery and recasting of a version of diegetic performance that also drew on the use of pre-recorded music. While retaining the soundtrack score a number of films also included a 'moment' or moments of performance within the diegesis that clearly referenced the traditions of the musical.
One example of this is the British social comedy, The Full Monty (1997), which, like the other films discussed here, offered a nostalgically-tinted selection of mainly 1970s recordings on its soundtrack but also featured scenes in which its characters literally performed to diegetically-produced music. The most notable of these is not the striptease that ends the film but a much earlier scene set in a welfare office in which it gradually becomes clear that the 'soundtrack' music (Donna Summer's 'Hot Stuff') is actually diegetic: it is being played over a tannoy to the waiting claimants who include the six main characters. As the music plays, and in a highly comic development, the men find themselves irresistibly drawn into a full-scale performance of their dance routine, emerging one by one from the queue to perform together. Yet even while this is a pleasurable moment in the film, it is clear that the combined factors of the unlikely setting, the even more unlikely performers and Summer's 'sexy' song are being offered ironically rather than through the musical's traditional tropes of sincerity and emotional authenticity.17
When diegetic performance is absent from the narrative altogether the soundtrack may operate to distance the viewer from the events on-screen or to comment on the characters or their actions through ironic juxtaposition. It may, for example, work to invoke ideas or ideals that are supposed to belong more properly to a past, 'more innocent' or 'more romantic' age, as in the use of swing and ballads from the 1940s and 1950s in When Harry Met Sally (1989). In the soundtrack movie the meaning of 'performance' is thus transformed and fragmented. Instead of the 'real' visible and immediate presence of the 'author' or performer of the music - the singer or group - we are offered 'absent performances' that, in their uncoupling of originary production and authentic meaning may also recast the connotations produced by the music.
Forrest Gump's 'Vietnam': Recuperating Radicalism?
Forrest Gump is more than usually dependent on its soundtrack of vintage popular music to organise textual meaning. The film's use of recordings that span the period from the late 1950s through to the mid 1970s helps to signal narrative chronology and 'benchmark' major historical events as Forrest tells his life story to various listeners while sitting at a bus stop - a story that appears throughout most of the film in flashback. The use of such rock and pop 'classics' to punctuate and effectively comment on the narrative offers an extra layer of textual meaning, making the relationship between Forrest's interpretation of the events he witnesses and the audience's prior knowledge of that history more explicit.
The soundtrack also works to secure the film's particular status as a mainstream text through the range of recordings used and the nostalgic associations they mobilise. Forrest Gump's success is closely bound up with this process of recognition since the musical cues are explicitly linked to major events in the postwar history of the US, and iconic figures such as President John F. Kennedy, Elvis Presley and John Lennon are, through clever editing, represented 'meeting' the fictional Gump. However, it is the film's aural rather than visual foregrounding of sources from the high point of pop music's engagement with counter-cultural politics in the late 1960s - allied to its profoundly conservative morality - that makes it such a curiously polysemic text.
Indeed, while the film's narrative politics are, arguably, deeply reactionary, there are more radical possibilities in a musical soundtrack that stitches together the gaps in the story through popular recordings that interpellate the affective sensibility of the counter-culture. Quite simply, Forrest Gump is far from being an ideologically coherent text. This lack of coherence is especially evident in the 'Vietnam' scenes and montage sequences that make up the structural and ideological heart of the film, and in which its contradictions are played out through the disjunctions between narrative and soundtrack. The central sequence of these scenes opens with the sight of whirling helicopters and the instantly evocative guitar introduction to Jimi Hendrix's 'All Along the Watchtower', a song whose prior configuration as a 'Vietnam' text has 'always already' been produced, leaving the audience in no doubt as to where we are supposed to be. In addition, the film's referentiality, especially to Apocalypse
Now (1979) through its familiar semantic codes of helicopters and jungles, and to other 'Vietnam' films whose iconography is recognisable, intensifies this process. The earlier film had itself used a 'vintage' collection of hits from the late 1960s to produce a similar range of counter-cultural and 'Vietnam' references, as Robb Wright argues.18 Vietnam thus becomes 'Vietnam' - a play of signifiers as well as a 'real' event.
