Sunday, November 05, 2006

Marie Antoinette

by Brian
I saw Marie Antoinette almost two weeks ago now, and I'm still sure what to think about it. I do know that the default criticism of it, that it's too shallow, seems misguided to me; this is not a Rob Marshall or Joel Schumacher dress up party.

Of course, the movie is not about French politics of the time, which may be what the "shallow" criticism is all about. I guess that if you make a movie about Marie Antoinette, people expect an explicit condemnation of royal decadence, culminating in her beheading so that everyone understands that the silly little idiot got what was coming to her.

Anyway, while it's easy to say what the movie isn't, it's more challenging to say what exactly it is. There are moments where it plays like a satire of royal protocol. There are moments where it plays like a critique of tabloid culture. And there are moments where it plays like a simple story about a lonely little girl.

But because the movie is all of these things, it somehow manages to be none of these things. It's filled with subtle changes of tone, some intentional, like the oft-discussed montages set to modern music, but some not. Lost in Translation was a masterpiece of tone and mood, but Marie Antoinette doesn't quite feel fully formed.

That said, I certainly wouldn't say it's bad. Quite a few scenes show a wicked wit, not unlike Coppola's kidding-but-not-really sendup of Cameron Diaz in Translation. A montage set to New Order's "Ceremony" is really quite beautiful, the song being so perfectly chosen that it doesn't even really feel anachronistic (although the use of "I Want Candy", by contrast, feels heavy-handed and obvious). And I really don't have anything bad to say about the performances; Danny Huston and Judy Davis are especially good.

So, long story short, I guess I come down strongly on the side of "mixed bag". I can certainly appreciate a lot of what Coppola is trying to do, but it's at least a half-failure. Still, it's an interesting half-failure, the kind that hack filmmakers don't make.


Blogger Nick said...

Hey, I'm ready for it not being perfect, so maybe I'll like it more.

Also I'm not in the Lost in Translation backlash contingent. That film got me feeling transcendent, so sue me.

11/07/2006 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger Jackrabbit Slim said...

Booing wasn't the proper response to this film, it should have been yawns. I didn't think this was a bad film, either, but it was profoundly uncompelling to me. I just didn't know why I should care about her. Yes, she was a "little girl lost," but I didn't think the character was given anything to say or do to make her worthy of any sympathy, and as Brian suggests, there is no reason to hate her, either. The film is more a meditation on an insular life, while we are in the audience are left to our own devices. Nice costumes, though.

11/13/2006 07:26:00 AM  

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