A Neil Young Soundtrack Film
Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Neil Young News
Dead Man, USA 1995, directed by Jim Jarmush, story: Jim Jarmusch, Music: Neil Young, starring: Johnny Depp, Gary Farmer, Lance Henriksen, 121 min b/w
Director Jim Jarmusch's film Dead Man with a Neil Young soundtrack is considered by Greil Marcus in Salon Magazine to be "the best movie of the end of the 20th century." Among reasons that Marcus cites are: "For a film set more than a century ago, an electric guitar, playing a modal melody, surrounded by nothing, sounds older than anything you see on the screen."
Mr. YOUNG: Well, there are some similarities between "Greendale" and "Dead Man" because the approach that I took to the--they're kind of off-the-wall similarities, but they are nonetheless--the approach that I took to doing the score to "Dead Man" was I went back to--the concept was that "Dead Man" was basically a silent movie and that, you know, in the old days, in the '20s and stuff, when they had theaters, there'd be an organist or a piano player who would play along with the film, and that--and you'd get subtitles and the live music and that was it. So when I did the score for "Dead Man," I had the film projected on TV screens, and I had, like, about 20 TVs all around me, big ones, little ones, tiny little portables, and wide screens and everything hanging from the ceiling in a big semicircle all the way around me. No, in full circle. And then I had my instruments inside the circle.
So the instruments were always close enough for me to go from one to another, and they were all set up and the levels were all set, and everything was recording. So the film started, and I started playing the instruments. So I watched the show--I watched the film go through, and I played all the way through live. I'd put my guitar down and walk over and play the piano in the bar when there's a bar scene. I played the tack piano. Then when that scene was over, I'd walk over from the piano and go play the organ for another scene and then--a little pump organ I have, and then I'd pick up the electric guitar again and get all my distorted sounds out of that to go with the Indian drums and the things that were happening in the film. And basically, it was all a real-time experience. And so in that...
GROSS: Did you have it planned out before? I mean, did you compose things in advance, or was this all improvised?
Mr. YOUNG: I had a theme.
Mr. YOUNG: Well, I actually had two themes that I used. And one of them had to do with violence because there was a string of violence. So you kind of get the feeling that when you heard--you know, there was one theme that went with that and there was another type of subtheme that went with some of the other feelings in the film. So that's all I had.
Mr. YOUNG: And I just, you know--and the theme was very simple. It only had three notes in it, so I just, you know, replayed it, repeated it in different ways and explored it live during the playback of the film.
More Dead Man Film Reviews.
Neil Young & Crazy Horse in "Year of The Horse". Also, for more on Jim Jarmusch's films, see interview on directing Neil Young and Crazy Horse in a concert film.
Also, for more see Jim Jarmusch page.
Neil Young FilmsThrasher's Wheat - A Neil Young Archives