Last weekend I got a hankering to see a movie that I once loved very much but hadn’t re-seen since the early 1980s, Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978). I remembered the painterly, moody cinematography, the haunting soundtrack by Ennio Morricone, and Sam Shepard’s lonesome face, but I couldn’t remember the story. (I didn’t remember that Richard Gere was in it, too, if you can believe that, and he’s wonderful.)
Would it strike me the same now as it had back then? Was the music as good as I remembered? I dialed up a rental and was watching it, knitting away contentedly on Parallelogram Scarf the Third, a pattern which is now a part of my DNA.
A passing College Boy, drawn by the music, stuck his head in the door and asked me what it was. “Ennio Morricone,” I said, and warmed up for a maternal rhapsody about the greatness of the soundtrack and the composer. “No,” said CB, “I think it’s The Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saëns, the Aquarium part?”
Score (another) one for College Boy; I do not know how he knows this stuff. The beauty of the music in the movie sent me off looking for The Carnival of the Animals (up top, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra). It’s only 23 minutes long! Saint-Saëns did not allow it to be published until after his death, deeming it too frivolous. It’s so witty and fun (Pianists, Fossils, and oh my goodness, the Tortoises), and spooky (Aquarium) and divine (Swan). Give it a listen; it’s a perfect start to an afternoon of knitting while YouTube videos roll. (Here’s a bonus: Yo-Yo Ma playing Ennio Morricone. How do humans make such beauty?)