Thursday, November 12, 2015

Cue list for Sleepless in Seattle

Sleepless in Seattle has been a staple in my film classes from the time of its VHS release in 1993. One scene in particular—the one we call "Second Botched Meeting" in HtM, chapter 1—has remained valuable as an introduction to detailed soundtrack construction in service of narrative. However, I never did not get around to making a cue sheet for the entire film. That omission has now been filled. A PDF file is available here: Sleepless in Seattle cue list.

As typically happens, I found the musical component of the film more complex than I remembered it from viewing. Nora Ephron's early films are well-known for their song quotations, of course, but Sleepless in Seattle also contains four original songs by Marc Shaiman, only one of which is in the credits list: "A Wink and a Smile." The other three are instrumental underscore cues that are written in traditional song form, and developed in later cues. I did not have access to a studio cue sheet and so I gave those three my own labels: "Sam & Jonah," "Magic," and "Anticipation." "Anticipation" is the music in the first part of the "Second Botched Meeting" scene and "Magic" is the slower music for the second part.

Thanks to University of Chicago professor Berthold Hoeckner for noticing and asking about the first appearance of "Magic," early in the film as Annie (Meg Ryan's character) tries on her mother's wedding dress. That alone wouldn't have been enough; but "Magic" is developed at length in scenes starting with Annie's computer search (about 50:00), so that it clearly is an associative theme (leitmotif) by the time of the "Second Botched Meeting."

I learned two things from this: (1) the fact that "Magic" is developed as a tango supports re-hearing the original version as a slow, nostalgic waltz; (2) "Magic" does indeed work as we describe it—empathically mirroring Annie's deflation in mood—but it adds to the moment the idea of the magic of first meeting.