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CQ Motion Picture Soundtrack
Emperor Norton

The French band Mellow took on the scoring of Roman Coppola’s directorial debut CQ not unlike what Air did for Coppola’s sister Sophia’s first feature, The Virgin Suicides. Whereas Air’s score provided underlying reinforcement to the narrative—I hardly noticed the music while watching the film—Mellow’s score for CQ plays a role parallel to the actors and the plot. The analogue synthesizers, French horns, and lounge-room piano of Mellow’s creations accurately reflect our contemporary view of what 1960s kitsch was all about, much like what the comedian Michael Myers did with his Austin Powers character.

The CQ Motion Picture Soundtrack starts out with bouncing guitars and Mellotron à la the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever,” but the chanting and strings take the song out of the free-loving 1960s and straight onto the decks of The Love Boat. “Take Me Higher,” featuring the dreamy voice of Alison David, is the theme song for the CQ star Angela Lindvall, a model turned actress who plays a dual role as Dragonfly and Valentine in the film. The song is full of lyrical clichés—“Fresh as the drops of the dew in May/Shining like the lights in a summer’s day” in a verse, with a chorus of “Take me, take me higher/It could be easy to light my fire”—but so irresistible. David sings on another track, “Codename Dragonfly,” a track that takes off suddenly but stops almost as soon as it starts—such is the nature of composing music for a film.

Four songs on the soundtrack come from the same era as the film’s setting: Paris in the late 1960s. Rather than pilfer through the Serge Gainsbourg catalogue for obvious hits, the soundtrack’s organizer revives a vintage Jacques Dutronc song, “Le Responsible,” a rocker of a tune that is used to reinforce the frivolous mood for a party scene. (Is that the actor Jason Schwartzman doing the Twist?) Claude François and Paul Piot are two other singers with contributions to the CD. A short instrumental by Antonello Paliotti sounds not unlike Mellow’s original compositions.

As a film, CQ, which stars Spanking the Monkey’s Jeremy Davies, is cute fluff, mostly an admiration for B-movie science-fiction movies such as Barbarella. It also touches on, in a small way, the aftermath of May 1968 and the concerns of cinema verité and of French New Wave filmmakers. But this film is more a labor of love. I’m sure Mellow had as much fun scoring it as Coppola did directing it.

Originally published in ‘Sup 10 (2002).