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and when she gets there, she gets bored, gossips, reads Rousseau, and has beach-blanket pot parties in Amadeus outfits. I did like the music, there is one inspired masked ball and a good "watch the sun rise" scene - the strength of this film is its connection to high school culture, seen through the eyes of a sweet, utterly conventional and finally boring teenage girl, projected from the California suburbs onto 18th century France. This is obviously also the film's weakness: this movie is a beautiful, expensive still life that knows nothing at all about French history, Europe, the Revolution, the Bourbons, how the ancien regime worked, how incompetent wars and not Marie Antoinette's Imelda-Marcos-like shoe fetish ran up the debt, about the conflict in North America with England and Spain, about how leading members of French government actually had brains - the films displays a nitwit, decadent, wig-loving, golden-furniture France as though seen by a France-hater in the Bush administration. As my brother pointed out, the movie also blew the subject of a potentially great movie, which is Marie Antoinette's inspired, sometimes brilliant defense of herself at her later trial. Trying to learn about what happened to the French court from this film is like trying to learn about American corporate culture by watching J.R Ewing's 30 second business deals at the Cattlemen's Club on Dallas. Well sure, politics wasn't the subject of the movie, but why is the "chick stuff" buried in diamonds and champagne? That makes these women seem way less tough and intelligent than they actually were in the bloody contact sport of French court politics. As an American watching this in Paris I was struck by the film's lack of historical, political, and cultural sophistication, in which Dunst is in every single frame and it's all one gigantic royal slumber party until the peasants show up in an illiterate wordless mass baying for bread and blood and shaking their satanic harvesting tools. Ouch: The film makes the most sense as a weird allegory of Hollywood inbreeding.
Based on the recent Marie-Antoinette biography by Antonia Fraser, Sofia
Coppola's film focuses on the personal qualities of the character of
Marie-Antoinette and thus participates in the character's historical
rehabilitation. Antoinette is seen as a respectful loyal daughter, a
loving mother, a patient wife, who had to withstand a flood of
vindictive criticism since the moment she set foot in the French court.
This depiction contrasts strongly with many prior representations of
the character in film ("The Affair of the Necklace" for example), which
show her as superficial, selfish and vain.
The visuals and auditory elements, which evoke a powerful image of 18th-century Versailles, are the movie's forte. And their effects linger in one's mind (or at least they did in mine) long after one's exit from the theater. As a budding art historian, I was stunned by the intensely lush visual spectacle the film has to offer: the pomp and circumstance of ritualized and regimented 18th-century Versailles. The semi-private world that Antoinette builds for herself to escape Versailles's codified, quasi-totalitarian atmosphere, is evoked through a sequence of fast-moving images of champagne-guzzling, beautifully-decorated cake-eating, and Manolo Blahnik shoe buying. Thus Antoinette's fantasy world is likened to a world recognizable to you, me and Carrie Bradshaw. Some people may scoff at this 21st century world transposed to an earlier time. But as the center of the world in 18th-century Europe, Marie-Antoinette's "secret Versailles" would certainly have been as "hip" as this, and Coppola has found effective means through sound and image by which to make this hipness accessible.
The story zooms in on the character of Marie-Antoinette, played by a ravishing Kirsten Dunst, who arrives at Versailles at the tender age of 14, to become queen of France a mere 5 years later. Coppola emphasizes the loneliness of Antoinette throughout the film: most important is her alienation from the French court by the fact that she is a foreigner (something that made her a scapegoat for all of France's problems during the 1780's). Her powerlessness to "fit in" is emphasized also through her sexual alienation from her socially-awkward husband (played by Jason Schwartzmann), her mother's chidings that she has not yet produced an heir to the French throne (and thereby has not secured Austria's political place in Europe), and the bitchy gossip that goes on behind her back at court.
Marie-Antoinette is depicted as an intensely personable, friendly and playful person. Coppola fashions a Marie-Antoinette who is a dutiful daughter, a patient wife to Louis (who eventually overcomes his shyness and becomes a loving and protective husband and father), and a caring and tender mother. She is shown as both bold and humble, two qualities which had quasi-miraculous effects on both the court and the angry mob, as is shown in some of the film's most touching moments.
