On The Hunt for Planes, Trains and…Candy-O?

Some band from Canada ARCADE FIRE NEVER does anything the easy way. And, for that, I am thankful. Case in point: During the recording of 2007’s Neon Bible they could have simply picked up a synthesizer at Guitar Center for the track, “Intervention.” Instead, they purchased a church with a working pipe organ for the song. They seemingly never take the straight path between A and B, I mean they sing a couple of songs in French. Nobody speaks French anymore. So, when it came time to let fans preview their latest record via an album stream, Arcade Fire avoided an easy out. Instead of leaking one of those narcolepsy-inducing lyric videos the difficulty-obsessed Montreal superstars dropped Reflektor as a full length movie sync.

Essentially an 85-minute music video, Reflektor was spliced together with the 1959 art house classic Black Orpheus. The album’s Caribbean flavor and grit lined up surprisingly well with the vibrant imagery of Rio De Janeiro. There were sublime moments where themes align, scenes change with songs and the music perfectly embeds itself as the soundtrack to a 55-year-old film.

http://youtu.be/dGEVUHkJG1o

(Sadly, the original REFLEKTOR sync has been removed since the album was released on Tuesday)

This, of course, led me to revisit the Grandaddy of movie syncs, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and the movie classic, The Wizard of Oz. This stoner right of passage retains its power to amaze, even though its status as accidental or intentional still sparks Paul-is-dead levels of debate among record geeks. Anyone who has seen Dorothy’s black and white world transition into stunning color just as “Money” cues up can’t deny that something magical is happening.

http://youtu.be/0gXvVUg-VAE

I began thinking, is that it? Are OZ and Orpheus the alpha and omega of movie syncs? I started playing detective in search of more AV mashups. Turns out, there is a Lincoln Tunnel-sized rabbit hole to disappear into here, climaxing with none other than John Candy and Ric Ocasek.

According to MTV, the  phenomenon known as Dark Side of the Rainbow first came to light in the mid-Nineties. This, of course, seemed highly suspicious. As I do with most journalistic endeavors, I poured tens of minutes into researching who, exactly, first discovered these two works pair up so nicely together. I always assumed this happened back in the Seventies. The answers, sadly, were inconclusive. Research failed to turn up any mentions of the Oz sync prior to the MTV report, so, for now, we are left to believe some flannel-clad, Vedder-bearded poly-sci major was first to get Pink Floyd’s proverbial chocolate into Judy Garland’s peanut butter.

So, much like asking where the term “The whole nine-yards” came from, the big bang moment of movie syncs remains a little hazy. That’s part of the fun and the mystery, frankly. While searching in frustration, I was surprised to find the phenomenon of albums and Hollywood films going twinsies doesn’t end with Dorothy returning to Kansas or even the Arcade Fire’s latest stunner. Not by a long shot.

I recalled rumors for much of the late Nineties that Siamese Dream blends perfectly with Disney’s Fantasia. I never tried it, but heard from friends that there were pretty cool moments of synchronicity. Oddly, Billy Corgan and Mickey are just the tip of the somebody’s-got-way-too-much-time-on-their-hands iceberg. My sync sleuthing led me to a mysterious man in Atlanta, going by the name “The DeVille,” who runs a sort of Silk Road for Audio-visual junkies: Syncmovies.com In what must be a trademark lawyer’s playground, DeVille sells synced DVDs of movies and albums in 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound for about $20. While his catalog of 21 films include natural partners like Darkside of the Rainbow, other matchups seem to demand herbal enhancement to appreciate the full effect. Such as:

  • Ziggy Starfighter (The Last Starfighter synced up with Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust)
  • Nevermind the Memento (Christopher Nolan’s Memento timed up with Nirvana’s grunge classic)
  • Planes, Trains and Candy-O (Yep, you guessed it. John Candy’s Planes, Trains and Automobiles perplexingly backed by the Cars’ new wave masterpiece, Candy-O)

According to Rolling Stone, results were mixed on DeVille’s film and record buddy system. Some selections got mind boggling reviews for their symbiosis, while others simply seemed like vague coincidences. But, still, you had to admire the guy for trying. You also had to pity his bank account for the seemingly unavoidable legal headaches ahead.

Staring at the onscreen poetry of Reflektor, engulfed by the vivacious colors of Carnivál and appreciating its coincidental magic (As far as I know, the band made no claim that the movie influenced the album) made me hungry for more quality syncs like this. While Arcade Fire’s Brazilian boogie wound down, my mind naturally started thinking about Chunk and Brian Wilson. Had anyone ever thought about how Goonies has a lot of similarities to Pet Sounds? I mean, there’s teenage alienation and, you know, Baby Ruths or something. Just picture the Truffle Shuffle set to “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times.”

DeVille, I hope you are listening.

About Patrick Wensink

Patrick Wensink (@patrickwensink) is the author of the bestselling novel Broken Piano for President and the essay collection Everything Was Great Until it Sucked. His essays have appeared in the New York Times, Oxford American, Salon and many less-reputable sources. He lives in Louisville, KY.
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