Posted: January 16th, 2009
A heap of wrinkled laundry led me to discover Wes Andersonâ€™s 1998 film, Rushmore, as well as its soundtrack. I had graduated high school a year earlier and was back at home after my first year in college, ironing in front of the television (what else to do in the â€˜burbs on a viciously humid July afternoon? It seemed obvious at the time…), when I stumbled across a movie on cable that was visually and musically unlike anything Iâ€™d seen in all my young life. So there I stood for an hour and a half, transfixed and ironing as Rushmore transported me back to the weird time that was high school in songs and images.
Max Fisher, the filmâ€™s adolescent hero, is an ambitious kid: he is the president of some half-dozen school clubs and an accomplished playwright who earned a scholarship to Rushmore Academy in the second grade after writing “a little one-act about Watergate.” However, this youthful drive is paradoxically the source of both his greatest achievements and greatest setbacks. Maxâ€™s fantastic plays as well as his disastrous attempted romancing of an older woman come from the same bold determination. Furthermore, his unique character often causes him more harm than good as he comes into contact with folks who simply donâ€™t understand him.
As Max rebels against school bullies, back-stabbing middle-aged men and lost love, who then could better furnish the soundtrack of his life than British invasion rockers, punctuated at quieter turns by lovely, twinkling compositions of Mark Mothersbaugh (formerly of Devo), with a dash of Yves Montand and some pre-Islamic Cat Stevens thrown in for good measure? Although this eclectic assortment of artists may seem odd, it is in fact the perfect musical summation of Max, a strange and wonderful kid whose two best friends are a fifth-grader and a middle-age business tycoon. Like the movie itself, the soundtrack is something you want to experience repeatedly and in its entirety. The topsy-turvy mix of mood and tempos it offers up is the essence of its charm. Put it on, and if youâ€™re not put in a better frame of mind, then something just might be seriously wrong with your heart.
Though Anderson originally wanted to use only Kinks material for the soundtrack because
they played loud, angry, teenage rock songs, and they wore blazers and ties and our movie is about a teenager who is loud and angry, and he is almost never seen without his blazer and tie,
he instead opted to round out the soundtrackâ€”it is more faithful to the highs and lows of being a teenager as well as the filmâ€™s arcâ€”Max canâ€™t be loud and angry all the time.
The disc kicks off with the Creationâ€™s 1966 hit “Making Time,” full of piss and vinegar, ranting about
making time/shooting lines/for people to believe in/things you say/why do we have to carry on/always singing the same old song?
(In the film, the song plays over a slow-motion montage of Max working, often alone, as the leader of his school clubs.) Nobody cares as much as he does about anything; the lyric foreshadows his anger when he realizes that the love of his life prefers a middle-aged, apathetic loser over him. The halfway point is the Whoâ€™s epic “A Quick One While Heâ€™s Away”â€”it coincides with Maxâ€™s peaking revenge and hints at the resolution just around the corner with the end repeat “you are forgiven.” By the end of the soundtrack, the listener, like Rushmore’s main man, has realized that there is an inevitable emotional ebb and flow to life that is always beyond control, no matter how talented, committed or deserving you are. The Facesâ€™ bittersweet “Ooh La La” provides the bittersweet closure. “I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger,” sums up Maxâ€™s final realization that he “didnâ€™t get hurt too bad” during his first foray into love. In fact, he, like us, kind of enjoyed it.
P.S. You donâ€™t have to see the film to appreciate the Rushmore soundtrack, though it is most highly recommended.
- Hardest Geometry Problem in the World – Mark Mothersbaugh
- Making Time – Creation
- Concrete & Clay – Unit 4 + 2
- Nothing In This World Can Stop Me Worrin’ Bout That Girl – The Kinks
- Sharp Little Guy – Mark Mothersbaugh
- The Lad With the Silver Button – Mark Mothersbaugh
- A Summer Song – Chad & Jeremy
- Edward Appleby (In Memoriam) – Mark Mothersbaugh
- Here Comes My Baby – Cat Stevens
- A Quick One While He’s Away – The Who
- ‘Snowflake Music’ From Bottlerocket – Mark Mothersbaugh
- Piranhas are a Very Tricky Species – Mark Mothersbaugh
- Blinuet – Zoot Sims
- Friends Like You, Who Needs Friends – Mark Mothersbaughv
- Rue St. Vincent – Yves Montand
- Kite Flying Society – Mark Mothersbaugh
- The Wind – Cat Stevens
- Oh Yoko – John Lennon
- Ooh La La – The Faces
- Margaret Yang’s Theme – Mark Mothersbaugh