How the music of Blondie inspired film director Noah Baumbach
Music and film are like two peas in a pod, they share an intrinsic relationship with both sides seeking inspiration from one another at any given opportunity. Even some of the most creative souls on the planet, those who are often carrying the label of ‘genius’, need to take inspiration from other aspects of life, borrowing an idea which they can potentially navigate in a different way or a story arc to latch onto and transform into a completely new space. For Noah Baumbach, the director of critically acclaimed efforts such as Marriage Story and Frances Ha, the music connection is undeniable and one band who played a huge impact on his formative years was Blondie, a group who would go on to have a lasting effect on his vision.
Baumbach has earned a killer reputation thanks to his beautiful work, cinematic pictures which often explores the universal aspects of the human condition through intimate examinations of interpersonal relationships—just like the music of the Debbie Harry fronted band Blondie. The director has twice been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for 2005 effort The Squid and the Whale and, more recently for 2019 film Marriage Story which earned a Best Picture nomination.
Born in Brooklyn, both of Baumbach’s parents were film critics which put him in good stead for his career of choice and he was determined to become a filmmaker from a young age. His parents later divorced during his adolescence and this became recurring that Baumbach explores in many of his films.
Music played a key part in helping Baumbach with the creative process whilst working on Marriage Story, the director opening up to NME about how Tom Petty’s 1999 ‘divorce album’ Echo was a source of inspiration for him. “I was aware he’d been divorced, so when I was writing that scene I came up with that notion,” he said. “I liked the idea of her quoting him and then having this anecdote to tell.”
His musical awakening happened at a young age and Blondie’s 1978 album Parallel Lines was one of the first albums which truly connected with him and, when he was just 10-years-old, his love for the iconic New York band has never waned over the years. “My older half-brother David was into the New York new wave and post-punk scene, and he really opened up my music taste,” Baumbach reflected in a feature with Pitchfork in which he went through key ages in his life through the medium of music.
“I came to Blondie on my own, but he was also into them, which made them legit to me. Parallel Lines was the first new record that I was really aware of when it came out. This group of cool kids that I hoped I could become friends with seemed to accept me around this time—they called me ‘Blondie’ because of the pin I wore.”
He continued: “I love that album cover, and how they’re standing so confrontationally. Debbie Harry also has a scarf tied around her arm, which seemed really neat to me. I was in love with Debbie Harry, as much as you can be as a 10-year-old. When I found out she and Chris Stein were dating, I was both intrigued and sad, because it meant I’d never marry Debbie Harry.”
Although he never got to live out 10-year-old Noah’s dream of marrying Debbie Harry, he would later direct a cover shoot for W Magazine which was titled ‘The Ultimate Queen Of New York’ and will have undoubtedly been a childhood dream come true for Baumbach as he finally got the opportunity to work with his idol.