Saturday, March 10, 2007
Why Stealing Is Absolutely OK
I just saw Lost In Translation the other day, and immediately watched it again last night. I'll probably watch it a third time this weekend. I went and downloaded Roxy Music "More Than This" after I saw the movie, but the irony is, I can't really listen to the song all the way through, because it totally brings back the emotions of the movie, and that movie was very powerful.
So anyway. I always liked that song, the Roxy Music song -- "More Than This" -- before I saw this movie, but I never really respected it. I always thought the melody on the verse stole really blatantly from the Moody Blues song "Your Wildest Dreams." But after seeing Lost In Translation, my attitude is totally altered, because where "Your Wildest Dreams" wraps its romanticism in an escapist wistfulness that makes it safe and harmless, "More Than This" gives you the same romanticism without any shelter from its consequences. There is no escapist wistfulness to it; there is simply love, or, alternatively, death. This ties in with the movie, of course, but that's the point. Roxy Music totally stole from the Moody Blues, in terms of the melody, but the relationship between "More Than This" and Lost In Translation is what makes it impossible for me to listen to the song without a strong emotional reaction. The emotional reaction is a reaction to the song, but it's really an emotional reaction to the movie. Or is it? I'm not sure. Maybe it's really an emotional reaction to the movie; maybe it's that the movie made me realize what the song was about in the first place. I'd never actually listened to the lyrics before; Bryan Ferry's voice was never really clear enough that I could tell what the words were. Was it simply the transference of the emotions from the movie, or simply taking it seriously enough to listen to the words for the first time? Either way, I have a new appreciation for it.
This is why stealing, in anything creative, is totally OK. Talent borrows; genius steals. If Lost In Translation made "More Than This" into its song, "More Than This" is a richer work for having been stolen.
I guess this is obvious, but if you're ever doing any kind of creative work, and holding back on an idea you have because it's a variation on something that originally came from somebody else, screw that. Go ahead and do it anyway. That's the meaning of "talent borrows, genius steals." If Lost In Translation had been less of a movie, it would have borrowed the distant echoes of Roxy Music's thunder, instead of stealing its lightning.