Moonlight in Movies: An Analytical Interpretation of Claude Debussy's "Clair de Lune" in Selected American Films




Ferguson, Brent

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Scholars Theodor Adorno and Hans Eisler criticize the use of pre-existing music in film, asserting that this usage strips the music of its original meanings. They accuse directors of using the music only to accompany stock events. Alternatively, Kristi Brown argues that music can retain references from its origins along with its cultural connotations. Similar to Brown‟s approach, this thesis examines “Clair de lune” of Claude Debussy‟s Suite Bergamasque in four American films: Fantasia (1940), Frankie and Johnny (1991), Ocean’s Eleven (2001), and Man on Fire (2004). The objectives of the study are to determine if meanings from the poetic origins of “Clair de lune” can co-exist with the cultural meanings. Methods of analysis use elements from Claudia Gorbman and Anahid Kassabian‟s roles of film music in addition to Nicolas Cook‟s classifications of multimedia interactions. Overall, “Clair de lune” consistently projects both poetic and cultural meanings in films, but the cultural association of romance prevails in every scene.



Clair de Lune, Moonlight, Movies, Film, Intertextual, Debussy, Claude, Music, Piano, Man on Fire, Fantasia, Oceans Eleven, Frankie and Johnny


Ferguson, B. (2011). <i>Moonlight in movies: An analytical interpretation of Claude Debussy's "Clair de Lune" in selected American films</i> (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas.


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