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October 26, 2006 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2006-10-26

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4B - Thursday, October 26, 2006

the b-side

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Sounds of
film: Faux
pas not
DailyArts Writer
The "Garden State" soundtrack is not
an album. It's Zach Braff's iPod shuffle.
The art of compiling a soundtrack is
similar to sewing a patchwork quilt -
songs must be culled from the sprawling
body of a film and stitched into a coherent
work that makes sense in its overall pre-
sentation. The task is complex, and more
often than not we end up with a gaudy
piece of pop pastiche that continues to
deteriorate with repeated listens (take
"Garden State" as a case in point).
Zach Braff took a handful of wonder-
ful songs and carelessly sandwiched them
between inferior folk knock-offs and
awkward pop rockers. Bonnie Somerville,
Colin Hay and Cary Brothers supply the
major land mines of the record, consis-
tently disintegrating any pleasure derived
from the other tunes. Nick Drake's hum-
ble "One of These Things First" gets cozy
with Remy Zero and Thievery Corpora-
tion, while Colin Hay provides the mind-
numbing coda for a pair of Shins tunes.
The frightening part of this whole situ-
ation is that Mr. Braff's foray into the
art of album assembly is probably better
than 95 percent of what gets released.
Major studios pump out bargain-bin fod-
der faster than they can write actors' roy-
alty checks, leading the youth of America
to get their first soundtrack experiences
from "The Cookout" rather than "Mid-
night Cowboy."
But fear not young moviegoers, for as
Leonard Cohen once said: "There are
heroes in the seaweed."
Wes Anderson and Sofia Coppola come
from a new school of filmmakers whose
pop-based soundtracks are not only cohe-
sive musical works, but foundations upon
which their characters and plots are built.
The Creation's freak-beat anthem
"Making Time" perfectly encapsulates all
the arrogance and nervous energy found
in Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman),
the teenaged focal point of Anderson's

tesy of Touchstone
Kirsten Dunst in Sofia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette."

Gwyneth Paltrow and Luke Wilson look serious in "The Royal Tenenbaums."

1998 parochial masterpiece "Rushmore".
Ornamented by Mark Mothersbaugh's
idiosyncratic film-score snippets, the
How to make an
American quilt. Or at
least a decent movie
soundtrack is a whimsical compilation of
folk-pop gems of the '60s and '70s. It plays
like a great album is supposed to; songs fit
side by side, an overall texture is estab-
lished and there is a clear narrative arc
that parallels the characters' tumultuous
Anderson refined his approach with
2001's "The Royal Tenenbaums," which
relied more heavily on Mothersbaugh's
virtuosic scoring talents to provide the
film with a surreal take on classical film
composition. Nico served as the movie's
musical narrator with "These Days" and
"The Fairest of The Seasons" appearing
at crucial points in the story's develop-
ment. The suicide attempt and subsequent
hospital escape of ex-tennis pro Richie
Tenenbaum (Luke Wilson) is the most
poignant and thoughtful combination of
film and music Anderson has yet created.
Blood flows down Richie's arms as the
incessant strums of Elliot Smith's "Needle
in the Hay" quietly overtakes the picture.
An awkward family hospital visit ensues,
but he soon leaves and finds himself on a
large green bus sailing through the aging

city streets to the baroque majesty of Nick
Drake's "Fly."
Sofia Coppola has a tendency to lean
toward more ambient soundscapes, draw-
ing heavily from shoegaze and electron-
ica artists. "Lost In Translation" makes
exquisite use of My Bloody Valentine's
"Sometimes" in a late night cab ride scene
between Charlotte (Scarlett Johannson)
and Bob (Bill Murray). Walls of guitar
seem to cascade over the Tokyo skyline,
creating a contemplative bed of sound
over which the unlikely couple can pon-
der their future. The "Lost In Transla-
tion" album, like Anderson's best work,
is extremely well paced and meticulously
The key to Coppola and Anderson's
effectiveness as album curators is a com-
bination of their keen musical tastes and
the restraint that is demonstrated in their
choice of songs. They mine musical terri-
tory that is intimately connected with their
stories and will often film scenes with a
pre-planned soundtrack. Both stick closely
to a genre or texture and rarely employ
material that breaks from the established
A great film soundtrack is not just a
mixtape, it's a fully realized work inti-
mately connected with the movie from
which it came. It can transport you from
the mundane reality of everyday life into
a surreal world of colorful characters and
escapist fantasy.
So the next time you are stuck in a grad
library carrel studying for some inconse-
quential exam, flip on "The Royal Tenen-
baums" soundtrack, look out your window
and watch Ann Arbor become a whole lot
more romantic than you ever thought it
could be.


