Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Marie Antoinette

Sofia Coppola | 2006 | 123 min | US

Remember when self indulgent filmmakers made movies that looked gorgeous? I know there have been a flurry of poor reviews for this one, but I don't get it. Aside from the critics who were forced to watch Marie Antoinette in their tour of duty, what were people expecting from a Sophia Coppola joint about pre-revolutionary France? I expected to see the most lushly photographed teen story ever filmed. I think I got it.

M.A. follows the life of Antoinette (Kirstin Dunst) from her young marriage to the dauphin of France (Jason Schwartzman) until shortly before her death. Her life is an exercise in beautiful excess + the film soon descends (ascends?) into galette + gown porn as she grows more frustrated by her husband's denial of affection. The seasons change, Antoinette grows as a woman, we sigh at how everything seems to glow gold. Especially the gold.

This is a New Wave film. Not in the Godard/ Truffaut vein; in the Adam/ Ants vein. And make no mistake, this movie owes a lot more to Adam + The Ants + their ilk than soundtrack contributions. The fashion + general feel of this film comes far more from the regal music videos of the early nineteen-eighties than to actual historic fashion. History is only a distant consideration in M.A. It really is a pure coming-of-age story which only happens to be set in Versailles (though with an admittedly dour third act). One of the quick nods to this takes the form of a pair of purple Converse high tops on the floor of a dressing room during the second trying-on-clothes-and-eating montage. There are also several scenes that crib straight from a proud genus of movies where the free spirited girl breezes into Dullsville to teach the squares how to LIVE, man! Also look for appearances by seemingly every cult actor of the last forty years.

If any of this foolish disregard for proud French antiquity sounds at all appealing to you, I recommend this one whole heartedly. It's a lot of fun, but don't expect to rent this in lieu of studying for the final of that lofty History 101 course. I haven't seen a good, fun coming-of-age story in a long time. I certainly haven't seen one so beautiful before. And here's more good news for you: I am currently scripting a sequel entitled Kirstin Dunst in Sheer Clothing.

Oh, how I long for a return to summer's parties!

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