Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (Peter Sollett, 2008) is a film in the vein of other recent retro-worship films, like Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind. Both films were made in 2008, the latter released in February and the first released in October. It is also one of the recent films with a ‘quirky’ title, such as Zack and Miri Make a Porno, although the latter just thinks it is quirky whereas Nick and Norah’s actually is.
The reason why this film is so much better than the book of the same name by Rachel Cohn is because it is defined by its soundtrack – because it can actually surround us with its infinite playlist as we experience its New York City life. Shaped by its extensive soundtrack as much as The Wackness is defined (and carried) by its music, Nick and Norah’s is a celluloid love letter to music and the old (and replaceable in retro-cool only by mix tapes) tradition of making mix CDs for friends. Often made with a theme in mind, such as the year’s best new songs or, in the case of the film’s Nick (Michael Cera), loving break-up songs mixed for his shallow and stupidly cruel ex-girlfriend. The fact that she hates receiving them (or just thinks she is above such a ‘past’ practice) and her friend is drawn to the CDs for their creativity and tunes – she uploads all the volumes, one through six, onto her iPod – suggests that the art of the mix tape is a cultural phenomenon which helps bring people together.
I remember a few years ago I was almost a member of this group which, as an international network of friends and their friends, was a mix tape exchange program. It was designed to let us give music we liked to other people, and to be introduced ourselves to more potentially great music through a tangible gift of a mix tape. Whether, today, we listen to mix CDs or iPod playlists, each activity harks back to those nostalgic days of mix tapes, road trips and Walkman’s. And so do films like these.