New Order in the court:
Sofia's making the mixtape

AssociateArts Editor
Siouxsie and The Banshees. Aphex
Twin. Bow Wow Wow. Vivaldi arranged
by Brian Reitzell.
The track listing for the "Marie Antoi-
nette" album soundtrack reads like a
laundry list of '80s New Romantics with
a splash of East Village modernity and
two fingers of rerouted baroque. Maybe
that's pushing it too far with the analo-
gies. But seriously, the album is an audi-
tory wet dream for the indie eclectic - or
her favorite director, Sofia Coppola.
In all aspects, "Marie Antoinette" is
Coppola's baby, a film that would quickly
be labeled a periodbiopic save for itsdecid-
edly contemporary approach. Coppola's
tribute to France's most famous and frivo-
lous ruler is a humanist look at history's
greatest fuck-ups, paired with a healthy
love of synth-pop. A look at its advertis-
* ing campaign will tell you that much: The
poster features a punkish cut-out of the
title pasted over a frou-frou Kirsten Dunst
* bathed in hot pink; the trailer, scenes of
coronation and revolution accompanied
| by New Order and The Strokes.
Coppola goes for an obvious musical -
and marketing - aesthetic with her song
selection. She includes what she likes and
knows what her demographic likes. Cop-
: pola's a middle Gen-Xer and one of most

highly regarded young directors today
(her oeuvre spanning a whole three fea-
ture films); as a fan, you kind of fantasize
It's her party. She'll
have Air in Versailles
if she wants to.
what Coppola was like growing up. Some-
where between a presumably gawky ado-
lescence and daddy Francis casting her
as Mary Corleone, there must have been
some period of time where young, admi-
rable Sofi cut her dyed hair asymmetrical-
ly, wore skinny black jeans and listened
to a lot of New Order. In every generation
there will be the set of kids who idolize
Ian Curtis (not in New Order, obviously)
or Adam Ant.
Maybe that's pushing it too far with
Adam Ant. But Coppola seems like a
woman used to getting her way, and what's
a better show of control as a hostess than
overseeing what's pumped through the
Don't dare call it background music
- not only do selections like "Ceremony"
and "Hong Kong Garden" both comple-
ment and drive the film, they come from
some pretty good artists to begin with.

11 .9

Life, liberty and happiness: The best
of literature, arts and fashion for all

From page 1B
for peace" (and yes, Jesus's temple
rampage tops the list).
Another Magazine similarly
skips around from a pessimistic
interview with writer Gore Vidal
to an inside look at utopian school-
ing in Appalachia. It presents a
short photo essay on the small
traditional Longhorn Miao tribe
of China, whose women elect to
thread half-foot horns into the hair
at the base of their necks. It offers
specialized interview briefs with
assorted B-listers, such as "Joan
of Arcadia's" Amber Tamblyn's
obsession with junk art. But just
when you start to skim through
its yawningly Vogue-like fashion
spreads and Kirsten Dunst cover
story, you hit the jackpot on its
back literary section and remem-
ber the advantages of a culture
magazine's flexible anything-goes
format in the first place.
Along with stories and essays
from the likes of James Fox and
David Sedaris, Another prints
exam questions from the 1960s
Oxford Men's College applications
("Should we bless or curse the
motor-car?"), a script excerpt from
Hitchcock's "North by Northwest"
(its coy dialogue deemed a lesson
in flirting) and famous authors'
youthful letters home (Sylvia Plath
to her mother: "If my printing's
crooked, it's only because I drank
too much cider tonight"). Finally, a
magazine with the space to simply
revel in the wealth of our pop cul-

ture's rich history - with media so
focused on the now, when is our
chance to appreciate the then?
There are certainly more tradi-
tional culture magazines among
the current yield, namely Black
Book, whose hipper-than-Elle lay-
out acts as a sort of starter course
to the world of trendy print. With
safe indie it-girl Maggie Gyllenhaal
on the cover, Black Book spotlights
tamer fashion spreads (accessories
paired with modern art) and celeb-
rities in more mainstream sur-
roundings (Justin Theroux, Philip
Seymour Hoffman, Sam Rockwell
and Billy Crudup as an all-star-
benefit charades team).
The remainder of the best cur-
rent culture magazines fork off
noticeably from a fashion-heavy
focus, organizing instead around
top-notch writing and tongue-
in-cheek commentary. The two
branches relate like joined twins
- same heart, individual souls.
Chicago-based Stop Smiling
("The Magazine for High-Mind-
ed Lowlifes") may have a photo
spread or two, but its cover story
is on Kurt Vonnegut instead of
Kirsten. Its essays cover Mark
Twain and Kim Novak, its inter-
views quiz Garrison Keillor and
Dave Eggers and its reviews com-
bine the New Yorker's essay length
with The Onion AV's Club's spark
- not a six-inch-high heel or cou-
ture spandex dress in sight.
The same can be said for the
McSweeney's family of irreverent
magazines, although McSwee-
ney's literary magazine and its
offshoots, The Believer (books

One thing's for sure: You won't find
these publications without looking.
To get your handson back or current
issues oftany of the magazines men-
ioned in this story, check out Shaman
Drum, Borders or these websites:
and writers) and Wholpin (far-far-
far-from-mainstream film, with a
DVD sampler included), regularly
take wit to such dazzling heights
that a separate category of media
creation might be warranted.
"There's not enough room for
it all!" These magazines seem to
scream it as they cram in every
interesting cultural tidbit their
editors have culled together
before deadline. Another Maga-
zine concludes with an irrelevant
photo spread of various observa-
tories from throughout the world,
each paired with a philosophical
quote about the insatiable human
search for truth. Other magazines
might give you answers: the latest
political brouhahas, some qualita-
tive postseason sports analysis, a
definite letter grade on the latest
movie. These magazines just enjoy
the questions.
I dare you to ever pay for People


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