California is the inspiration of our Spring/Summer collections. It's also Carol and Humberto’s home state. It was the perfect excuse for us to try and define the essence of the golden state with the help of some inspiring locals and one of them - of course - was Hala Matar. Hala is the director of the short movie “Automobile Waltz”, that we released this month. Today she explains the relationship between music and landscapes in California and talks about a cliché: listening to the radio while driving in Los Angeles.
KENZINE: Like the "Automobile Waltz", your first film "Streetcar" already took place in a vintage car. What is so special about cars for you as a film maker?
Hala Matar: Infinite tracking shots, talking reflections and clouds of smoke. Cars can also transverse time and place because playing music in a car often bring back memories so you are always in between the past and present when you are in a car.
K: When you think about L.A., what kind of music comes first to your mind?
H. M.: Baroque Pop and Progressive Rock.
K: Could you explain the particular relationship between L.A. and music through the fact that people listen to the radio in their cars all the time?
H.M.: I wish it was a shared experience and we were all listening to one station but unfortunately it is very individualistic - based on your taste and mood on a particular day. So your soundtrack is always in flux. Also, we are listening to the radio less and relying more on our digital libraries. So you end up spending hours absorbed in your thoughts to a soundtrack you created which I find terribly lonely. L.A. is terribly lonely. The music I associate L.A. with is based on my early impressions and romantic notions of the city rather than what I am actually currently listening to.
K: How much time do you spend in your car each day?
H.M.: 3 to 5 hours.
K: Listening to the radio in a car brings us back to an image inherited from movies about the 50s where couples go to Mulholland Drive and drive-ins and make out. Do you think that cars still carry this unconscious feeling in L.A.?
H.M.: I was first going to say no under the assumption that Geico didn’t exist in the 50s but it actually did.
K: Do you think it also stands for a certain image of freedom in the American culture?
H.M.: Driving a car definitely, because you can take off and drive across the country whenever you feel like it. However the radio is the antithesis of freedom because someone is telling you what to listen to and what to buy.
K: Does it refer to the same thing in cinematographic terms?
H.M.: Route 66 in bright sunlight or the ending of fear and loathing.
K: In France, radios are not satellite so you have a very poor choice - 10 radio stations maximum, depending on where you drive. I know the diversity of radio stations is amazing in L.A., which one is your favorite and why?
H.M.: I have not graduated to a high tech hybrid or Tesla, those have millions of stations. And since I don’t listen to pop music, there are only 2 stations I can bare, oldies on K-EARTH 101 or Classical KUCS. I choose classical, because that’s what I grew up listening to in my mother’s car. But I usually tune into my Spotify - the greatest invention of all time.
K: Musicians from all over the world often talk about a "perfect album for driving in L.A.". What does it take to satisfy those criteria?
H.M.: Lots of 60s, lots of sunshine, a splash of old Hollywood coupled with suspense and murder. And if you are really high tech, you should program it to go along with your route of travel and time of day.
K: Do you think it brings something additional to music to be listened to on radios?
H.M.: Listening to music in the car is my favorite listening experience because it is the best state for daydreaming. What else is there to do but pay attention to the road? However, that poses a risk when you are driving because you have to focus and can never really be on auto-pilot. That is why I would much rather sit in the backseat and have the ultimate self-indulgence experience than be the driver.
K: Does music need to be very loud in your car? Do you sing while listening to the music?
H.M.: That’s a good one! I am a very nervous driver; in fact I only started listening to music quite recently. I worry that it would distract me from the road, so I keep it on low volume. Put me in a convertible in 5 years and I’ll start singing.
K: Can you think about your top three favorite moments where people sing in their cars in movies?
H.M.: The car scenes in "Pierrot le Fou" are pretty funny. Kirk Douglas’s suicide attempt in "The Arrangement" is pretty epic. He does not even need to sing. I can’t think of any others. "8 ½"?
K: Can you tell us a personal story where you're singing in your car when stuck in traffic and something fun happens?
H.M.: I’ve only been driving for a year so I don’t have many entertaining stories, but I can tell you of a terrifying one: I was driving around listening to Devendra Banhart and was immersed deeply into one of his song. I didn’t notice that I was headed towards the entrance of a freeway. Freeways are my ultimate fear. I have never driven on one and never plan to. So I stopped my car in the middle of the freeway entrance turned on the light hazard. I had to reverse and drive in the opposite direction of the traffic to get to the “safe road”. All the cars stopped and waited for me to pass. It was a miracle. Jacque Tati would have been impressed!
K: Is there a kind of music that's particularly appropriate for driving in L.A.?
H.M.: I would have insisted on the 60s but I drove around to Frank Sinatra yesterday and that was the best driving experience I had so far.
K: Do you listen to different kinds of music when driving in Echo Park, on Sunset or on the Pacific Coast Highway? Do you think that the landscape influences your choice?
H.M.: My music choice depends more on my mood or the song/album I am addicted to and much less on the landscape surrounding me. I usually listen to a song or an album on repeat for 3 days until I have had enough of the song then move on to a new obsession. I don’t explore the different landscapes as much as I’d like to due to my fear from driving/freeways. For example I don’t have the courage to drive down the Pacific Coast Highway. However the time of day definitely has an influence. I tend to start off my day with upbeat music and end it with suspenseful soundtracks or Russian composers.