(For Day 10 of NaPoWriMo, the prompt suggested a “Junk Drawer Song,” but I decided on something different and went back to Day 7 to try the shadorma, a 26-syllable poem with a syllable count of 3, 5, 3, 3, 7, and 5.)
As I die,
I hear the music
Of knowing what outlives me
Will keep me alive.
MPA rating: Not Rated (G would work, maybe PG)
You know those musical biopics that have practically become their own genre by now? The kind where a young, naïve talent gets caught up in the thrill of success, is fooled by unscrupulous exploiters as their relationships and health deteriorate, and then ends up either reclaiming a piece of their former passion or else dying tragically? Think Coal Miner’s Daughter to Ray to Teen Spirit and beyond. Well, such films are hardly a new invention, since A Song to Remember used such a plot way back in 1945, earning itself seven Oscar nominations. This story of Polish pianist extraordinaire Fredric Chopin (Best Actor nominee Cornel Wilde) may play fast and loose with the actual history, but it’s still an elegant period piece that highlights the life and greatest works of a giant of classical music.
A child prodigy in both playing and composing, the film’s version of Chopin had his greatest advocate in his teacher Joseph Elsner, played by the endearingly gregarious Paul Muni, who is easily the best character, reminiscent of Thomas Mitchell’s Uncle Billy in It’s a Wonderful Life the next year. The pro-Poland patriotism of Chopin and Elsner comes into conflict with the high-minded George Sand, who convinces Chopin to focus on composing to the exclusion of all else. Sand’s characterization is one of the film’s larger changes to history, since she was an advocate for Poland as well, and Ayn Rand notably objected to her being painted as a villain. Still, I thought the treatment of the conflict was relatively balanced, certainly leaning toward Elsner being in the right overall, but Sand makes some good points along the way that are never really refuted. For any lover of classical music unfamiliar with it, A Song to Remember is an underrated classic waiting to be discovered, even if it follows story beats that have only gotten more familiar with repetition.
Best line: (George Sand) “Are you satisfied, monsieur? Do you know anything that could replace a life as great as his?” (Elsner) “Yes. The spirit that he leaves behind in a million hearts, madam.”
Rank: List Runner-Up
© 2021 S.G. Liput
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