Yet it seems unlikely that the cinema audience is being invited to assume that the non-diegetic music is somehow also 'playing' in Forrest's mind, even though the relationship between diegetic tunes and the music overlayed on the soundtrack is sometimes deliberately blurred in this sequence. The Beach Boys' 'Sloop John B', for example, is initially heard broadcast from a radio visibly located within the diegesis at a military camp and then overlaps onto the soundtrack as the scene changes. The soundtrack acts instead as an additional form of commentary on the events being represented, and is particularly important to this film precisely because its narrator, Forrest himself, is rendered incapable of making wider political or social observations: he perceives the world largely through the narrow spectrum of his immediate experiences and interprets historical events only by reference to those parameters. The soundtrack thus returns the on-screen images to a wider cultural context while helping to organise the film's affect. This device enables the film to distance itself from the futility of the Vietnam adventure while simultaneously emphasising its hero's virtuous conformity. It also suggests, however, that the audience's understanding of the 'meaning' of Forrest Gump may not be circumscribed by the conservatism of its narrative, but may instead be shaped by a cultural investment in the values of the counter-culture and its emphasis on personal political agency.
The representational strategies of narrative may thus be destabilised through the use of a soundtrack 'commentary' because there is a discursive difference between the rhetoric of narrative and textual affect. The apparent movement of the film towards the reassertion of a conservative patriarchal order through narrative closure cannot wholly erase the way in which most of its central section effectively celebrates 'the sixties' aurally through its soundtrack. For some audiences, then, cultural investment in the soundtrack rather than the story may produce a rather different - more radical - reading of the film's politics.
None the less, it is the film's referentiality and stylisation about the 'history' it offers - whether political or cultural - that links Forrest Gump's use of its compilation score to that of other soundtrack films. The musical tracks are often used inconsistently: sometimes played almost at full length, sometimes intermittently returned to (as in the main theme of a traditional film orchestration) as devices to emphasise plot significance, emotional intensity and narrative development. By manipulating its musical sources in this way Forrest Gump effectively makes them more central to the film's meaning, precisely because they seem to address the audience so directly.
Pulp Fiction: Putting on the Style
Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction has largely been read as a postmodern thriller, with its refusal of linear narrative and its knowing referentiality to cinematic traditions and tropes. Like Forrest Gump, the film foregrounds its soundtrack, although the specific combination of classic and obscure recordings from the 1960s and 1970s, particularly the surf-rock of Dick Dale, the Centurions and the Tornados, works to produce Pulp Fiction as a self-consciously 'cool' text. This use of the mono-tracked, beat-heavy style of early 1960s US 'underground' pop mixed with 'classic' ballads such as Dusty Springfield's 'Son of a Preacher Man' is crucial to the film's postmodern knowingness. Even the (re)deployment of the music of the rock 'n' roll musician, Chuck Berry, as a master of 'the twist' in a key scene in the film suggests a playful refusal to fix references. Most importantly here, however, it is noticeable that the version of 'the sixties' offered by Pulp Fiction's musical soundtrack is certainly not that of the publicly recognised counter-culture featured in Forrest Gump, but is, rather, a more genuinely marginal form of sub-culture based around a lifestyle - surfing, 'hanging' - that is resolutely apolitical. In contrast to the latter's address to a clearly defined mainstream audience, Pulp Fiction explicitly solicits a younger, cinematically knowledgeable spectator, through its shock tactics and its cultural referencing. The soundtrack thus becomes another form of suture, stitching together divergences of story, plot and meaning.