Equipped with these "essential" personal qualities, the charges traditionally made against Marie-Antoinette fade completely. It is precisely Antoinette's ill-fated attempt at fitting into French court society that causes her escape into a world of idle futility and libertinage. Her escape into the world of "playing shepherdess" in her pleasure-house of Le Hameau is shown not as a silly escape from responsibility but as the simple human need to be surrounded by the natural world. This place appears to us as it does to Antoinette: as a refuge from the backbiting, totalitarian regime of Versailles. Even the legendary "let them eat cake" statement allegedly made by Marie-Antoinette is discarded as fiction.
There is almost no place in the film for the 18th-century reality as it existed outside the bubble-like world of Versailles. This is not the movie's purpose. The end of the film is a bit abrupt: the last image shows the royal family heading to Paris to be imprisoned in the building of the Conciergerie. There is no mention of the guillotine anywhere, which again can seem surprising, but which shows that Coppola deliberately tried to eschew stereotypes and do something different. And it is all to her credit.
I have seen this film yesterday after a lot of hype up and waiting since in my little town everything comes out a month after the release date. I was looking forward to seeing this movie..a lot. But I must say that the trailers I had seen and the film have a completely different feeling. This isn't a bad film but I think that it well get a lot of criticism for not being historically accurate, not serious enough, being too long, being 'unfinished'... but those are not he bad points of this movie. The style is original and Sofia Coppola succeeds at showing Marie Antoinette's personal side. Her suffering through gossip and humiliation by her husbands lack of 'interest' in her etc. She succeeds in showing Marie Antoinette as a naive girl in the beginning..who hugs her first lady, cries at parting with her dog and announcing that the morning ceremonials are ridiculous. We see Marie Antoinette at the beginning trying to fit in with the strict life at Versailles but further on it's clear that with the gossip following her she stops caring and starts to have fun her own way which leads to her ruin. The negative points of the film is that Sofia Coppola uses the same techniques, the same scenes through out the movie. The trying on of shoes, the hairdressing, the patisserie dishes and the champagne. We see Marie Antoinette frolicking around in the grass too many times. Sofia Coppola apparently tried to show a girl out of touch with reality who lives just to have fun..to escape the wagging tongues of Versailles. But if that was her point the film should've ended long before. This is a biography of Marie Antoinette...even though not a completely serious or historically accurate one...but if Sofia Coppola is trying to show this French queens personality and human side then I can assure you there was more to her than the frilly lace, the satin shoe, the bakery department and the champagne. Marie-Antoinette was a mother who cared about her children and was involved with them..though we hardly we see this in the film except the sequence of her and her daughter on the farm. The relationship and the feelings she had for her husband aren't very clear and his for her aren't very much elucidated. This is a visually beautiful film but I think Sofia Coppola could've delved deeper into this rich personality. In the end you're left with the impression of stepping out from a hazy rose petal fragile dream that from someones tumultuous life. But a dream that's still worth seeing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sofia Coppola made a mistake. Who knew she could? Much has been made of
the ker-azee rock 'n' roll soundtrack and modern day touches, but the
thing is that Marie Antoinette just wasn't a rock 'n' roll enough to
warrant this kind of treatment.
Dialogue flickers unevenly between contemporary speak and old-school archaisms. Ditto the costumes: some pink swirls here, a clashing pattern there, but all topped off with lace and severity. What's going on? And is Sofia Coppola paying attention? This is done like a portrait piece, but we never find out anything about Marie Antoinette, we just watch her react, interact and look slightly bemused. Kirsten Dunst is lovely to watch, but in the absence of any real character she amounts to little more than thespian eye candy.
Same goes for the rest of the characters, and France. Coppola decides, understandably, not to let the rest of France in. No shots of orphans, nada, just life at Versailles where the king and queen are so out of place they seem to have fallen through the wardrobe and into Narnia. It's just not any fun. And for something with this many great people in it, that sucks.
