people always live and die in 4/4 time

“i’m unduly disappointed when pop music is misused, and i start to cut slack for any film that gets me to take notice of even a single song…”

Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides is pitched far away from High Fidelity’s esoteric clutter, but its austerity and restraint are deceptive: no matter how encyclopedic Cusack’s pop-music I.Q. is in High Fidelity, or how much his record collection dwarfs the solitary milk crate owned by Kirsten Dunst’s Lux in The Virgin Suicides, it’s Coppola’s film that comes closer to capturing from the inside the experience of what it’s like to give part of your life over to pop music—closer, maybe, than any film ever has. In Dazed and Confused, an earlier version of growing up in the ‘70s, Richard Linklater’s teenagers seemed barely cognizant of the Foghat and Edgar Winter that played non-stop on the radio as they drove around town. Linklater had the songs down cold, but I only rarely sensed that any of them meant anything to the kids—whatever feeling of kinship I took away were for Linklater, who clearly shares some biography with me, not for his characters. The Virgin Suicides uses about one-seventh the amount of music heard in Dazed and Confused, but every second registers. Sometimes, like with the incredible introduction of Trip Fontane to Heart’s “Magic Man,” Coppola sticks close to Scorsese: pick the right song, play it loud and let it play, and let the music do the rest. Even there, though, “Magic Man” pointedly speaks for all the girls hanging off their lockers and swooning as Trip walks down the hall, so when “Crazy on You” accompanies Lux’s and Trip’s seismic first kiss soon after, it’s as if Heart has been officially designated as a talisman to the kids, something that closes off their world to outsiders. From there it’s a short step to the homecoming dance, where Electric Light Orchestra’s “Strange Magic,” 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love,” and Styx’s “Come Sail Away” speak a secret language of longing and desire understood immediately by anyone who went to high school at the time. Which would not, significantly, include Sofia Coppola—I haven’t read the source novel for The Virgin Suicides, from which I take it some of the songs are lifted intact, but in any case the music is wholly an extension of the characters, not Coppola (who was five years old at the time).
[Cinemascope, 2000]

Other music movies written about in Interrupting My Train of Thought:

  • Rushmore
  • American Graffiti
  • Mean Streets
  • Boogie Nights
  • GoodFellas… + dozens more


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