All of the soundtracks to Sofia Coppola’s films have been set pieces in the “intelligent” wing of indie rock, that hall with the gleaming white walls where the cerebral, stylish music of Air (Virgin Suicides) and the revered heroes who came before is kept. Remember, Coppola tapped famous do-nothing genius Kevin Shields to write music for 2003’s Lost in Translation, and he was even nice enough to contribute “Sometimes,” one of the more legendary tracks from My Bloody Valentine’s 1991 dream-pop opus Loveless. This has always worked for Coppola, however, because her films are usually as rarefied as her exquisite taste in music. Like the work of Wes Anderson, you can imagine her writing whole scenes around specific songs. And it’s the same with Marie Antoinette, her modified-period retelling of the 18th century French monarch’s opulent, highfalutin antics-filled reign. The two-disc set reaches back to 1980s new romantic and synth-pop, scenes that shared the French nobility’s penchant for puffy shirts and frock wigs, including selections from the Cure (the still-brilliantly crystalline “Plainsong”), Siouxsie & the Banshees, Adam & the Ants (the kookily percussive “Kings of the Wild Frontier”) and Bow Wow Wow, whose “Fools Rush In” gets remixed by that old Coppola cad Shields. There are also contemporary selections from the Strokes, Radio Dept. and fellow Coppola film vet Aphex Twin, who contributes “Jynweythek Ylow” from 2001’s Drukqs, drawing the perfectly glitchy line between Versailles of the late 1700s and the holographic court of a Fifth Element future.
Taken with the alternating layers of opulence and moodiness in the soundtrack’s incidental music, Marie Antoinette succeeds in conveying not only Sofia Coppola’s fully-formed audio-visual concept for her film, but the thought that all the feints, contrivances and elliptical social mores of the aristocracy in 18th century Europe weren’t too far away from the way we live today. Or, at least the way Annabella Lwin was living in 1981.
Johnny Loftus is the music editor of Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.