Ever wonder which movies inspire your favorite bands or how filmmakers work with artists to compile your favorite soundtracks? Sound to Screen is a regular feature that explores where film and music intersect. This time, we’re stepping into the mind of James Franco — or rather, Tommy Wiseau. Maybe both.
Out of all the creative decisions that inform James Franco’s The Disaster Artist, none are more affecting than his inspired use of Corona’s 1995 hit, “The Rhythm of the Night”. The Eurodance jam pops up twice in the comedy — once at a Los Angeles bar, where Franco’s Tommy Wiseau goes nuts on the dance floor; later during the end credits — and, really, it’s all you’ll want to hear for at least 24 hours after leaving the theater. In fact, if you’re reading this piece right now, you probably still have the song stuck in your head … and you’re wondering if you’re the only one.
Fun fact: You’re not the only one.
Much like you, I also haven’t been able to shake the song. It’s been swimming in my head for hours now, pulsating across my brain in ways that are both comforting and overwhelming. That’s not all: I’ve subscribed to a brilliant ’90s Dance Party playlist on Spotify, grooving to all kinds of roller rink fluff like Le Bouche’s “Be My Lover”, Haddaway’s “What Is Love”, or my own personal favorite, Robert Miles’ “Children”, which MTV once used during their rotating specials for the Star Wars re-releases back in 1997. Nothing like hearing ’90s dance hits as Mark Hamill reflects on his career!
Similarly, I’ve also been reflecting, namely on why Franco opted for this song. Considering the majority of the movie takes place in the early aughts, the inclusion doesn’t exactly line up time wise; it would have been seen as ironic even then. So, what gives? Perhaps Wiseau mentioned it to Franco in passing? Or maybe, as one critic already pointed out, Franco’s referencing Beau Travail, a 2000 French film that makes liberal use of the song. Well, seeing how that film’s essentially a loose adaptation of Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, we can probably scratch that off the list.
So, what is it? Who knows with Franco. As our own David Sackllah thoroughly elaborated on in his recent Franco editorial, the renaissance man works in mysterious ways, but that only seems to confirm there’s some sort of implicit meaning to the song. Knowing him, the song might even be his way of explaining Wiseau’s id, and while we might laugh at that, it’s not exactly preposterous. Now, before you close out this editorial and push replay on your Spotify (if you haven’t already), hear me out for a second and see if this makes any kind of sense. Then, you can nod, or laugh, or just leave. Maybe all three!
What “Rhythm of the Night” confirms, at least for me, is that Franco actually sees Wiseau as a tragic figure. Because really, he doesn’t just slap this song on for comedic effect or for nostalgic purposes or for place setting. Instead, he uses the song to embellish the tortured feelings going on in Wiseau’s head, and considering how much he immerses himself into the role, one might say he has a pretty good grip on the elusive European import. And considering the song pops up when his bromance with Dave Franco’s Greg Sestero starts cracking, well, there you are.
It’s deeper than that, though. Looking back on all of ’90s dance music as a whole, so much of it is intrinsically tied to this inherent feeling that the world is larger than life. Most of the songs tackle subjects and themes, ranging from love and heartbreak to passion and obsession, with such sweeping momentum and with so many anthemic beats, that it’s admittedly hard to take any of it seriously. But, you relish it all because, well, it’s a total escape, one that feels good and hits on all the right buttons. Stay in that zone long enough and you start to believe anything you want.
Doesn’t that sound familiar? You know, like, say, a tortured artist/sociopath who yearns to be James Dean and winds up looking like a mildly more handsome Danzig? The kind of guy willing to pour six million of his own dollars into a production that’s as batshit crazy as The Room? You know it does. And so, in that respect, Wiseau winds up embodying the carnal spirit of Corona’s “The Rhythm of the Night”. He’s a guy who doesn’t care about reality, but the dreams he wants to live, and there’s something both noble and tragic about all of that. It’s why we’re still talking about him.
Of course, all of this could be moot and Franco, for all we know, just heard the song and tossed it in. Even so, there’s no disputing the fact that Wiseau was and is the type of guy unwilling to contend with the hurdles of reality. And while that’s not a healthy way to go about living, it’s not exactly insane, either, especially in an age where our dreams are drifting further and further away and our worst nightmares have become our own intangible realities. So, yeah, in some sick and twisted way, you do kind of envy the guy as he makes a total ass of himself on the dancefloor. It’s like, well, why not.
Ah, you’re tearing me apart, Corona!