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Dir. Sofia Coppola 123 Min.
After watching Marie Antoinette, Sofia Coppola's latest film it is hard for me not to consider the similarities among all three of her films.
All three deal with the same broad theme of loneliness in an alienated environment searching for true companionship. In "The Virgin Suicides" the Lisbon girls were trapped in their home, forced into isolation by their parents. In "Lost in Translation" two lonely souls temporarily trapped by circumstance in a foreign city are drawn together. Finally, "Marie Antoinette" gives us a teenage queen forced into marriage at 14 into a stifling royal milieu of protocol and hierarchal gamesmanship.
Kirsten Dunst ably portrays the young queen barely able to keep her head up above the water. The pressures and responsibility of bearing a sire from both the French court and her stern mother (played by an unrecognizable Marianne Faithfull) threaten to overcome her. Her betrothed, Jason Schwartzman's dull King Louis XVI who is more interested in opening door locks than the sheer chemise of his bride. Idiot.
How does the young girl rebel? By indulging as only a monarch can do, overflowing champagne with berries, pillow sized pastel colour cakes, puffy pink meringues, overdone bouffant hairdoes higher than a wedding cake encrusted with tiny birds, opulent dresses, dazzling jewels and shoes, shoes, shoes.
Some reviews have mentioned how Sofia Coppola made full use of her exclusive access to the Versailles but Versailles is so overwhelmingly sumptuous that even the most boring tourist photo would be suitable for framing. One can only imagine what a director like Bernardo Bertolucci or James Ivory could do with such riches. Coppola's mostly medium shots and dull lighting don't really bring out the full richness of the place. No, her strength is a sad conspiratorial intimacy developed with handheld camera shots and medium close ups. A small private film in a grand place. Rather than Bertolucci she evokes Mizoguchi with his complex female protagonists and languid pacing.
The movie's anachronisms are a cheeky gimmick that works. The 80's soundtrack with Gang of Four and Bow Wow Wow tunes take the stuffiness out of the period drama genre. At the same time they make us empathize with the queen because her teenage soundtrack is our teenage soundtrack. The quick shot of the Chuck Taylors is another tiny wink.
Coppola's movie seems to say Marie was a victim of circumstance and probably got a bad shake from the history books but Coppola never really makes you feel deeply for her. My friend who accompanied me who will cry at anything; who cried even during a Russell Crowe trailer for God's sake didn't shed a single tear for Marie. Perhaps it's impossible to sympathize with someone so wealthy or maybe my friend is just jealous of her shoes.
While the film could have been cut by about twenty minutes perhaps reducing some of the languid frolicking scenes I didn't mind too much. I find the film is as much about the feeling of isolation suffered and tolerated than Marie Antoinette. Like a slow coach ride around Versailles I enjoyed the tour even if it took a little longer.
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