Having trashed two of the three movies Sofia Coppola has directed (I
didn't see Lick the Star, yuck!) what made me think I'd enjoy Marie
Antoinette? I'm old and worse yet, a male. Certainly not the
demographic Marie Antoinette is aimed at, so I found when I ventured
out to my local Cineplex to check out Ms. Coppola's 4th go at
directing. I figured to use the theater as my personal screening-room
on a Friday at noon. Oops! It was a school holiday and I entered one of
the smaller of the 14 "theaters" into a crowd of a dozen or so chatting
high school girls. I had mistakenly arrived 20 minutes early so I had
an opportunity to eavesdrop on their discussion concerning the ethics
paper they were required to write and what they were considering giving
up for a week as required by their class. These must have been students
at the nearby parochial high school. What public high school has ethic
courses? They seemed a perfect audience for a film on Marie Antoinette.
The theater continued to fill as film time approached. It filled to
approximately ¾ capacity and I was, as best as I could determine, the
only male person of my gender.
So why did I think I'd enjoy a film by a director whose films seemed directed by a person with a spoiled child's view of the world? Well, what I'd read about Marie Antoinette resonated close enough with Moulin Rouge, Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge which blew me away. "Lavish imagery and a daring soundtrack set this film apart from most period dramas; in fact, style complete takes precedence over plot and character development in Coppola's vision of the doomed queen" should sound familiar to Moulin Rouge fans.
Well, as soon as the black and shocking pink credits showed up to the sound of The Gang of Four's "Natural's Not In It" I knew I was in the right place. Kirsten Dunst was, in my opinion, a perfect choice. She's beautiful but not too beautiful. She has an aura of mischievousness which worked from start to finish. Ms. Dunst, at the young age of 24 or so, already has a long career in Hollywood. And she was only one of many. From Marianne Faithful, to Judy Davis, to Rip Torn, to Jason Schwartzman, to Asia Argento, to many others perfectly cast.
For me, the film never dragged or bogged down. The sets were beautiful. (What can you say about Versailles and the French countryside?) The food was reminiscent to me of Wayne Thiebaud paintings, but more colorful. The costumes, the music, added to the sense of decadence I think the film aimed for.
Yet Marie Antoinette's character never seemed decadent. Ms. Dunst's openness and delight in all presented to her, came across. Despite her loss of freedom and the difficulty in eventually becoming the Queen of France she was able to "Party On!"
What made the film, for me, exceptional, was how Sofia Coppola was able to make both Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI living, breathing, human beings, rather than grotesqueries. I was moved several times by their connection or lack of the same.
There is a lot to see, hear and experience in Marie Antoinette. It is an accomplished and stimulating cinematic experience. I shall view it as much as I am able. This film has prompted me to review both The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation. The world is certainly in need of feminine perspective and Sofia Coppola has made a statement that she has the potential to be a very Great talent.
Pardon my verbosity.
A hauntingly beautiful film about how deep disappointment finds an
outlet in "creative" frivolity. The combination of rock music and the
rituals of Versaille never "shocks" thanks to the mastery of the
direction. There is also a solid mastery of pacing. The slow
progression of the film never bores; it reveals in time. The glory of
Versailles is not shown
at the beginning but only as the film and the psychology of its heroine develop. The films owes a lot to the leading actress and way she is shot. The close-ups of the expressive face of Kirsten Dunst communicate the whole range of emotions behind a women eager to please and to do well, but who is trapped and inwardly anguished and disappointed. Rarely have we felt so close to a famous woman so far back in time. The film also masters the art of depicting "historical clichés", such as MA playing milkmaid, very convincingly. I was wonderfully surprised by this unusual film, and will see it a second time.