As Jeff Smith observes, the film effectively uses the surf-rock instrumentals as its score, mobilising the particularity of their 'modal twang' to underline the film's dramatic shifts.19 For Ken Garner, the eclectic character of the selection of music used for this particular version of the score is fundamental to the emotional intensity produced by these shifts.20 In addition to this underlying musical emphasis in the film, however, Pulp Fiction contains one extraordinary 'musical moment' of performance that is curiously redolent of the classical film musical: the twist contest that is entered - and won - by Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman). This scene occurs in the text (although not in the story's chronology) shortly after a brutal execution, and marks an apparent shift in mood and focus as Vega is shown reluctantly taking his gangster boss's wife out for an evening's entertainment. 'Jack Rabbit Slim's', the setting for the contest, is a 1950s-themed restaurant staffed by Hollywood, pop and television lookalikes and serving over-priced versions of America's popular gastronomy. This location, with its pastiche staff and dependence on cultural trivia (Mia Wallace is able to identify one of the waitresses as 'Mamie van Doren', a celebrated B-movie actress), seems to offer a condensed and empty history of the popular culture of the US, its ambience produced by a flattening out of temporality and a stylised and parodic nostalgia that is both excessively knowing and, in Jameson's sense,
'schizophrenic', occupying the present and the past simultaneously and with a heightened intensity.21
Tarantino effectively invites this reading by exposing the emptiness of the charade: 'Marilyn Monroe' coos into a microphone unconvincingly, 'Buddy Holly' waits at tables and 'Ed Sullivan' hosts a twist contest rather than a primetime television show. Vega, when asked his opinion of the place, even describes it as a 'wax museum with a pulse'. Furthermore, while the diner setting seems to be a simulacrum of a 'fifties' restaurant - all chrome and plastic - the twist contest is a musical sequence which evokes 'the sixties', while Travolta's dance performance inevitably references 'the seventies' and his appearance in Saturday Night Fever in ways that are similarly condensed. 'The past' thus becomes a more general 'pastness' in which the stylistic signifiers of various decades are loaded into a single moment.
It is when the twist contest begins (to the diegetically produced music of Chuck Berry's record, 'You Never Can Tell') that Pulp Fiction briefly shifts from its habitually ironic discourse to one that references the conventions of the classical film musical and in so doing makes it possible for the film to inhabit an affective space that goes beyond stylistic allusion. A stage is cleared for the two dancers (Travolta and Thurman), an 'audience' is produced out of the other diners and an energetic and intense performance is presented, a performance that is, momentarily, wholly centred on by the film. For the duration of the dance, the camera - and the attention of the viewer - is completely focused on Travolta and Thurman, just as though they were a dance partnership like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Yet its continuous movement - panning up and down the bodies, isolating them as individuals not a couple - is radically different from the tradition of the classical musical, and helps to destabilise any expectations of a romantic or sexual climax. While in the classical musical such a dance would perhaps signal the awakening of desire and would be followed by a scene in which the romance was developed, in Pulp Fiction it is followed by one of the most graphically shocking moments in the film, in which Thurman's character overdoses. Moreover, while the dance itself is represented as a peculiarly intense performance, an intensity that is partly produced by the camera's focus on the stars' apparently mutual gaze, it is unclear what this intensity is 'for' or 'about', or even whether it is genuinely directed by the two characters at each other or is simply a further element in the postmodern play of signifiers and the intensification of the present that Jameson describes.
It is, however, the use of Chuck Berry's music for this scene that briefly disrupts the deployment of the compilation score as a part of the film's randomised stylisation of history in the most powerful way. Where the tinny electronic sound of surf-rock emphasises Pulp Fiction's artifice as a constructed text, reminding the audience of its studio-based production, Berry's authentic - as opposed to 'authentic' - bluesy rock and the song's honky-tonk piano emerge as a relatively transparent and unmediated style of popular music. Its deployment at the only point in the film where narrative and music are fully integrated means that its dramatic function is rather different to that of the other soundtrack recordings, working to suggest that this is the one moment in the film when the affective discourse of the music may overturn the disaffective know-ingness of the narrative.
Crucially, Pulp Fiction is too strongly marked by a discourse of emotional detachment for this affective moment to extend beyond its immediate performance, and the film resists the more conventionalised tropes of nostalgia that mark other texts discussed here. But this does not mean that its soundtrack is 'innocent', as I have indicated. Perhaps most importantly, the film explicitly allies its ironic discourse to the performance of masculinity, both in its narrative emphasis on different kinds of male power and in its use of iconography allied to specific musical numbers. In the final scene, having successfully routed an armed robber in a coffee shop, Vega and his partner, Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson), stroll outside and into the end credits to the sound of 'Surf Rider' by The Lively Ones; their jaunty swagger a significant reassertion of masculine power that is all the more potent because we have seen Vega gunned down an hour earlier in the film in a scene that takes place - chronologically - a day later.
