The Kinks are sort of the forgotten member of the British Invasion bands. Everyone knows and loves the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and The Who to varying degrees. You don’t find nearly as much excitement for The Kinks, which is a shame. Maybe it’s that they were such obvious fans of the movies that draws me to them. However you slice it, I’m a huge fan. And a lot of their songs are fertile territory for potential films. Examples:
Sybilla looked into her mirror. Priscilla looked into the washing machine. And thus begins the tale of two perfect foils, one trapped in suburbia, the other a free spirit. There’s even a character arc. Lyrically, it plays out a bit like a Bergman movie.
Some Mother’s Son
Someone has killed some mother’s son today/ head blown up by some soldiers gun. It’s all about World War I and the carnage inflicted. Hearing the lyrics, it’s hard not to envision a 21st century version of films like All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) or Wooden Crosses (1932). Technically, there’s already a Helen Mirren film from 1996 of the same name, but it’s not at all about World War I.
Here’s a story about a sinner. He used to be a winner who enjoyed a life of prominence and position. There’s a built-in character arc if I’ve ever seen one- a middle class executive who starts with a “life of prominence and position” but ends up a “sinner”, “a slave to demon alcohol”. It even includes jilted wives and floozies that lead the man to drink.
You see before you a truly broken man. When it gets to midnight, I don’t know who I am. I hate to state the obvious but this is a werewolf movie. There are even other obvious ways that it might work and I’m not going to say it out loud but you don’t really have to read too hard between the lines.
The gas bills and the water rates, and payments on the car/ Too scared to think about how insecure you are/ Life ain’t so happy in your little Shangri-la. In a lot of ways, the Kinks presaged movies like American Beauty (1999) and Revolutionary Road (2008) with this scathing ditty about the trap of suburbia.
Dead End Street
No money coming in. The rent collector’s knocking, trying to get in. The song works as a critique of poverty and the slums. It’s easy to see this as something very similar to Kurosawa’s Dodes’ka-den (1970).
In man’s evolution he has created the cities and the motor traffic rumble, but give me half a chance and I’d be taking off my clothes and living in the jungle. There are lots of ways this could work. It could work as the happy ending to our Shangri-La character- rather than a man being worn down by bills and the ennui of everyday life, he throws everything away and goes off to live in the woods. It could work as a screwball comedy in the vein of 80’s SNL movies, with some goofy family man finally snapping and moving his family to the middle of nowhere. Whatever the case, the notion of someone throwing everything away and simplifying their lives by unplugging from society is a really great idea.
Little man’s weak and big man’s strong. Everyone wants to be King Kong. While we’re on the topic of monkeys, how about a movie with a big nasty greedy corporate asshole? It’d certainly be timely and not in a condescending way (I’m looking at you, The Company Men). You can give the guy his comeuppance if you want, which might just launch it into cult hit status. By the way, there’s some really cool animation in this video, apparently from Tadanori Yokoo.
Rosie, Won’t You Please Come Home?
Rosie, won’t you please come home? Mama don’t know where you’ve been. Strangely, I’d never heard this song until around the time I started watching AMC’s The Killing– a TV show about a dead girl named Rosie. And as I watched (and wound up disappointed by) The Killing, I couldn’t help but wonder how great a movie you could make about the dissolution of Rosie’s family in her absence. A film with fresh characters but a similar premise would make for dynamite drama.
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My Life in Original Motion Picture Soundtracks, Part I
My Life in Original Motion Picture Soundtracks, Part II