i know some people have said that it is entirely eye candy (and what amazing eye candy at that) but it actually does an artful adaptation of the book, which i read before seeing the film. it includes many of the important, beautiful, and sad parts of the book without getting bogged down with all the particulars and names like many of the period movies do. the soundtrack is great, a clever blend of 18th century and modern...the parts are well acted and the American accents rarely detract. If you want a historical account of her life, read the book...if you want Versailles and Marie Antoinette brought to life in a heart-breakingly beautiful fashion, go see this film...it is truly one of the most visually stunning movies i have ever seen.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've just seen Marie-Antoinette at a sneak preview in Amsterdam. I had heard and read so much about this film that my expectations were probably too high. Hence my disappointment. What a strange mixture! Kirsten Dunst is excellent, and Jason Schwartzman too (as Louis XVI), but what a pity for the rest of the crew: this mixture of accents (American, English, French, fake French...) doesn't help. Coppola tried to give a modern twist to M-A's story (with Rock'n Roll music and Dogma-style filming), but I found certain things quite... surprising, like the masked ball at the Garnier Opera, which was only built in 1874, 80 years after M-A's tragic death... But I thought: Why not? Let's be open-minded... Actually, my main problem was not with this aspect of the film, but more with the fact that it lacks rhythm, and that it's much too long (almost 2 hours!). And there are huge gaps on the historical level, which Coppola tried to fill up with paintings (like the death of one of her children, who's erased from a painting). Could have been 'funny', but alas!... it isn't. But let's stop complaining for a moment. I gave this film a 7 because I still think that some moments are of pure magic, like the part about nature, when M-A seems to find peace in her little 'farm' next to Versailles. In those moments, I had the feeling of seeing Lux Lisbon from The Virgin Suicides (also played by Kristen Dunst...) evolving in a sort of timeless parallel world. Pure beauty! In those moments, I thought: What a queen!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Marie Antoinette is the film equivalent of one of those expensive fashion magazines that pepper indie art galleries packed with achingly hip aesthetics but free of meaningful content. The film traces the life of the last Queen of France from her introduction to the French court until her departure from Versailles. If you're looking for serious history though, you're better off sticking to Antonia Fraser's source novel. Wigs, footmen and finery are more often than not filmed to the strains of 80s pop and punk and a pair of Converse shoes even sneaks onto the screen (though viewers will have to be sharp-eyed to spot them). It's the 18th century, Jim, but not as we know it. Marie Antoinette the film shares the obsessions of Marie Antoinette the character shoes, cakes, finery and having fun. It even finishes before the dark conclusion to Marie Antoinette's tale her arrest and subsequent death by guillotine for treason. Sophia Coppola's last film, Lost in Translation, won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay but it's safe to say she won't be receiving any such plaudits for this script. There's barely any dialogue for the first twenty minutes, and most exchanges thereafter are pithy and shallow. Great actors Rip Torn, Danny Huston, Shirley Henderson are given nothing much more to do than push the narrative along its slow path. Dunst's role is mainly to giggle, roll her eyes, and run around in period costume. O.C. characters have more depth. Visually, however, the film is stunning. No, better than that: it's luscious. Coppola was given special dispensation to film in Versailles and all the extravagant finery of the palace's rooms unfolds across your screens. When Dunst has a shopping spree to the anachronistic sounds of I Want Candy by Bow Bow Bow you go with her, feasting on cream-stuffed cakes, delicately stitched shoes and beautiful, patterned fabrics. The film is an orgy of materialism, filmed with the sharp editing and honed soundtrack of a television advert. All of which makes it difficult to see what point Coppola's making. The camera's fetishises the spoils of wealth and yet we're encouraged to feel sympathy for her as the revolutionaries close in on the palace at the film's end. She wants us to think Marie Antoinette's character was misrepresented 'I never said that!' she claims of the famous 'Let them eat cake!' reports but shows us enough debauchery to reinforce the common perception. In fact, it's difficult not to see the director herself mirrored in her central character as it was in Lost in Translation the spoiled Hollywood royalty reaping the benefit of her connections to stuff herself (and her film) with profligate confectionery. Your enjoyment of Marie Antoinette will depend on how you go in. If you're expecting Dangerous Liaisons you'll hate it. If you think you'd enjoy an 18th century hybrid of A Knight's Tale with Clueless, kick off your Converse, stock up on fairy cakes and indulge.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Not only was this movie the worst I movie saw in 2006, it is high ranking among the worst movies I've seen in my life (and that includes such winners as Devil's Rejects and the Hulk). The only redeeming aspect of was the costumes and scenery, everything else was horrible. Kirsten Dunst was not very well suited at all for this character. Her performance came off as very artificial, not realistic at all. The movie's blatant disregard for historical accuracy was pretty disturbing. It didn't focus on the French Revolution at all. That would be like making a film of Abraham Lincon but just leaving out the Civil War. Or maybe I could make a movie about the Titanic but ending the movie before that bad sinking part happens. It's a pity I can't give it negative stars.
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