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POP EYE

November 23, 1986|PATRICK GOLDSTEIN

SOUND-TRACK FEVER: Can music make a movie better? You'd never know it after hearing most of the awful sound tracks adorning current Hollywood fare, but carefully chosen music can add an entire new dimension to a film. The most intriguing current example is the sound track to "Something Wild," which features an eclectic array of pop talent, including UB40, David Byrne and Celia Cruz, the Fine Young Cannibals and Sonny Okosun. "The great thing about music is the way it can change our visual perceptions," explained director Jonathan Demme, a rock fanatic who was at the helm of the Talking Heads' "Stop Making Sense" film. "It was important in our film to give the audience a fresh glimpse of America and we thought music was the perfect vehicle. It's one thing to see characters driving down a country road, but another entirely when you add an exotic, reggae sound track. It gives you a totally new perspective on the countryside."

Demme hired Laurie Anderson and John Cale to help score the film. But several lesser-known performers are featured in the film, including Q Lazarus, whom Demme discovered driving a cab in New York. One of the key scenes in the film unfolds as the Motels' hit, "Total Control," is playing on the sound track. "It's one of my favorite sequences," Demme said. "Because it shows how your life can turn upside down during the course of a three-minute pop song."

Demme isn't particularly enchanted by current marketing trend toward "mega-hit" sound tracks. "A movie like 'Top Gun' was the ultimate concept operation, which is fine, because the album made a fortune and it obviously fertilized continuing interest in the film," he said. "But the downside to that approach is that you tend to rob the film of its musical identity, because everything stops and starts with the cuts from the sound track. It's very alienating. The best sound tracks are the ones where the audience doesn't really notice the music--then it's helping create a mood instead of taking you away from the scene."

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