Scene Unseen:
High Fidelity: Records For Sale


Film When I first saw the film High Fidelity I knew of the book and I knew it was about music, but I didn't know what it was actually about. I spent much of the preceeding day singing the chorus from The Kids From Fame song under my breath 'High Fidelity ... high ... ha ... high .. ha ha .. high high ... ' (I do this sometimes when I'm working up to see a film - Jane Campion's masterpiece was reduced to 'La, la, la, la Piano, Piano ...'). But once it was over it went straight into my all time top five films about people like me.

I immediately went out and read the book, loved everything about it despite being incredibly difficult to follow at times because the film characters were in my head and some of them are wildly different on the printed page. Then somewhere along the line the two experiences merged and I imagined that some of the scenes from the book had actually been in the film and vice-versa. Marie De Salle didn't sing at Championship Vinyl in the film any more than that version of Sarah Kendrew appeared in the novel. So buying the DVD the day it came out was something of a culture shock as the gates of filmic reality came crashing down.

As always, DVD solidifies all the reasons I loved the film at the cinema but also offers the chance to see all the details that I'd missed then. So we come to the top five list of things I missed when seeing High Fidelity at the cinema and which make me love the film even more. In ascending order ...

Number five ... lip liner. In the scene were Rob gets Laura to admit to a full 9% chance that they could get back together, I spend a lot of the scene looking at Laura's lips and the fragments of liner at the edges. In a film which is filled with unrealistic elements it feels like a moment of realism. I'm not sure if it's a mistake or a really attentive make up artist creating character details. If it is the latter it ties into comfortably into the speech with Rob gives at the end of the film about how he's sick of fantasy women and he wants to settle for the realism. Laura doesn't have perfect make up and that's why he loves her.

Number four. It's the editing, or rather the editing of the to-camera narration. If all this was edited into chronological order it would make less sense than 21 Grams. Taking the Marie De Salle incident, having found out Laura hasn't slept with Ray, he turns to the camera and says 'I feel good ... I feel great ... I feel like a new man ... I feel so much better in fact ... that I go straight out ... and sleep with Marie De Salle.' Cut to a post coital De Salle, and Rob pointing to camera from the bed 'How could this have happened you ask?' He's giving a voice over straight to camera like someone relating a story around a camp fire or over a beer in the past tense while the action is happening. He's telling the story to us while its happening to him, showing us what happened. It should be confusing but it really works. It's an unbelievably trixy thing to be doing in a Touchstone film and one of the early signs that mainstream film was wising up to the indie ethic.

Number three ... it's about film. Actually it's about anything that people have an obsession about. It's equally about stamp collecting, football and trainspotting. When I saw the movie, I thought I was getting bums rush because I didn't understand many of the music references. Then I tried substituting them for film references and realized that I was in the same bracket of these people. There aren't many regular people who can make a stab at putting Woody Allen's films in order by year, or the films which John Cusack and his mate Jeremy Priven haven't been in together (of which High Fidelity is one). It's about storing useless facts about nothing them looking down on people who don't know this stuff.

Number two, the track listing of the Marie De Salle album. Pause your DVD as Rob places the disc in his hifi and glory at the woman's musical range.

(1) Baby I Love Your Way [which is a given because its in the film and she sings it really well.]
(2) Patsy Cline Times Two [which later in the film she refers to as Eartha Kitt Times Two. But I'm not nitpicking in that way. There there is the rest ...]

(3) Ghostbusters
(4) Beat It
(5) Baby Got Back
(6) 911 Is A Joke
(7) I Will Survive
(8) Mmm Bop
(9) My Heart Will Go On
(10) You Can't Have It
(11) The Time Is Now

Now who wouldn't want to see her version of some of those songs. Such range. Is the joke that if she can make Peter Frampton sound good, Hanson are a walk in the park? These tracks were picked for a reason but since the DVD lacks a commentary we'll never know whose joke it was. And now for ...

... number one in the top five and the deleted scene which is the point of this new series of articles.

High Fidelity: Records For Sale

It's one of the great scenes in the book and was shocked when I read it because they hadn't included it in the film. Rob is invited around to an expensive house where a rich woman bent on revenge tries to castrate her husband musically by selling his singles collection off for peanuts. When Rob starts to delve in he realizes it's a collectors dream, a hundred items which he thought he would never see in his life. Rare pressings on original labels, that kind of thing. To buy or not to buy. It's about honour amongst collectors (even if they're shits) and fits in with one of the book's themes about how music has little to do with what you are its who you are.

So it was a revelation to see it on the dvd and its just the lovely funny thing which really does the book pages justice. It even has the well known face of Beverly D'Angelo as the scorned woman. And when you see it the first time you wonder why it wasn't included in the film - it would be one of the scenes people would be talking about when they left the cinema or years later at the pub because its one of those stories any collector has about the one that got away.

There problem is its four minutes long and to include it in the film would have slowed it to a standstill at just the wrong moment - I think it should gave gone in just after Joan Cusack calls him a 'fucking asshole'. And that would be wrong because the transition from that to Rob's revelations about why Laura broke up with him are perfect. Also it doesn't feel like the rest of the film, which takes place in roughly the one neighbourhood and for the tone of the film it's important to maintain that mood. Also it doesn't make any sense - right the way through we hear that Rob has no money and suddenly he can pull £1100 out to buy the singles - it's a capital investment but were are you getting it from? Laura's loan? Isn't that spent already?

All of which said it does have a delicious ending. He talks D'Angelo into selling him an Otis Reading for $50. She asks him if he saw The Sex Pistols (original pressing of God Save The Queen). He says he did. 'It's free ...' She says and we cut away. We never find out how scrupulous Rob actually is ... What would you do?

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