In the end, Pulp Fiction is about style as well as being stylised. Its deployment of the cultural signifiers of the recent past and especially in the use it makes of its soundtrack to invite a 'knowing' response from the audience means that it evacuates the wider social context from the text. In this way, Tarantino's manipulation both of time and genre in the film, and the indeterminacy of scenes such as the twist contest, not only subvert the possibility of linear meaning, they amplify the text's concern with the surface of history. Where the soundtrack of Forrest Gump struggles with the narrative to produce a 'preferred version' of the 1960s - either as the decade of personal emancipation and social revolution or the period of unprecedented moral decline - the score of Pulp Fiction floats away from a specific chronology or historical context, because the linearity of 'history' is too limiting.
Boogie Nights: The Last Days of Disco
With a different cultural agenda but a very similar deployment of its soundtrack of vintage disco hits, Paul Thomas Anderson's sympathetic account of the film pornography industry's heyday and decline, Boogie Nights (1997), uses music to evoke the 'feel' of a historical period - the mid to late 1970s. The film deploys the music of The Commodores, The Emotions, Marvin Gaye and other soul-inflected performers to emphasise a very particular reading of 'the seventies' in which the disco becomes the site of a kind of innocent excess. Paradoxically, in
Figure 11 The disco as a site of innocent excess where sex and dancing are disconnected in Boogie Nights.
Source: (New Line / The Kobal Collection / Lefkowitz, G ).
a narrative about a part of the film industry whose sexual explicitness had, until the 1970s and the mainstream success of Deep Throat (1972), made its history fairly obscure, Anderson suggests that the relative frankness of seventies pornography's representation of sex transforms other kinds of social relations.
Indeed, the link between disco dancing and sex that is evoked in Saturday Night Fever is neatly and engagingly reversed. Rather than going to the disco in search of sexual partners, Jack Horner's 'family' of porn stars go to enjoy themselves without any additional agendas: to dance. In a central montage sequence that, in its own way, resembles the intensity of the twist contest in Pulp Fiction as well as its 'knowingness' about the cultural artefacts of the past, the main character, Eddie (or 'Dirk Diggler' as he is styled in the porn films in which he stars - played by Mark Wahlberg) is shown getting ready to go to the disco: blow-drying his hair and choosing a Travolta-like patterned silk shirt. These shots are paralleled with moments from 'Dirk's' increasingly successful performance as a porn star. This montage then segues into a full-blown pastiche of the seminal disco-dancing sequences in Saturday Night Fever. Eddie, surrounded by his friends from the porn industry, performs an energetic and characteristically 'seventies' disco dance at the centre of a light-studded dancefloor, ending with a finger-pointing pose clearly imitative of Travolta's. This is a moment of spectacular performance that briefly invokes the late film musical's use of an exhibitionist solo dance by the male star to signify virility and a new kind of masculinity (such as Kevin Bacon's in Footloose, 1984, for instance). Eddie's performance on the dance floor is linked to his ability as a sex star, and the spectacular aspects of the latter are signified by the success of the former. Curiously, for a film that wants to romanticise the 'traditional' (cinematic) version of the porn industry, Boogie Nights here seems to require dance to represent the jouissance of sex.
At the same time, the film's narrative nostalgically invokes the 1970s as a moment in which sex is omnipresent, 'safe' and overwhelmingly heterosexual. Not only is the sole significant gay male character represented as a podgy misfit with a crush on 'Dirk', the centrality of Latino and gay culture to disco style and the hedonism of the 1970s is ignored. The film also largely evades the seamier aspects of the pornography industry (including its control by the mafia) and never fully addresses the problematic issues of sexual power and consent or the production of desire. The version of 'the seventies' that is produced by Boogie Nights is, therefore, curiously similar to the one nostalgically evoked in The Full Monty, a past apparently before feminism as well as before AIDS, in which phallic masculinity can be celebrated rather than problematised. These tensions and contradictions, between narrative and discourse and the overt production of meaning on the one hand and the utopian possibility of exceeding meaning - or reconfiguring it in new ways - through the jouissance of music on the other, are characteristic of the soundtrack film's struggle to rework the past.
Crucially, the repackaging and re-presentation of pop's musical history for contemporary consumption has involved the recasting of other kinds of history too. The soundtrack film has been part of a wider cultural process whereby the canon of classic pop has been raided and redeployed as part of postmodernism's voracious approach to the past. Television advertising during the 1980s and 1990s, for example, did something very similar with Motown soul and early rock 'n' roll recordings, and more recently increasingly instant nostalgia has been evoked through the use of 1980s and early 1990s pop recordings in films such as Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997).
