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The Valedictory Anthem That Takes Us Inside Inside Llewyn Davis

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The Valedictory Anthem That Takes Us Inside Inside Llewyn Davis

The heartbreaking lament “Fare Thee Well” builds in resonance as it drifts through multiple scenes in the Coen brothers’ folk-fueled drama.

By Nate Chinen

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Ryuichi Sakamoto Finds a Melody for the Unnameable

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Ryuichi Sakamoto Finds a Melody for the Unnameable

In Nagisa Oshima’s POW drama Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, a palpable but forbidden attraction achieves its most potent expression through music.

By Ruth Saxelby

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Party Time in Fellini Land

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Party Time in Fellini Land

In La dolce vita, an upbeat tune by Nino Rota turns a dour party into a feast of ecstatic movement.

By Michael Joshua Rowin

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From Elvis in Taipei

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From Elvis in Taipei

The King of Rock and Roll’s tender ballad “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” becomes a central motif in the Taiwanese epic A Brighter Summer Day, bringing to the surface unresolved feelings about love, national identity, and lost innocence.

By Ben Ratliff

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Mike Leigh Meets the Cure: The Three-Chord Nostalgia of Career Girls

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Mike Leigh Meets the Cure: The Three-Chord Nostalgia of Career Girls

One of the most iconic rock bands of the eighties provides the soundtrack to this poignant portrait of friendship and lost youth.

By Mark Asch

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Bobby Womack Turns Up the Heat and the Soul in Fish Tank

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Bobby Womack Turns Up the Heat and the Soul in Fish Tank

Heard three times in Andrea Arnold’s coming-of-age drama, the R&B legend’s cover of “California Dreamin’ ” highlights the teenage heroine’s yearning for connection and escape.

By Rebecca Bengal

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A Cantopop Dream Girl’s First Film Reverie

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A Cantopop Dream Girl’s First Film Reverie

Hong Kong pop icon Faye Wong made her screen breakthrough in Wong Kar-wai’s Chungking Express, a film that also features her hypnotic cover version of the Cranberries’ hit “Dreams.”

By Oliver Wang

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When a Lovely Flame Dies: The Climactic Heartbreaker in 45 Years

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When a Lovely Flame Dies: The Climactic Heartbreaker in 45 Years

The Platters’ impassioned rendition of the pop chestnut “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” highlights the irrevocable loss in Andrew Haigh’s marriage drama.

By Michael Koresky

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The Hot-Blooded Love Cry at the Cold Heart of Badlands

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The Hot-Blooded Love Cry at the Cold Heart of Badlands

Mickey & Sylvia’s 1956 hit “Love Is Strange” injects a hint of lustful energy into a screen romance that is otherwise unsettlingly detached.

By Sheila O’Malley

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Uriah Heep Brings a Touch of the Uncool to Cold Water

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Uriah Heep Brings a Touch of the Uncool to Cold Water

With its irresistible momentum and sonic crunch, “Easy Livin’” occupies a special place in one of the most celebrated sequences in Olivier Assayas’s filmography.

By Glenn Kenny

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“Don’t You (Forget About Me)” Captures the Ache of Fleeting Friendships

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“Don’t You (Forget About Me)” Captures the Ache of Fleeting Friendships

The Scottish band Simple Minds took the Breakfast Club theme song to the top of the charts. But its success—and its plea for loyalty—couldn’t save the group from its ultimate demise.

By Hanif Abdurraqib

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From Folk Ditty to Rally Anthem: Nashville’s “It Don’t Worry Me”

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From Folk Ditty to Rally Anthem: Nashville’s “It Don’t Worry Me”

Performed by the late Barbara Harris, the final song in Robert Altman’s masterpiece is a provocative mix of genres and conflicting cultural resonances.

By Jewly Hight

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