Eva and I went and saw Marie Antoinette tonight; Sophia Coppola's newest mood piece. I think both of us were feeling a little apprehensive, and not just because the film had been receiving such mixed reviews. Regardless, i had my hopes - I'm a fan of both her previous films, i thought they were both very.... effective, i guess is the word. If film at its most basic is a way to convey a sentiment, and a film makers job is to deliver that message in a unique way - than i almost imagine Coppola as some sort of idiot savant deaf mute, trying to convey feelings of loneliness and isolation, and succeeding in spite of herself, more so, because of herself.
All her films have these muted characters, barely there - or at least, barely with us, they're usually somewhere inside of themselves and the same goes with the characters in Marie Antoinette - For the most part i could have cared less about the characters, about any of Coppola's characters really... except maybe bill Murray, but he was an anomaly in her universe.
But that doesn't matter to me in her films, what matters to me is the scenery, and the music; the barely there thread of melancholy and loneliness, wist fullness and desperation, that lace her films together like so much frivolous ribbon. In Marie Antoinette i was completely captivated by world of Versailles, not for its characters, but for it's cake. Giant mountains of candy and luxury, so amazingly depicted, i couldn't tell which was which - it all rolled together in this sumptuous gluttony.
Much is being said about how much liberty is taken w/ the story, the use of American accents, and modern usages - well, I'm all for historical inaccuracy, (since i don't believe in any sort of objective historical accuracy anyway, and would rather hear a good story...)
Ebert said this about the film, and (yes, I'm quoting Ebert, shut the fuck up.)
"Coppola has been criticized in some circles for her use of a contemporary pop overlay -- hit songs, incongruous dialogue, jarring intrusions of the Now upon the Then. But no one ever lives as Then; it is always Now." (the rest) i have to say i found the accents and incongruencies to be delightfully decadent at times, and the rest of the time, downright boring.
I had a similar experience watching Antoinette and i did "stranger than paradise" when i was 19... after watching it i sat there, and thought to myself... that moving was fucking boring... what the fuck was the point of that. A few days later it occurred to me, that perhaps that was the directors intention, perhaps it was essential to convey the banality of those characters existence, their own ennui - by showing you just how uneventful their lives really were. I can imagine Jarmuch doing this... while I'm not going to call Coppola a Jarmuch (though their are alot of qualities about their films i find congruous...)
- while it seems like jarmuch has a much firmer hand on his films - i do wonder if Copolla is trying bore me and numb me, so that i can feel how she does, or rather, how her Marie Antoinette, or her Virgins, or her Scarlet, feels. If that is the case, i say bravo, because she does so while offering some amazingly evocative scenery w/ a pitch perfect score...
All month I've been listening to two albums, Disintegration and Power Corruption and Lies, The Cure and New Order respectively, and i have to say i almost cried when, at two very emotive moments in the film songs by these bands flooded into the room... (I doubt I'll ever hear "plainsong" used more fittingly) I couldn't have thought of more perfect music to fit the moods of these characters, and that also makes me wonder if my enjoyment of Coppola's films are merely serendipitous, that it seems I've always gone to watch her films either alone or while feeling alone, that it was raining and cold when i saw Lost in Translation by myself, or that tonight while Eva was sitting right next to me, she could have been sitting on the moon...
and that i also happen to be somehow listening to the same artists... perhaps we're soul mates, or more likely we just happen to share similar tastes, us and probably 100 million other lonely Cure / New order fans....
In the end I'd say that I'm of two minds with Antoinette, in many different ways - and that i feel the same about all of Coppola's films. On one side, i think she has vision, and can convey that vision in a very indirect almost discreet, or perhaps weak way, that - by that very nature makes me look harder and allow myself to be more sensitive for. I have to keep myself from digging for character development or narrative progression and just let her films wash over me the way i imagine she imagines her characters viewing their own lives... all stoned sunrises, and icey detactment.
On the other hand... if you cannot meet these requirements, than her films fail, they lack characters that matter, or dialog that interacts. They are essentially extended music videos, but even the videos to Du Hast or Paranoid Android have more of an Arch than most her films.
So I go back to the deaf mute analogy, while some people see Coppola waving her arms around and gesticulating, and she makes these "urrrggggg mmmmprrrrarrrrrr" sounds - and they say "I don't get it... what's she trying to say."
And then some look and think... "wow, can you feel the despair in the tone of her voice, look at
how white her knuckles are... so lonely, so... "
Oh yeah, and Steve Coogan is in it.