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Trailer Tunes: 'Frances Ha' & David Bowie's 'Modern Love'

Trailer Tunes looks at how movie trailers use music to set the mood and entice an audience into the theater. Today: how does David Bowie benefit Noah Baumbach's latest film?

There's always so much to unpack about a movie trailer: the stars, the plot, how much of the plot is being totally given away. But in many cases, the part of the trailer that sticks with you the longest is the music. Be it a pop song or a piece or orchestral score, it's the music that most often makes a trailer.

This Week's Trailer: Frances Ha, the latest from director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale; Greenberg), co-written with star Greta Gerwig.

This Week's Tune: "Modern Love," the 1983 hit from David Bowie's Let's Dance album.

How Literal Is It? Gerwig plays Frances, a modern woman in New York trying to navigate her love life. No, no, it's not that simple. The trailer highlights the film's central relationship, between Frances and her best friend, a non-romantic romance that ends up standing in for all kinds of themes of maturity and agency and navigating the world.

How Emotional Is It? The thing about Frances Ha that distinguishes it from other Baumbach films (I was able to see the film at New York Film Festival back in the fall, putting me in the odd position of having seen the film before the trailer) is that it embraces the joy of its main character's aimlessness, in equal proportion to the frustrations. The exuberance of Bowie's tune (which is also used in the film) captures that joy in a way that doesn't reduce it to quirk.

How Definitive Is It? Well ... beyond the fact that "Modern Love" was put to lovely use in the wonderful New Girl season 1 episode "Wedding," there's Mauvais Sang, the 1986 French film from director Leos Carax (Holy Motors), which not only famously utilized the song but as part of a scene that Frances pays direct homage to. So, no, not definitive, but purposefully evocative.

Overall Trailer Tune Effectiveness: VERY effective. It's that emotional connection that really sells it. For a trailer that doesn't spend a whole lot of time on plot, giving a sense of the feel of the movie becomes so important. Bowie, as he so often does, projects cool and soulfulness at once. Just what the trailer needed.

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