Marie Antoinette by Sofia Coppola

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A Film by Sofia Coppola,
based on the book by Antonia Fraser
Release Date (USA): October 20th, 2006 (IMDB Listing)

I'm more than a little excited by the much anticipated and talked about Marie Antoinette from Sophia Coppola. I first heard report of the adaptation nearly two years ago, and have been following not too closely ever since. I'm afeared to become saturated in pre-release excitement, so I have restrained myself.

But I watched the trailer for the first time today since seeing the teaser over a year ago and I'm all giddy with anticipation now.

I'm probably one of the few people this film is specifically made for. Me. All me. Being of an age with the director, I completely gel with her conceptualizing Marie as a modern teenager, and using music and motifs evocative of our own adolescence just makes wonderfully hysterical sense to me. As a matter of fact, it seems a brilliant way to bring Antoinette some sympathy. She is a difficult character to sympathize with on the suface. But she was very young and very sheltered when she was thrust center stage into the French Court, certainly one of the freakiest places to have existed ever.

I am a bit consternated that the revolution is given such short shrift in the film. And am hoping there is some balance with the veritable cinema blancmange that is the first two-thirds, or three-quarters or what have you. There is certainly something to be said for cinematic blancmange! But I understand it is more about the fluff than the tragedy. John Hughes rococo style!

In any case, I'll buy the soundtrack as soon as it is released. Mwowrrr! You can read more here about Marie Antoinette and the Guillotine!

EDIT: Saturday, October 21st, 2006

We went with Kelly & Robert to opening night in The City last night. They kindly filled us with champagne and cake beforehand at their lovely little victorian urban abode (wah, I miss city livin' despite the tranny whores and crack smokers!).

Gadzooks, it was gorgeous. It was hands down the most scrumptiously art directed costume froufy drama I've ever seen. And they knew it. The camera completely frotterized the exquisite costuming and candy, I've never been so desperately aroused by the cinema before. Sitting front center was totally awesome, all encompassing.

That said, the film is not for everyone. I'm a devout revolutionary, and never sympathized much with Marie Antoinette and her side of the fence, she wasn't a very good queen, but that doesn't mean she wasn't a good person. What I loved about Coppola's and Fraser's perspective is that we become immediately immersed in her story, the bubble she lived in. There are times when the myriad of mixed up acting styles and accents were jarring, but most of the story is told through whispers and sidelong glances. Coppola uses metaphor (sometimes anachonistically) to communicate things about 18th century life that we could not, would not understand. The strictures of etiquette, the importance of performance and presence. Marie Antoinette's first crime against the people was not that she was too haughty and distant, queenly even, but that she wasn't queenly enough. She sought release from some of the strictures of Versailles, and in doing so crossed boundaries that should not have been crossed (and spent heaps of cash, besides). The film addresses these things metaphorically and artfully. We understand without being told once the barrier created by tradition and etiquette falls, the people lose the respect for her that otherwise might have been manipulated in the face of revolution.

I was very excited to see Madame Vigee-Lebrun, the portait artist. Or the back of her at least. I have a thing for lady painters.

Marie Antoinette, at thirty-seven, was cut down just as she was growing up. Being the age she was when she was executed, I feel this accutely. The film ends just where the second half of her story begins. Though disappointed, I feel this was the right thing to do, considering the stories angle.

There are stories yet to be told of the Revolution, I'll await MA, Part Deux for the denouement.

This just in: From my favorite critic at Salon.com. Stephanie Zacharek always gets it.

No one-time teenager has suffered more from the cruelty of history's gossip mill than Marie Antoinette. When she was told the peasants were starving for lack of bread, the Marie Antoinette of lore shot back, "Let them eat cake!" -- a great line, straight out of "Mean Girls," except that the real Marie Antoinette never said it. Imported to France from her native Austria at age 14, she was the brokered bride of a future king, a bargaining chip with a womb. Her purpose was to cement peace between, and solidify the power of, the two nations. Marie Antoinette landed in a country, and a court, that eyed her with suspicion and contempt: She was a callow, uneducated foreigner, barely worth the disdain of oh-so-civilized France, and the fact that she couldn't immediately produce an heir didn't help. But because she was a future queen, she had access to -- and availed herself of -- the grand and costly buffet of opulence that had been the norm in Versailles long before she arrived. To paraphrase a lyric from another Lesley Gore song: You would shop, too, if it happened to you.

There is shopping in Sofia Coppola's buoyant, passionately sympathetic dream-bio "Marie Antoinette" (which plays the New York Film Festival Friday night, and opens in New York and other cities on Oct. 20). But this is not -- as you might have believed if you trusted the reviews out of Cannes, scrawled by critics from the garretlike confines of their hotel rooms as they clutched their Mao jackets tighter to protect themselves from the threat of beauty, pleasure and decadence -- a movie about shopping. Nor is it a straightforward biopic or a history of the French Revolution (it never purports to be either of those things).

"Marie Antoinette" is Coppola's silk-embroidered fantasy sampler of the inner life of a queen we can never really know: It's a humanist comedy-drama decked out not in sackcloth but in ribbons -- instead of flattering our ideas of our own virtuousness, it asks our sympathy for this doomed queen even as we can't help envying her privilege.

Read on...

Movie Tie-ins:


Marie Antoinette
Antonia Fraser

Marie Antoinette
Original Soundtrack

Marie Antoinette
Sofia Coppola

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1 Comment

I'm glad the music made sense to you. It relieved me to hear that it did because for me the music was god-awful and only served to alleviate the tragic mood I wanted to feel.

I was also surprised-yet-not-surprised when they cut off the film before she and Louis got chopped up. When I left the theatre (here in Canada) there were some frenchies chatting vehemently about politics. Would have liked to have listened in, but the god-awful music was too loud ;)

Thanks for your review!

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This page contains a single entry by Kallisti published on October 6, 2006 4:04 PM.

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