It's hard to imagine the suspenseful works of Alfred Hitchcock without Bernard Hermann's spooky counterpoint. Or the giddy blockbusters of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas without the symphonic grandiosity of John Williams. Not to mention the over-the-top imagery of Tim Burton without the zingy scores of Danny Elfman. The interplay between French director Claire Denis and Tindersticks' leader Stuart Staples may be less well-known, but it is equally symbiotic. The pair has now worked together on six films, starting with 1996's Nenette et Boni and running through Denis most recent stateside release, 2009's White Material. Being the kind of director who uses dialogue sparingly, often preferring visual beauty to verbal communication, Denis is a perfect match for Staples' moody chamber-rock stylings. In Nenette Et Boni, a girl floats in a swimming pool, accompanied by brushed drums and delicate organ ripples; in White Material, child revolutionaries comb the jungles, backed by mournful flute and nervous brass. For Trouble Every Day, Staples murmurs in his elegant, string-buoyed tones, lacquering Vincent Gallo's blood-sucking freak in faded glamor. Until recently, only two of these soundtracks were available for purchase, but in late April Constellation Records released the complete oeuvre in a five-disc box set. To celebrate, Tindersticks has embarked on a special tour in which it accompanies a 70-minute montage of scenes from Denis' films, aided by brass and string sections. One of only two U.S. dates, Tindersticks: Claire Denis Film Scores 1996-2009 takes place tonight as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival, which offers one dazzling music/film pairing per year. (Such past luminaries include Yo La Tengo, Superchunk, and Lambchop.) While seeing Denis' images untethered from their plots may make less sense narratively, their emotional impact should only be heightened by the Tindersticks' abetment.
Mon., May 2, 8:30 p.m., 2011