Monday, January 21, 2013

Hyde Park on Hudson

I haven't published anything here for almost two years. That time I spent teaching and performing in Australia. Some of what I've done in Armidale NSW is published in a different form; take a look on YouTube and/or on my website. I'm now back in America--at least for the time being--and I had been thinking about writing again. But I couldn't anticipate that my first piece in two years' time would be about a film.

Here I am in Lexington, Kentucky--of all places, some people might add. But what I had hoped turned out to be the case: there's a very nice movie theatre which plays independent new films and nice oldies. So to celebrate MLK Day I went to see a movie about FDR. It's called Hyde Park on Hudson, which is actually not so far from where we used to live north of NYC. Hyde Park is where FDR used to live when he didn't have to be in DC. The film is really about the president's affair (whatever its exact nature) with a distant cousin, Daisy. At the same time, there's the visit of the British king & queen (that's the king we all know from The King's Speech) and there's lots of fun stuff along with really beautiful aspects of FDR as a person--his relationship with Daisy at its best, his fatherly care for the much younger king. That the Daisy in the movie (perhaps not the one in reality) felt also betrayed by FDR (who, after all, had many girl friends) makes the film in a way even stronger: it's not just a 'nice' fairy tale.

But what struck me most--sorry, can't help it--was the music in the film, both on- and off-screen. The "theme song" is clearly based on the song "When I Fall in Love" (although I doubt that 5 % of the audience will recognize the opening motive), and very nicely done. (I just looked it up and "When I Fall in Love" is an early 1950s song; not that it matters.) But then there's the on-screen music in the form of various bands performing for FDR. Not only is the music that's played so sweet, the best is how the people in the film--not least FDR himself--clearly like the music in a very physical and lovely manner. You see FDR sitting in his chair, tapping the beat with his right arm, and the household staff nodding their heads along with the music. I think it's so nice because it seems to me that this is something we no longer have in the popular music (if that is the correct terminology) of today. Well, at least not in this friendly kind of way.

FDR's affair with Daisy starts out by him taking her for trips in the car. Finally, he gets rid of the body guards and is alone with Daisy in the middle of the fields of upstate New York. He lights a cigaret and turns on the radio. "Moonlight Serenade". "I love that song," says Daisy. You can tell that she means it.

I don't think I realized it when watching the film, but I realize now: They both loved music.