Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 10/26/06
The soundtrack to Sofia Coppola's 2006 film Marie Antoinette is a mix of classical music with elements of baroque to 1980s post-punk and new wave along with elements of modern ambient and electronic music. Supervised by Brian Reitzell, a longtime associate of Coppola, along with the assistance of longtime friend Stephanie Hayman. The Marie Antoinette Soundtrack is a 2-disc mix that pays tribute to not just the baroque, classical musical styles of the 18th Century but also a tribute to the late 70s/early 80s New Romantics movement that was inspired by 18th Century debauchery. While the soundtrack isn't as nostalgic-driven or haunting as The Virgin Suicides soundtracks or as engaging in an emotional as the Lost in Translation soundtrack was. The Marie Antoinette soundtrack is still one of the most amazing mixes of music assembled for a film.
The first two tracks in the first disc appear in one of the most amazing scenes in the film, the masked ballroom scene. Now the idea of post-punk and new wave music blasting in an 18th Century ballroom might seem radical in terms of what it's trying to do. Yet, given the rhythm and the energy of that kind of music along with the baroque, classical style of music. It makes total perfect sense. The first disc opens with Siouxsie & the Banshees' Hong Kong Garden that starts off a swift, orchestral number from Brian Reitzell before going into a vibrant, rocking track led by the Siouxsie Sioux's wailing vocals and elements of Chinese melodies that really captures the swirling energy of the ballroom dance. The first of three Bow Wow Wow tracks in the soundtrack comes in the form of their original song Aphrodisiac that features some great tribal drumming and intense rhythms led by Annabella Lwin's vocals as furthers the party vibe and energy of the scene as it's a great track.
The third track in the first disc is the Strokes' What Ever Happened? is a fine track that has features the Strokes' Velvet-like snarl and Julian Casablanca's vocals. Yet, for some reason, this is by far the weakest track of the entire soundtrack and it doesn't seem to fit in with everything else and once it's played on the film during a scene in the third act, it makes the entire soundtrack feel like a gimmick. Next is the first of three tracks from the Radio Dept. in the form of Pulling Our Weight. The moody yet shimmering track is filled with all of the post-punk elements of the 80s with melodic bass lines and dreamy vocals as the song's pop-like textures is filled with hypnotic synthesizer lines and guitar tracks as it's a wonderful standout. Next is the New Order song Ceremony written by their previous incarnation as Joy Division. With Peter Hook's melodic bass lines and hammering drums of Stephen Morris, it's one of New Order's finest songs thanks to the harrowing lyrics of Ian Curtis sung by guitarist/vocalist Bernard Sumner as the song reveals the emotional moment of celebration in all of its glory and naivete that also has a sense of foreboding through Curtis' lyrics.
Opening the film during the first shot of Marie getting a pedicure and through the opening credits is from the legendary post-punk band the Gang of Four with their track Natural's Not It. With its crashing guitars and hard-hitting rhythms, the song is pure post-punk in all of its angst and momentum as it's the song that brings the film right to an energetic momentum led by some snarling vocals. It's a great post-punk classic. Next is the famous cover of the classic I Want Candy by Bow Wow Wow. With its tribal, Bo Diddley beats, and the punk-like energy of the guitars, the song is an 80s classic. For this soundtrack, the legendary but reclusive leader of My Bloody Valentine, Kevin Shields gives the song a rocking remix. Shields' remix adds more echos to the vocals and reverbs to the guitars that gives the song more of a rock edge as in the end, it's still the same song but with added touches. Adam & the Ants arrive with Kings Of The Wild Frontier that is real New Romantic with its tribal-like beats and snarling guitars from Marco Pirroni with Adam Ant's wailing vocals that features vocals of 18th Century decadence that seems to go perfect with the film's tone as well as the look of Count Fersen.
The soundtrack then briefly shifts to the world of classical music with a cut from composer Antonio Vivaldi. With musical direction from Brian Reitzell and conducted by Roger Neill, Concerto in G is a wonderfully rhythmic, vibrant cut that features swift violin and cello riffs that definitely fits in with the energy of post-punk and new wave. The Vivaldi cut is easily one of first disc's great standout tracks since its energy really plays well to the record and the film to give that aura of 18th Century sophistication. Next is the eight-minute The Melody Of A Fallen Tree from Windsor for the Derby that is basically a moody, hypnotic track with bass lines, synthesizers, and guitars that starts off as hypnotic instrumental before going into song mode with shimmering synthesizers and a slow rhythm as it plays as an emotional track where Marie is now in the world of Versailles.
The second track from the Radio Dept. is I Don't Like It Like This is a more electronic-driven ballad with hypnotic beats and synthesizers that plays to the same, moody tone with haunting vocals as it's another amazing track that plays to the emotions of Marie's young life. The final track in the first disc comes from the Cure's classic 1989 album Disintegration with the wonderful Plainsong with its opening, wailing synthesizers and Robert Smith's emotional vocals that plays well to the coronation of King Louis XVI and Marie in a wonderful, breathtaking scene.
