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10 insanely perfect sofia coppola soundtrack moments

On the eve of her 45th birthday, we press rewind on the tracks that have defined the iconic American director’s screen dreams, from the post-punk screeches of 18th-century Versailles in ‘Marie Antoinette’ to the feathery rock sounds of 70s suburbia in...

by Emily Manning
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May 13 2016, 9:35pm

Air, Playground Love (The Virgin Suicides): French duo Air has contributed music to three of Coppola's films: Marie Antoinette, Lost in Translation (more on that later), but most notably, The Virgin Suicides. Though it was Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore who gave a young Coppola her first copy of Jeffrey Eugenides' novel, she enlisted ex-Redd Kross drummer Brian Reitzell as the film's music supervisor, who worked with her to select the perfect 70s teen songs. Yet while Coppola was writing the screenplay, she wasn't listening to Styx, The Bee Gees, or Carole King, but Versailles-based electronic outfit Air. She approached the duo about contributing to the film, and in turn, Air created a full album of original compositions imbued with hazy 70s elements. The instantly recognizable Playground Love is the perfect sonic compliment to Coppola's dreamlike vision of somber suburbia.

New Order, Ceremony (Marie Antoinette): ''My introduction to 18th-century France was from New Romantic music, from the imagery of Bow Wow Wow and Adam Ant, and Vivienne Westwood, and the whole scene that was going on post-punk, when I was an adolescent,'' Coppola told Entertainment Weekly in 2006. So that's exactly the roster she and Reitzell compiled for the biopic of ruinously opulent teen queen Marie Antoinette. The film's sonic spectrum — which ranges from classical contraltos to post-punk and dream pop — is distilled in New Order's debut single 1981's Ceremony, a cover of one of the last Joy Division songs Ian Curtis composed. In the film, Kirsten Dunst's Antoinette celebrates her 18th birthday by drunkenly frolicking in a field to Peter Hook's iconic basslines.

The Jesus and Mary Chain, Just Like Honey (Lost in Translation): The opening track from the Scottish rockers' landmark debut 1985 album Psychocandy memorably closed Coppola's Oscar winning Lost in Translation (2003). Widely considered the forebearers of shoegaze, The Jesus and Mary Chain's inclusion in the film — which also saw the use of five songs by My Bloody Valentine frontman Kevin Shields — occasioned Consequence of Sound to suggest that Lost in Translation had much to do with the genre's revival in the 2000s. The Jesus and Mary Chain even enlisted Scarlett Johansson to perform Just Like Honey at its 2007 Coachella reunion set.

Gwen Stefani, Cool (Somewhere): Much of the musical conversation surrounding Coppola's Somewhere related to Phoenix's involvement — not least because its frontman, Thomas Mars, is Coppola's husband (who, fun fact, provided vocals on Air's Playground Love). The French band composed Somewhere's score, and two songs from its breakout 2009 album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix — the tracks Love Like a Sunset parts I and II — bookended the film. But it's one of the film's quieter moments, the scene in which an 11-year-old Elle Fanning figure skating to Gwen Stefani's Cool, that seems to mark Somewhere's real turning point.

Aphex Twin, Avril 14 (Marie Antoinette): Though jangly New Romantic classics are the most recognizable elements of Marie Antoinette's soundtrack, this manic energy is balanced beautifully by sublime electronica. Case-in-point: Coppola's use of two tracks from elusive British master Aphex Twin's double album drukQs. Album opener Jynweythek makes gorgeous use of layered harmonium tones, but it's Avril 14th's simple piano melody that makes Coppola's choice so inspired: it's truly difficult to determine where and when the song was composed — by one of the French court's classical composers, or ambient techno's maddest scientist?

Kanye West, All of the Lights (The Bling Ring): We're not saying that Marie Antoinette's soundtrack inspired Kanye West to sample Aphex Twin's Avril 14 on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but who knows. Either way, one of MBDTF's other songs, All of the Lights, appeared in Coppola's Bling Ring. Like pretty much everything in Los Angeles, the scene take place in a car, and features a rich white girl effortlessly spouting lyrics to a rap song. Coppola employed a similar technique earlier in the film, but by All of the Lights, her intention is less comedy than commentary: her characters reflexively parrot these verses verbatim without considering any of the words they're saying, and the director lays it starkly bare.

Air, Alone in Kyoto (Lost in Translation): While The Sex Pistols, Roxy Music, Elvis Costello, and The Pretenders all memorably receive the karaoke treatment in Lost in Translation, it's one of the film's more contemplative songs that steals the show. "I wanted to create this sense of disassociation, of being in this kind of unfamiliar, alienating world," Coppola told The LA Times. And once again, Air fits the bill with Alone in Kyoto, the song that soundtracked Charlotte's interaction with Japan's breathtaking landscape — moving through space, but always on the periphery.

Brigitte Bardot, Moi Je Joue (Miss Dior Cherie commercial): Though Coppola started interning at Chanel at 15, for her first commercial, she teamed up with another iconic French house: Dior. Coppola created Godard-esque ads for the Miss Dior Cherie fragrance in which Belarusian model Maryna Linchuk jaunts around the city. Coppola kept its soundtrack true to her early-60s visual influences, using Brigitte Bardot's sunny, strummy 1964 single Moi Je Joue (or "Me I Play"). The spot premiered in 2008 — during what else but Gossip Girl — and persists as Coppola's most popular commercial.

Heart, Magic Man (The Virgin Suicides): Is there literally any better song to soundtrack our first introduction to Virgin Suicides heartthrob Trip Fontaine than Heart's 1975 single Magic Man? Honestly no, because the electrifying track was written by Heart's hard rocking sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, and sung from the perspective of a young girl who struggles with her mother to explain her attraction to an older man. Alright, there's not that much of an age difference between Lux and Trip, but Mrs. Lisbon certainly wanted nothing to do with it.

The Cure, Plainsong (Marie Antoinette): Coppola set her reluctant young rulers' wildly resplendent coronation ceremony to The Cure's shimmering Disintegration opener Plainsong. Its windchimes section is so seamless, it appears to be diegetic — actually happening inside the church as the crown is placed on Louis' head rather than overlayed. While its orchestral textures are perfect fits for the regal procession Coppola depicts, Plainsong's lush shower of synths also, somehow, recall 80s prom entrance music. Without removing her dysfunctional teenage monarchs from their historical context, Coppola uses music to help us connect with them outside of it.

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Text Emily Manning