I don’t generally fall for music videos or concert films, and with the obvious exception of American Dreamz, I don’t have any special affinity for movies that are centered on the music industry. But I’ve always been interested in the ways that movies use preexisting pop songs, and I love being introduced to random scraps of pop through film. (A classic instance, yes, is The Beta Band’s “Dry The Rain” in High Fidelity, but there are others.) I also love when movies – even movies I don’t love – produce a new perspective on songs I thought I already knew. It pains me to admit this, as much as I worship the Kinks and cherish a healthy skepticism toward the live-action films of Wes Anderson, but The Darjeeling Limited did push me into an even richer appreciation of “This Time Tomorrow” and “Strangers.” The all-night champagne parties in Sofia Coppola’s fluffy Marie Antoinette vaulted New Order’s “Ceremony” from a random ‘80s synth riff to The Most Played Song In My iTunes.
This is all a very roundabout way of suggesting that if you haven’t yet, you go see Coppola’s latest, Somewhere. Sure, most of the movie is just Stephen Dorff lounging around his Hollywood hotel room, playing Johnny Marco, a kind of moody, melancholy version of Matthew McConaughey in his bachelor days. (Ah, the limitless pathos of Matthew McConaughey!) But the use of music is subtly awesome. Coppola bf Thomas Mars of Phoenix contributes a few well-handled tunes; Gwen Stefani turns out to be the best possible accompinement to a preteen figure skating routine; and there’s even a great guitar hero sequence where Dorff doodles along to T.Rex’s “20th Century Boy” and The Police’s “So Lonely.” OK, so not everything about the music is subtle.
The best bits, though, fit into both categories above: in the old-music-in-a-new-way department, the opening scene, set to the the Foo Fighters’ “My Hero,” is utterly transformative. Well, maybe not, but it does involve graceless (but not sexless) pole-dancing, and from a comic perspective certainly far outstrips the band’s own Mentos-parody video back in 1996.
In the new-music-to-me department, there are two clear winners. First, an early demo tape of the Strokes’ “You Only Live Once”, this one called “I’ll Try Anything Once,” and prominently featured in the trailer. Soggy-sweet and slowed to a crawl, it blows the 2006 album version right out of Johnny Marco’s pool. Second, a brief little guitar version of “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear,” performed by the legendary Hollywood hotel waiter/singer Romulo Laki. Well, I’m not sure how large his legend is, but Colin Farrell thinks he’s awesome, and so do I.
Romulo Laki, “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear” [embedding disabled by copyright holder]