Whereas the first disc is mostly song-driven and energetic while moody in some parts to the slower songs. The second disc is mostly instrumental with ambient, classical, and opera cuts while having a few songs in the disc. The second disc opens with a 37-second cut from longtime Coppola sound designer Richard Beggs and Brian Reitzell called Intro Versailles which is basically a layered mix of sounds ranging from bells chiming, horses trodding on the ground with birds to the wedding with church organs and such that add weight to the breathtaking introduction of Versailles. The first of two tracks from the Aphex Twin is Jynweythek Ylow which is an ambient track filled with chiming, scratchy melodies and rhythms to the wave of melodic, ambient keyboards from Richard D. James in this ominous instrumental. The first of three instrumental cuts from Dustin O'Halloran arrive in Opus 17 that is primarily an eerie, transcending piano cut that plays well to the atmosphere of 18th Century ambiance. Air contributes a track with their five-minute instrumental version of Il Secondo Giorno as it's mainly an ambient track with reverb, bass-driven synthesizer melodies and acoustic guitars as its wonderfully played to the moods and isolation in the world of Versailles.
The third and final track from Radio Dept. is Keen On Boys starts off with this wave of dreamy yet droning guitar crashes that harkens to the world of shoegazing with atmospheric vocals and hypnotic guitar waves accompanied by electronic beats. This is the best track from the Radio Dept. as the band brings a lot of moodiness and texture to the soundtrack and film. The second O'Halloran composition in Opus 23 is a more emotional, melancholic piano track that is filled with lower chords and a sadness that plays to the mood of Versailles and Marie's surroundings. The next classical cut comes from Fancois Cauperin called Les Barricades Mysterious that is basically a harpsichord track performed by Patricia Mabee and directed and arranged by Brian Reitzell. The cut is a fast-played harpsichord track that seems to go well with the times with its flourishing melodies and the imperfected sound that the harpsichord seems to sound.
The next track is a cover of Johnny Mercer's Fools Rush In from Bow Wow Wow. The original cover from Bow Wow Wow is more tribal in tune with their sound but the remix Kevin Shields gives sticks to the rhythm yet the music is replaced with a more shoegaze-like sound of reverb guitars and faster, electronic beats yet the vocals that Annabella Lwin are amazing. Played in a scene after the ballroom scene, it's one of the best cuts as its rhythm will keep listeners dancing. The second Aphex Twin instrumental is Avril 14th is a more piano-driven track that plays to the melancholia and isolation of the world in Versailles with its flourishing yet slow piano melodies that reveals the talents of Richard D. James. Another harpsichord-driven cut arrives in the form of Domenico Scarlatti with Mabee playing the cut and arrangements from Reitzell. K. 213 is a more melodic-driven track that plays to the atmosphere of Versailles in its ambiance that is slower than the previous harpsichord track but more flourishing. Squarepusher contributes an ambient cut in Tommib Help Buss that has the same, emotional melody like Tommib did in the Lost in Translation soundtrack but is more reverb in its keyboard melodies and less engaging yet it is a fine track from Tom Jenkinson.
Opera arrives in Tristes Apprets, Pales Flambeaux from the opera Castor et Pollux by Jean-Phillippe Rameau that's directed by William Christie with vocals by Agnes Mellon. The opera cut is flourishing in its bombast and arrangements yet the opera track is very sad led by Mellon's amazing vocals that convey the sadness in a scene late in the film when Marie is watching an opera considering the political situation her country is in. It's one of the best cuts of the film. Dustin O'Halloran contributes one more composition with Opus 36 that is another piano-driven track that features more, melancholic melodies with higher pitches in the chords that adds to the fall of Versailles and Marie's troubling moods. The final track is from the Cure in All Cats Are Grey that closes the film and plays in the final credits. With its slow, tribal beats and harrowing synthesizers, the song plays like the end of something with Robert Smith's eerie vocals and lyrics as it conveys death of where Marie would eventually meet her fate.
While it's not a perfect soundtrack thanks to the inclusion of the Strokes, Marie Antoinette is still a fine soundtrack with some great cuts ranging from classical to new wave. While other contributions from the classical department including an 18th Century instrumental from Phoenix and New Order's Age Of Consent (that was played in the film's teaser trailer) never made it to the final cut of the soundtrack. What Sofia Coppola and Brian Reitzell offered is still amazing in its variety while making it a great introduction to not just the music genres of post-punk, new wave, and ambient but also classical where those cuts are very inspiring. In the end, the soundtrack to Marie Antoinette is a must-have for anyone who's a fan of the film and the work of Sofia Coppola.
Sofia Coppola Films: Lick the Stars - The Virgin Suicides - Lost in Translation - Marie Antoinette - Somewhere - The Bling Ring
Sofia Coppola Soundtracks: Air-The Virgin Suicides - The Virgin Suicides OST - Lost in Translation OST - (The Bling Ring OST))
Sofia Coppola Essays: Sofia Coppola: The Videos and Ads 1993-2008 - LIT 5th Anniversary Essay - The Auteurs #1: Sofia Coppola - Favorite Films #4: Somewhere
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