Yet because the films explored here are not concerned to 'sell' a single product so much as a particular understanding of the cultural significance of past events, their soundtracks are available to a wide range of cultural investments on the part of the audience, investments that may diverge quite radically from the ideological trajectory of the narrative. The representational strategies of narrative may even be destabilised through the soundtrack because of the significant discursive difference between the rhetoric of narrative and textual affect. Jameson's argument that 'the pseudohistorical' has displaced 'real' history may therefore be seen to be too totalising, and too concerned with cognitive rather than affective responses to texts.22 The affective power of the music may offer a source of resistance to the meanings offered by the narrative by escaping the discursive practice of storytelling, or may even work to transform its significance through the soundtrack equivalent of the musical's moment of performance.
1. 'Affect' has come to be used in cultural studies and is deployed here as a noun to describe an intensification of bodily drives or physical sensations that may arise in response to a particular cultural form or mediation, and that differs from the directly cognitive processing of meaning. For example, Eric Shouse argues that 'music provides perhaps the clearest example of how the intensity of the impingement of sensations on the body can 'mean' more to people than meaning itself'. 'Feeling, emotion, affect', M/C Journal 8: 6 (December 2005), <http://journal. media-culture.org.au/0512/03-shouse.php>.
2. Pennies from Heaven began life as a Dennis Potter-penned series for BBC television in 1976. Interestingly, both the film and the series, like Potter's later masterpiece, The Singing Detective (BBC, 1986) feature lip-synched performances of classic songs from the 1930s in a way that prefigures some uses of the soundtrack discussed here.
3. For a detailed discussion of this process see Jeff Smith, The Sounds of Commerce: Marketing Popular Film Music (New York and Chichester, Sussex: Columbia University Press, 1998).
4. See Thomas Doherty, Teenagers and Teenpics: The Juvenilization of American Youth in the 1950s (London: Unwin Hyman, 1988): 82.
5. For example, Jeff Smith points out that one of the first soundtrack films to integrate music and narrative effectively, Footloose (1984), using the principles of what he calls the 'jukebox musical', depended heavily on performers signed to Columbia's music subsidiary, CBS, to provide the music: 203.
7. David R. Shumway, 'Rock 'n' roll sound tracks and the production of nostalgia', Cinema Journal 38: 2 (Winter 1999): 36-7.
8. Importantly, copyright restrictions as well as the specific economic relationship between performers, record labels and the global corporations that own them actually considerably limit what may be accessible. The Beatles, for example, have never allowed any of their own recordings to be used in compilation albums or for soundtracks to films other than their own productions.
10. Caryl Flinn, Strains of Utopia: Gender, Nostalgia and Hollywood Film Music (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992): 153.
11. See Roger Bromley, Lost Narratives: Popular Fictions, Politics and Recent History (London: Routledge, 1988).
12. Arthur Marwick, The Sixties: Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy and the United States, c.1958-c.1974 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998). Films that draw explicitly on this 'moment' using a soundtrack of vintage pop include: American Hot Wax (1978), The Big Chill (1984), Dirty Dancing (1987) and Good Morning, Vietnam (1987).
13. See Lesley Speed, 'Together in electric dreams: films revisiting 1980s youth',Journal of Popular Film and Television 28: 1 (Spring 2000): 22-9.
14. Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (London and New York: Verso, 1991): 19.
15. Larry Grossberg, We Gotta Get Out of This Place: Popular Conservatism and Postmodern Culture (New York: Routledge, 1992): 209.
17. For a discussion of this film and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) see Estella Tincknell and Deborah Chambers, 'Performing the crisis: fathering, gender and representation in two 1990s films', Journal of Popular Film and Television 29: 4 (Winter 2002): 146-55.
18. Robb Wright, 'Score vs song: art, commerce and the H factor in film and television', in Ian Inglis (ed.), Popular Music and Film (London: Wallflower Press, 2003): 14.
20. Ken Garner, ' "Would you like to hear some music?": music in-and-out-of-control in the films of Quentin Tarantino', in K. J. Donnelly (ed.), Film Music: Critical Approaches (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2001): 198.
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