Well, Well, Well

It’s amazing what can happen when the right song is laid onto the soundtrack of the right scene in the right film. This special chemistry happens for reasons I don’t yet fully understand when Martin Scorsese uses John Lennon‘s “Well, Well, Well” in a scene in The Departed — a scene between Leonardo DiCaprio‘s frazzled cop-mole character and Jack Nicholson‘s grizzled mob boss.
I haven’t listened to this song in a long time, but it popped through in some live-wire way the other night when I was watching The Departed for a second time. A couple of lines of dialogue about Lennon are heard around the same time. Nicholson asks DiCaprio, “Do you know who John Lennon was?” and DiCaprio answers, “Yeah…he was the president right before Lincoln.”
The musical ride that Scorsese takes you on in this film is great — a series of late ’60s/early ’70s rock tracks that fortify the scenes (or portions of scenes) they play under, but not in any literal “oh, the lyrics are commenting on what we’re seeing” way. It’s more of a visceral -emotional thing, and it feels dead perfect.
Scorsese achieved a similar connection when he used Mott the Hoople‘s “All The Way to Memphis” at the very beginning of Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. I had never given much of a shit about Mott the Hoople before seeing that film, but I always felt a measure of respect for those guys (and certainly their son) after they were processed through the Scorsese grinder.

  • pbjmahwah

    I have to admit I’ve never heard this song before but when Lennon starts wailing “Well!!!” at the end of the sound byte it eerily (VERY eerily) sounds like Kurt Cobain which makes it even more haunting for someone like me (white male, late 30’s). One thing you can always count on Marty for is a great score. . . remember Peter Gabriel in TLTOC?

  • Strolzy

    Scorsese also used a Bad Brains’ (the landmark, one-of-a-kind D.C. punk/hardcore band) killer track “Pay to Cum!” to brilliant effect in After Hours, during the club scene. Scorsese himself punctuated the edit by shining a light into the camera lens from a platform in the club. If you know the song, and you should, you know why it perfectly fits Griffin Dunne racing through a coked-out den of iniquity. YouTube has an early-eighties CBGB performance for your referencing pleasure.

  • EDouglas

    If you’re a fan of the Bad Brains, you have to try to catch American Hardcore.. not sure if it’s going to be expanding much from its NY release but it should be on DVD soon enough. They really make the movie what it is.

  • Arran
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