Monday, March 30, 2009

MOVIES: #2 Electric Dreams

Computer geek meets beautiful, intelligent classical musician. Love ensues. They live happily ever after. I tried to make that my life story. I failed. But I have a sort-of movie version to watch when memories overtake me. Electric Dreams from that most Orwellian of all years, 1984, is my second favourite movie of the twentieth century.

Nerdly Lenny von Dohlen decides to go computer shopping and brings home parts of a computer that are vaguely Apple AND Commodore AND Radio Shack-like, circa 25 years ago. He sets up the computer in the living room of his apartment and starts to design the perfect brick for buildings. A champagne spill interrupts the process and suddenly, von Dohlen's Miles has a new buddy, Edgar the sentient computer.

While Miles is away at work, Edgar starts learning things. At one point, he overhears Miles' new neighbour, Madeline, played with absolute perfection by then new-comer Virginia Madsen, practicing a piece with her cello. Edgar and Madeline then engage in playing Giorgio Moroder's The Duel, a reworking of what is commonly thought of as J.S. Bach's Minuet in G Major, although a quick search on Wikipedia introduces the possibility it was actually written by another composer, Petzold. Whatever the origin, Moroder turns the piece in a central part of the score to the movie and it's unforgettable for weeks after hearing it in the movie (several times).

Now, I have to admit that I can't tell you much about classical music today. I blew my chance when I had an accomplished violinist in front of me regularly. It's not that I don't appreciate classical music, it's just that the I rarely found pieces that lifted me. The Duel does that. Every time. Despite the memories it brings back. And technically, it really doesn't fall into the classical music category. It's electropop, as is most of the soundtrack to this movie.

And what a soundtrack! Moroder mixed in his own stuff with lots of Electric Light Orchestra and Culture Club. Phil Collins gets in there with his redo of the Supremes' You Can't Hurry Love. They even find a way to get Dale Evans into the ending with Happy Trails to You, minus the long-dead Roy Rogers, of course. And there's enough actual classical stuff to keep the more refined listener happy, albeit at a slightly faster pace than usual.

But enough about the music and onto the music-maker. While this wasn't Madsen's debut, she only had one other movie to her credit before this one. She plays a struggling cellist who has to contend with the band lech while striking up the charming little romance with Miles. Von Dohlen plays nerd for the whole movie, pop-bottle bottom glasses and all. Miles basically falls in love with Madeline on sight. Takes her a little while to come around, but come around she does. It's all very feel-good, until the unwitting cause of their blooming love butts in.

Edgar, still a nameless computer at that point, but one with Bud Cort's voice, becomes jealous of Madeline's relationship with Miles. For a brief period of time, the movie turns into a stalker movie of sorts, as Edgar interferes with the relationship, coming close to killing Miles and Madeline. Only when love is truly explained to Edgar does he voluntarily take a step back and allow the young lovers to move on without him (it?). All of San Francisco celebrates to the vibe of Together in Electric Dreams.

Now, I obviously have a connection of a personal sort to this movie. My heart leaps up my throat every time I watch the initial The Duel playing and see Madsen crinkle her nose in joy while playing her instrument. I remember that manifestation all too well when I saw Laura do it. But regardless if you always hated 80's music, this is a best-of collection wrapped around a beautiful love story.

If nothing else, will your definition of love match the movie's?

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