Saturday, October 21, 2006

Musings On Marie Antoinette

I saw Marie Antoinette last night and the experience brought up a few questions.

Now, let me preface this by saying that I enjoyed Sophia Coppola's previous work; I liked Lost In Translation very much and even though I've never been able to catch The Virgin Suicides from beginning to end, I liked what I saw. And it goes without saying that I liked the soundtracks to each of those respective movies; having Kevin Shields, Elvis Costello and Air songs playing behind key scenes definitely contributed to me enjoying those movies. And by starting Marie Antoinette with a Gang of Four song, Coppola got me paying attention again. But that's the problem isn't it?

I couldn't help but feel like I was being emotionally massaged by the filmmaker. She was just giving me what I wanted but for all the wrong reasons. The "I like Gang of Four and the Strokes and the Cure so by having their songs in your movie, I have to like your movie" approach. The same mentality goes with the visuals of the movie. They are stunning but not in a way that isn't pandering to anyone who appreciates beauty. I mean, it mostly takes place at Versailles and the ornate costumes are wonderful and certainly worthy of recognition, but those things are inertly beautiful; they don't inspire beauty, they are beauty. Anything shot at Versailles is going to be visually striking, it's friggin' Versailles!

And since Coppola leaves most of the storytelling to visuals, this is a problem. There really isn't much in the way of dialogue. Jason Schwartzman's character has about as much of it as Arnold Schwarzenegger had in the original "Terminator" and it really bothered me to see him playing the Shop Girl character again without any of the charm or endearing aspects. His character just had very little depth. And unfortunately the same can be said about Kirsten Dunst who showed more range in Bring It On than in her last three or four movies combined.

I couldn't help but think that this movie was like watching an episode of MTV's My Super Sweet Sixteen (a dreadful and frightengly unironic half-hour long look into spoiled little fuckers and their over the top and insanely expensive sweet sixteen parties where all their pathetic, superficial and hateful whims are fulfilled by their empty, loveless rich parents; basically MTV's greatest and latest middle finger in the face of cultural responsibility). I mean, by the end of the movie I was ready for the hungry mob to breach Versailles and start cutting heads. Fuckin-a! Let the righteous mob act out their displeasure with the monarchy with the business end of sickles and pitchforks and by publicly beheading the fuckers. Every country needs some social purging every few decades. Fuck the rich.

But the movie isn't about that. It's about isolation. It's about being unfulfilled and attempting to find meaning in superficial pleasures. But it's no morality tale and it's not really rewarding to watch.

I don't know, maybe I'm just nitpicking at it because I expected more. I mean, it got pretty good reviews across the board so what do I know? But I am sick of people telling me I'm supposed to like certain movies solely because of the filmaker involved or because they seem original compared to the majority of mainstream nationwide releases-- but just because it has more artistic value than Employee of the Month doesn't mean it's that much more enjoyable to watch.

Sophia Coppola is a great talent, there's no doubt about that. But I hold her up to the same standard that I hold her father (and any director, or artist for that matter). The Godfather: Part Three sucked in comparison to the first two in my opinion, but so what? You can't win them all. The first two movies make up for the suckiness of the third and that certainly doesn't dissuade me from continuing to seek out Francis Ford Coppola's work. I'll probably go see her next movie regardless.

Now you go see it for yourself and let me know what you think.

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