#BehindTheMusic | Inside Netflix’s Malcolm & Marie Soundtrack

Malcolm & Marie’s editor Julio Perez has worked with the creative team and Sam Levinson now on a number of projects and Sam describes him as “an extraordinary and brilliant editor” and says that “he can find the heart, the nuance and intention I didn’t even know existed inside of a scene.” Usually, the editor and director work on the cut in the same room, something that was obviously not possible given the pandemic. “It forced me to let go a bit in terms of the editorial process,” Sam notes. “I think it also gave Julio a certain space in cutting it that really benefited the movie because there wasn’t a ton of debate about it, even though we rarely disagree on takes.”
“The fact that Sam and I have so many shared touchstones in art and movies goes a long way,” Perez says. “We’re both interested in these grace notes, the brief fleeting little flourishes of vulnerability and beauty that you can’t usually flatly construct or reconstruct consistently over and over again. Sam creates the environment for the positive and the negative to develop, and then the lightning strikes. I’m looking for those little lightning strikes.”

Perez was thrilled that the film would be in black and white given that a lot of his favourite movies are post-colour era black and white films, however, he admits to being surprised by the answer when asking Levinson if he was planning to alter the colour in post. “Sam said, “No, we’re actually going to shoot it on black and white film”. He knew that it was going to capture a different quality and when I saw the black and white footage coming in I thought, “Damn, Sam was right. This is just beautiful.” It has that grainy film quality and the way that they specifically lit and shot for black and white meant that it felt integral to the work. It doesn’t feel like it could have been done any other way.”

Perez and Sam both share a passion for discussing music selections on every project they collaborate on. “I always write to music,” shares Sam. “I knew that I wanted to open the film with James Brown’s Down and Out in New York City’, which comes from the Larry Cohen film Black Caesar. It’s such a fun song and I kept hearing it in the beginning of the movie. I also knew that I wanted the characters to use music as a means of communicating when they didn’t have the words to express what they felt.

There were a couple of tracks I had written into the script like William Bell’sI Forgot to Be Your Lover’, which was a song that I’ve always loved, and the Dionne Warwick song, ‘Get Rid of Him’. There is something so vulnerable about not being able to say what you want to someone and having to just play a song. Those were set in stone from the script phase.”
Another beautiful moment in the film comes from the pairing of imagery with a classic Coltrane-Ellington track. “Julio had just been playing around because he loves jazz, but it’s this release of emotion and romanticism that I didn’t even know was possible from what I had shot,” shares Levinson. “I liked the idea of doing a tip of the hat to the film Love Jones.,” explains Perez. “‘In a Sentimental Mood’ by Duke Ellington has that little piano riff which is one of the most delicate, tender, beautiful things in American 20th-century composition. The fact that it was in that film had great potential for capturing this very delicate, romantic moment that teeters on the edge of reconnecting and also possibly breaking apart. It’s such a beautiful piece and so I tried it, and honestly, I was a little surprised at just how well it worked.”

Music supervisor Jen Malone was also instrumental in the film’s extraordinary final music selections, sending over bins of music for Sam and Perez to peruse. Sam says, “Jen is great at finding musicians that work in specific fields. Julio can temp in some acid jazz piece and Jen will send over a bin of twenty different artists. It’s a nice collaborative process.”

Here’s the official soundtrack playlist

*article content supplied by Netflix

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