Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Léon Covered

One of my favourite films is Léon (AKA: The Professional). If you've seen it, you probably know what I'm talking about. It's got the incredible film debut of Natalie Portman, age 12, in what still stands up today as probably her best role. It's got Gary Oldman in an over-the-top, scene-chewing (yet great) performance as a crooked DEA agent. And, of course, this would have been the first time most of us were introduced to the wickednesss of Jean Reno. It's hard to believe that director Luc Besson descended into such mediocrity after this. In fact, his directorial output over the past decade is sparse to say the least and he has become synonymous, at least in my mind, with churning out mindless action sequels (primarily as a writer/producer). That's not to say there's no entertainment to be had in multiple Transporters, constant Taxis, and American Jet Li movies, but seeing his name attached to a film trailer has definitely lost any sense of "Ooh, I might see that". If anything, it's simply been a disappointing decline in filmmaking from the guy who brought us La Femme Nikita, Léon, or even The Fifth Element.

But I digress, some songs from the movie:

The Originals
Björk - Venus as a Boy
This song plays over a montage of Mathilda (Portman) and Léon's (Reno) developing hitman/pupil relationship. Like the Rocky Training Montage, but Björked.

Gene Kelly - Singin' in the Rain
Léon's a big fan of the old Gene Kelly musicals and who can blame him. Though if you've seen Singin' in the Rain, that final 17-minute dance finale is overkill.

Sting - Shape of My Heart
This now-familiar guitar intro leads into the film's end credits.

Covers & Other Derivations...
Corinne Bailey Rae - Venus as a Boy
Oftentimes I start listening to new artists after discovering them through covers. About 6 years ago, I started to really get into The Living End after repeatedly listening to their version of Tainted Love (a modern classic, by the way). Danny Michel is another instance where I eventually "evolved" into listening to his original music (moreso now, then his covers) based on initial exposure to his take on Young Americans. At some point you realize not only is it a great cover, but a great band or artist. After hearing this and her cover of Zeppelin's Since I've Been Loving You, Corinne Bailey Rae is starting to move into this territory. I'm excited to hear some more from her in the near future.

Nils Landgren Funk Unit - Venus as a Boy
An instrumental jazz version, closely veering into the realm of elevator music or telephone hold limbo.

Mike Flowers Pop - Venus as a Boy
If you've heard their cover of Wonderwall, you know what to expect with this cover.


Mint Royale - Singin' in the Rain
You'd remember this from a particularly funky VW Golf commercial from a couple years ago. This might be considered sacriligious, but damn those are some wacky moves to behold, particularly the "strobe light effect". Shockingly, the only CGI is the pasting of Gene Kelly's face onto some scarily inhuman pop 'n lock dancers (google: David Elsewhere for more). The remix used in the commercial was done by Mint Royale, who later expanded the track for their album See You in the Morning.

Jamie Cullum - Singin' in the Rain
He's on my concert to-do list.


Dominic Miller featuring Sting - Shape of My Heart
This doesn't really qualify as a cover since Dominic Miller co-wrote and performed on the original. But Miller later released a solo album of classical music with this remake, complete with Sting in tow. Not surprisingly, it is very similar to the original.

Randy Bachman & Burton Cummings - Shape of My Heart
Last year there was a CBC special of these two Canadian rockers revisiting their classic songs from The Guess Who/Bachman-Turner Overdrive repertoire. Unexpectedly, they whipped out this excellent cover, which incidentally was a bit of a hassle to rip from our PVR box. They also teased viewers with the first 40 seconds of Jimi Hendrix's Stone Free before it inexplicably cut to commercial break, thus crushing the cover lover in me. Since then they released a DVD of the full performance, which makes the inexplicable commercial break not so inexplicable.

Sugababes - Shape
One of two songs (both apparently hits from 2003, no less) that use the Sting song as the basis for a new song. The second song is below...

Craig David - Rise and Fall (featuring Sting)
I find it vaguely amusing that, excluding the Bachman/Cummings cover, all these new versions of Shape of My Heart actually feature Sting, either through sampling or cameos.
i.e. "I will let you use the song, but only if I get to sing too."
"Uh, sure thing Sting."
Because really, who could say no to Sting? Apparently, neither Andy Summers nor Stewart Copeland. "We are The Police and we are back!" So much for rock mystique... Very subtle, guys.

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