In our Swampchat on May’s Movie of the Month, Ken Russell’s acidic sex farce Crimes of Passion, I asked a question I did not yet have an answer to. I said, “I wasn’t keeping a tally, but I want to say that the not-so-subtly sarcastic, anti-monogamy ditty ‘It’s a Lovely Life’ plays more often in this film than ‘That Thing You Do!’ plays in That Thing You Do! Every time I thought they were finally playing a new tune, a stray bar from the chorus of ‘It’s a Lovely Life’ would interrupt and remind me that there really is only one song on the soundtrack, like the movie was one overlong, salacious music video for a parody of a rock song. I’m definitely willing to chalk up that effect to Russell being a ‘prankster provocateur.’” I later decided to revisit the film to take a more accurate tally of how many times the song actually plays in the film.
If you only include the times the song plays in full, lyrics & all, “It’s a Lovely Life” only plays three times in Crimes of Passion. If you count every time the notes of the chorus are echoed in the film’s score, however, the tally is well over 30 instances. Now, according to the IMDb trivia page for That Thing You Do!, “Including full versions, alternate versions, live versions and snippets, the song “That Thing You Do!” is heard eleven times in the movie.” By the time “It’s a Lovely Life” properly plays 20min into Crime of Passion (in music video form), its theme has already been referenced in the score over two dozen times, twice the amount of times “That Thing You Do!” plays in the entirety of That Thing You Do!. The only way you could say that Crimes of Passion isn’t more aurally repetitive than That Thing You Do! is if you consider that, like I said, maybe the song never really stops and the entire film is like an extended music video.
Of course, this maddening repetition and music video aesthetic was most likely a deliberate decision on Russell’s part. As Kenny put it in our Swampchat, “This movie couldn’t be more MTV if it had a Billy Idol music set in the middle.” Well, it practically did. Released just a few years after the inordinately successful launch of MTV, it’s far from a stretch to imagine that the film was influenced by the music video format. And what’s more MTV that repeating the same song 30 times in a two hour period? Nothing, really. Nothing at all.