Humoresque Essay

2060 words - 8 pages

In a world where popular music is more handily classified as ‘noise,’ and where the louder an amplifier is, the ‘better’ the music is, it is hard to believe that there once existed a time where a single violinist could captivate an audience on his own for upwards of two hours. Such is the case for acclaimed violin virtuoso, Paul Foray, in the film Humoresque. The story follows Paul from childhood, when he struggled to get his parents to buy him a violin, to adulthood, where he made his name with the help of some influential friends, to his seeming retirement from the instrument after a tragic incident in his personal life. The movie follows the protagonist, Paul Foray, through his personal and professional life, and every ounce of energy in the movie is devoted to telling his story. Not only is the cinematography taken in such a way that is very “Foray-centric,” but the film score plays into his life very deliberately. The film, Humoresque, uses music in a very direct way, using popular pieces of music from early 20th century popular music and from 19th century opera and orchestra to allude to the characters’ experiences. Every piece played by Foray and every song sung in the background of a parlor has a very intentional place in the movie, as they either foreshadow what a character will do, or play to their inner-monologue.

The film’s music largely consists of famous pieces from the 19th century, from either romantic orchestral composers or from operas. Also, there is always a pianist playing in any scenes involving a restaurant, and this pianist sings popular songs of the early 20th century that happen to fit into the storyline lyrically almost too well. The score, then, has a two-fold purpose. The most obvious reason to have such a prominent score of classical music is because the protagonist is a concert violinist, and concert violinists play music of the classical genre. The score therefore is, for a majority of the film, diegetic. Much of the music that would count as scoring in this film is audible to us, the viewers, as well as to them, the characters. A movie that revolves around a professional musician should naturally have excerpts from the pieces he plays, and in this movie, the filmmakers took the extra step of choosing their music carefully. Thematically, the song choices are perfect, but before Paul Foray became a professional violinist, we see his childhood unfold and meet the child behind the strings.

The film actually opens in the present, and everything except that final scene is therefore presented as a flashback. In the beginning, Paul Foray is sitting, dejected and depressed, and we are made aware that he has cancelled his performance for the evening. The scene suggests that he plans on quitting violin, while his friends try to convince him to continue. It is the dialogue of how hard he worked to be where he is today that triggers Foray to reminisce about the days when he first started the violin. The...

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