Throughout history, cinema and music have often inspired each other in many ways. Many great musicians have been influenced by cinematic pioneers, including the likes of David Bowie who drew inspiration from Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch. For the Stone Roses, the film that did it was actually a classic of the western genre.
When setting out to write their iconic song ‘Fools Gold’, Ian Brown was actually thinking of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, an enigmatic classic that is a Hollywood oddity in more ways than one. The song has been cited as one of the greatest indie anthems ever made, with many commentators describing the work as a funk rock, Madchester gem.
Their first single to reach the UK top ten, ‘Fools Gold’ was a huge commercial success at the time. According to Brown, the song’s explorations of individual isolation and the pursuit of an illusory target were heavily inspired by John Huston’s seminal masterpiece which has also influenced notable contemporary films like Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood.
Describing the narrative of the film, Brown said in an interview that it’s about “three geezers who are skint and they put their money together to get equipment to go looking for gold, then they all betray each other.” Of course, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is much more than that simplified interpretation of the events that unfold on the screen.
A completely unprecedented artistic choice, the film stars Hollywood’s iconic leading man Humphrey Bogart as an ambitious but unemployed young man who decides to go looking for gold in the middle of nowhere with two partners. However, he becomes increasingly paranoid and embarks on an extremely dark journey that has become an unusual addition to his filmography.
Through The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Huston brings capitalism to its logical conclusion by showing how the unrelenting pursuit of the metaphorical gold corrupts our souls and brings out the worst in all of us. In one of the most iconic endings in the history of cinema, all the gold is poetically blown away by the wind which makes Bogart’s surviving partners laugh.
“The point is he gets the young character, played by Tim Holt, to laugh, too,” Huston explained. “They laugh at the absurdity of the venture. My father could inspire that kind of awareness and laughter in others. He would laugh and get me laughing—not necessarily at a joke. Usually it was a shared weakness he spotted or made me see that brought on that marvellous laughter. I haven’t laughed like that since he died.”