BY ERIK CHRISTENSEN, April 5, 2013
“The Top Five Reasons Why I Love ‘“High Fidelity”
Possibly the greatest music movie of all time? A cult classic? One of the few films that doesn’t disappoint after first reading the book? It’s “High Fidelity.”
First, let’s recap: the film takes Nick Hornby’s novel of the same name, and transposes it to star John Cusack’s real life hometown of Chicago. His character, Rob, owns a record store that specializes in vinyl records for collectors/music snobs. Along with his two part-time employees (frenzied Jack Black and nerdy Todd Louiso) Rob spends his days making “Top Five” lists. As his current relationship crumbles, he decides to go back and re-visit all the women who comprise his “All-Time Top Five Break-up List.” Or, as he says in the film’s opening: “Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?”
Onward. Here it is: The Top Five Reasons Why I Love “High Fidelity.”
Reason number five: The practice of making “Top Five” lists, as the characters in the film do. A hard habit to break once you get into it. Nowadays, I walk around constantly making “Top Five” lists in my head: Top Five Costco Purchases? Sure. Top Five Flavors of Ice Cream at Kapaw’s? Easy. Top Five Seattle Mariner Hopefuls? Definitely.
Reason number four: The film gently pokes fun at people like me — folks who spend entirely too much time and mental effort listening to and reading about music. Somehow, I feel it’s really important to know your Beatles’ trivia, and to point it out to somebody who has it wrong. (I am ashamed to say that I have corrected total strangers: It was Paul who played lead guitar on “Taxman,” not George. Just saying.)
Back to the film:
Louis: You guys are snobs.
Dick: No, we’re not.
Louis: Yeah, seriously, you’re totally elitist. You feel like the “unappreciated scholars,” so you s*** onto people who know less than you.
Rob, Barry, Dick: No!
Louis: Which is everybody…
Rob, Barry, Dick: Yeah…
Reason number three: Past relationships. This is Rob’s obsession and the narrative structure of the film. Replaying the old times in your head — how people from your past still affect you today–maybe it’s a male thing, maybe it’s just me…but Faulkner was right when he said the past isn’t dead. It’s not even past.
Reason number two: The characters in “High Fidelity” do not have an “indie-er than thou” stance on music. Yes, the characters in the film are smug, self-righteous, and condescending bastards (and, I too am guilty as charged—these are my people.) But, they love and discuss all kinds of music—the latest punk, Springsteen, old classics, emo, country, even Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. Hallelujah.
And now, reason number one for the All-Time Top Five Reasons Why I Love “High Fidelity”:
Mix tapes. Or rather, the making of mix tapes as a vital, artistic, and soul-baring exercise. Nowadays, I make my wife mix CDs. My daughter makes ‘em too; hand-lettered labels with titles written in blue and purple sharpie. Wonderful tradition, but not quite the same. Hit the “play” and “record” button together on an old boom box. Rewind the spool with your little finger just a bit between songs, so “Shine A Light” flows right into “Metal Firecracker.” God bless the cassette mix tape.
And God bless “High Fidelity.”
Oh, and by the way — My Top Five Nick Hornby Novels:
5. “About a Boy”
4. “Shakespeare Wrote for Money”
3. ‘Fever Pitch”
2. “Juliet, Naked”
1. “High Fidelity”
Erik Christensen teaches English at Oak Harbor High School, writes songs and poetry, and roots for whoever is playing against the New York Yankees.
Out and about: Erik Christensen Band plays at Front Street Grill in Coupeville from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 10 and at Bloom’s Winery Tasting Room in Bayview from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 19.