A confluence of factors have made this post inevitable today.
1. It’s “Cream Theme” week on the blog which makes it, in part, Eric Clapton week on the blog.
2. Yesterday was Martin Scorsese’s birthday. He turned 72 years young. Happy Birthday Martin!
3. Tribut’s Monday Night Blues series was music & film focused last night.
So how could I not post this morning about one of my all time favorite movie sequences set to popular music, the “Layla” sequence in Goodfellas?
You know the sequence. The crew of gangsters commits the famous Lufthansa heist and suddenly Jimmy (a flawless Robert De Niro) becomes desperately paranoid that other members of the crew will slip up and make mistakes that could get them all pinched. So what does he decide to do? Whack ’em, of course!
To begin the sequence, a couple of young kids trepidatiously approach a bright pink new cadillac – something seems wrong. As we move up and over the hood of the car we hear the opening chords of the instrumental section of Layla and see two dead and bloodied bodies sitting upright in the car – Jimmy’s first post-Lufthansa kill. Watch the full sequence here:
(Warning: The following clip contain somewhat gory fictional images of dead bodies. Viewer discretion is advised.)
This is such a classic sequence and it wouldn’t have been nearly as effective without the music. There’s certainly no thematic relationship between the song lyrics, which are not heard of course, and the images during the montage, but the music itself is just a perfect fit. Probably because it’s such a disturbingly funny contrast between the upbeat, positive feeling of the music and all those bloody gangster corpses strewn about all over New York. But as with so much in art, it’s more than just the contrast between positive and negative – this particular song perfectly correlates with these particular images. It would take a visionary director to see that in his head, and that’s why Martin Scorsese is one of the greats!
I guess my attachment to this montage is twofold: Goodfellas is probably my favorite Scorsese movie, with it’s colorful characters and plethora of memorable scenes, and Layla is without a doubt one of my all time favorite rock songs. In my opinion, it’s one of the very best ever written and recorded. I’ll have more to say about Layla down the road, but I’m going to save that for a future post. I believe it deserves it’s own.
– Brian R.
Further reading to Scorsese your day:
– Classic Rock 100.7 WZLX has an article about the classic rock music used in the movie
– Another one from Pop Matters including a nice description of Layla
– Paste Magazine has one on music in Scorsese’s films in general