I know this is the music issue, but there are a lot of other things kicking around in my mind these days. So my musical focus for this column is going to be short and sweet. Last week, Netflix failed us one night, so my partner Maryo and I watched Casablanca for about the fifth or tenth time. One of the great moments of that movie is when the Nazis are singing their Horst Wessel song in Rick’s Café Américain, and the resistance hero trying to escape to America gets the band to play the French national anthem; the crowd of Free French and other hangers-on drown out the bad guys. Where’s Victor Laszlo when we need him?
That’s what music ought to do for people, it seems to me – unite them when they need uniting. I find myself dredging for inspirational music these days, or inspirational anything; but it may be that January, especially this January, is no time to expect inspiration, time to just hunker down and wait for the planet to again remember to tilt us toward the sun. A good time too to think about old movies, maybe not so old as Casablanca (1943), but old enough so it’s a little surprising to find them still current, or current again, today.
I’m not thinking about The Manchurian Candidate, although that twice-made movie (1962 and 2004) was back in the public eye in December because our new president espouses admiration for a Russian dictator whose minions allegedly interfered electronically in the presidential election. This was seen by some as a parallel to the movie story of an American hero who was brainwashed by the Chinese Communists into serving as an agent for them. That seems to me to be too far a stretch – to think that Donald Trump could be made to cleave to any ideology more complex than “Look out for Number One.”