Marie Antoinette OST
t was shocking to see the first trailer for Marie Antoinette, Sofia Coppola’s third feature-length film and first since the acclaimed Lost in Translation. The parties, the quick cuts, Kirsten Dunst in her best “period acting” pose, all set to New Order: it so brazenly flies in the face of cinematic substance that it almost seems intentionally constructed as such. Even having heard beforehand of Coppola’s plans to use an unfettered Kirsten Dunst and set it to modern music, I was surprised to see it in action. So Sofia decided that the best follow-up to Bill Murray in Japan would be A Knight’s Tale circa the French Revolution? Is this some sort of elaborate joke?
Whether or not Sofia’s pulling a fast one on us, Marie Antoinette is exactly as she wants it, and no matter how it fares in the box office, this soundtrack is sure to hit as a holiday gift. Everyone from the smirking nostalgists to the freshman neophytes will be talking about this one for a while, and there’s no doubt that it’s due to the capable hand of the director. Coppola has established herself as one of the great musical tastemakers of today’s cinema (along with Zach Braff) and Marie Antoinette reflects the most daring leap she’s asked of her audience.
But it’s not only Coppola who’s on display here. As a soundtrack, Marie Antoinette’s main responsibility is to reflect the film’s concept (Antoinette as 80s party girl), and it’s admirably executed—for the most part. Some of the more atmospheric of the recognizable New Wave/Post-Punk tracks make appearances (“Plainsong,” “Ceremony,” Adam and the Ants’ “King of the Wind Frontier”), as well as modern cuts by the Strokes and Radio Dept. aspiring to a similar feel. And, yes, Coppola still has Kevin Shields on speed dial: he offers up spacey remixes of Bow Wow Wow hits “I Want Candy” and “Fools Rush In.”
Generally, the peppy, youthful stuff goes on Disc One and the darker stuff on Disc Two, which features works from the likes of Air, Aphex Twin, and Squarepusher (whose track “Tommib Help Buss” is the later version of his “Tommib” which appeared on Lost in Translation). Indeed, the second disc is more of a mutated kind of score than a continuation of the New Wave motif.
Coppola even covers period music, though it’s clear she’s not concerned with being overly faithful to the period. Siouxsie’s “Hong Kong Garden” gets a makeover, with a stately court-music intro with harpsichords tinkling in the background. There’s also a smattering of actual Baroque music, with Couperin, Scarlatti, and Rameau getting short pieces, even if it seems that the period is just as often handled by mockingly-composed originals (“Concerto in G”) or Devics’ Dustin O’Halloran and his striking, if meandering, piano compositions.
The film is sure to incite some discussion over its ambitious and seemingly ill-advised concept, and likewise its soundtrack may suffer complaints for its slapdash “Baroquesque” construction. But if the album soundtrack reads more like a teenage mixtape, it’s intentionally so. We’re getting Siouxsie and Couperin and Radio Dept. and Bow Wow Wow remixed by Kevin Shields (?!!) because Coppola wants to guide us on the same journey of discovery that she has undertaken. Coppola has set up Marie Antoinette as a challenge of comparison for her viewers and listeners, and while the jury is still out on the film, there’s enough skill in the construction of this soundtrack that the auteur moments outweigh the amateur ones.