'Virgin Suicides' Floats On Ambient Air Score

French pop duo compose haunting new-wave music for upcoming drama.

For years people have been telling the French duo Air that their

atmospheric pop music belongs in films.

But the pair hadn't found anything that inspired them until first-time

director Sofia Coppola came knocking, according to

multi-instrumentalist Nicolas Godin.

"Because our music is very cinematic, a lot of people have asked us

to take some songs from Moon Safari and put them in movies,"

Godin, 30, said of his and partner Jean Benoit Dunckel's critically

acclaimed 1998 electronic-pop album.

"We refused," he said, "because we really wanted to compose especially

for a movie" (RealAudio excerpt of interview).

The pair found what they were looking for in "The Virgin Suicides," a

dramatic tale of a series of teenage suicides within a Michigan

family. With a videocassette of the film playing before them, Godin,

Dunckel and touring Air percussionist Brian Reitzell

(ex–Redd Kross) collaborated for five weeks last winter to

compose the film's atmospheric score, using a number of vintage

keyboards and spooky effects.

Reitzell said the session took place in the French town of Versailles

during a snowstorm.

"We'd be playing, and the snow was falling outside, and I'm sure it

seeped in [to the score]," Reitzell, 33, said. "But the movie is very

similar in that respect of overall darkness — that ambient,

ominous feeling."

Melancholy Subject

The film chronicles the life of a middle-class '70s family led by a

math-teacher father and a rigidly religious mother who seeks to

protect her five attractive daughters from the opposite sex. Following

the suicide of the 13-year-old daughter, the family goes into

seclusion to cut the girls off from the outside world, unintentionally

making the remaining daughters targets of a neighbor's affections.

"The Virgin Suicides" stars Kirsten Dunst, Kathleen Turner and James

Woods and is based on the 1994 novel by Jeffrey Eugenides. The film

is slated for an April 7 release in the U.S.

The score is set for release Feb. 29; an accompanying soundtrack

album, supervised by Reitzell, will be released March 28. It will

feature '70s rock songs from Styx, 10cc and Heart.

Air performed one of two U.S. shows in support of "The Virgin

Suicides" at the recent Sundance Film Festival, where the film made

its U.S. debut. The movie is 30-year-old Coppola's first feature

directing/writing effort; she is the daughter of famed director

Francis Ford Coppola ("The Godfather").

Godin and Dunckel met Coppola through her younger brother, Roman

Coppola, who directed the video for their hit new-wave pop song "Sexy

Boy" (RealAudio excerpt), off Moon Safari.

Rock Flirtations

Air eschewed the band's signature Moog-driven dance pop for the film.

For example, "Bathroom Girl" and "Dead Bodies" flirt with straight-up

rock arrangements, at times bordering on the majestic sound of '70s

progressive rock.

The stately "Bathroom Girl" verges on Queen-style glam rock, while

"The Word 'Hurricane' " has an aggressive rock drum track that runs

counter to the group's typical disco-tinged rhythms. Godin attributed

the change to the influence of Reitzell, who stayed on with the duo

after the completion of the Moon Safari world tour.

Godin said the melancholy mood of tracks such as the spooky, keyboard-driven death march, "Cemetary Party," and the angelic "Afternoon Sister" — which sounds like a pop song played on a church organ — was in keeping with the film's subject matter. "It's a sad subject, but you laugh a lot watching the movie," Godin said. "But the story is sad."

In a break from the rest of the soundtrack's mix of swelling strings, acoustic guitars, drum machines and eerie keyboard sounds, the song "Playground Love" (RealAudio excerpt) features friend Gordon Tracks whispering his melancholy lyrics over a somber orchestral pop track.

Though every note the trio recorded is on the soundtrack album, according to Godin, only four songs made it into the film. The handful of musical themes that run through the score album — including a ghostly female voice that weaves in an out of such tracks as the psychedelic "The Word 'Hurricane' " — mostly were recorded on the group's latest obsession, a 1950s Chamberlin keyboard.

The full track listing for the soundtrack album is: Heart, "Magic Man"; Todd Rundgren, "Hello It's Me"; Sloan, "Everything You've Done Wrong"; Air, "Ce Matin La"; the Hollies, "The Air That I Breathe"; Al Green, "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart"; Gilbert O'Sullivan, "Alone Again (Naturally)"; 10cc, "I'm Not in Love"; Todd Rundgren, "A Dream Goes On Forever"; Heart, "Crazy on You"; Air, "Playground Love (Main Theme)"; and Styx, "Come Sail Away."