Posted on 11/10/06 12:31 AM
This film is the epitome of amazing. If I had the means to make films, I would make them like this. I very much dislike the criticism that Sofia Coppola has received, especially for this film. Most compare her to her subject, Marie Antoinette, and paint her as this spoiled rich girl who is only making films because daddy lets her. Well, many people forget about the story of her brother, Roman Coppola, who directed the film C.Q. a few years back. The film was met with mild acclaim, but we have yet to see Roman's name on any films since...Except for this one, which features him as the Second Unit Director. If Sofia is spoiled, than shouldn't it be logical to see Roman spoiled as well?
Anyway, all of that was beside the point. What I mean to say about this film is that for the first time in a long time, a period piece enthralled me. Well, I suppose that's not true. Last years Pride and Prejudice left me staggering from its beauty, and I feel very much the same thing about Marie Antoinette.
Much like Pride and Prejudice, this film witnesses history, rather than observing it. While those two words seems similar, I feel they are actually quite unique. To observe history is to stand at a distance and watch quietly as the action takes place, while to witness history seems to be more proactive. Coppola successfully uses handheld camera, soft focus, and punchy editing to really put you there. Add on top of that a fantastically nostalgic 80s punk score, and you have a film that feels extremely modern. Why the modernity? I feel its because Coppola understands that Marie experienced things in the present, much like we do, and her present was just as bold and exciting as we often few ours. It wasn't full of stuffy traditions that history has told us existed with every noble person of the age. History has told us that Marie was quite the rebel rouser for her time, and Coppola uses that to full effect by making that her focus. We experience Marie's present, much like we experience our own present. It is a brilliant touch that brings the film down a peg from becoming a stuffy period piece.
The star of this film, for those who have seen it, know its not Kirsten Dunst, but the world that surrounds her. The production design and art direction in this film is beyond fantastic. It's borderline orgasmic. Watch the end credits for an idea of how massive an undertaking this was for their art crew. Absolutely gorgeous, and I'd be an extremely pissed off man if the art did not get the Oscar nom it rightly deserves.
Yes, the film moves at a slow pace, painting a picoresque-like journey for Marie as she seems to not be motivated by story, but by incidents. We don't get caught up in politics or romance. We simply witness what Marie does, and how she does it. But, that's why the film is so different. Story has a tendancy to fictionalize events, and make them ring even more false to those who really care about it. Even I get frustrated with most biopics, and even the recent feel-good sports movie craze, because I know darn well that they have taken tons of dramatic license. What's ironic is that, from what I'm reading, most people would rather have their history fictionalized, than to have it shown for what it was. And, considering the fantastically modern method that Coppola uses to present her 270 year old subject, I'm just shocked the film has been so poorly received.
I guranatee you that Ms. Coppola is not currently turning back in forth in bed over the cold reaction this film received. She knew what she was doing the moment she undertook it. I mean, when you see the little treasure during the I Want Candy sequence, its hard not to A) Laugh, and B) realize that Sofia wanted that in there for a specific reason. Any filmmaker knows that a director slaves over framing, and if something don't want is in frame, they'll ask for it to be removed. Sofia had a clear vision for this film, and it wasn't to make the average docudrama. She's not looking for another Oscar with this piece; I believe she simply relates to Marie's lonliness and plight as a woman in a position in power. There are plenty other filmmakers who cannot write or direct, and I'm pretty sure that none of them even touch where Sofia is at.
For me, Sofia Coppola is currently 3-0. All of her films have touched me deeply, and each has been unique, yet full of her own personal style. She ranks pretty high on my own list of influences, as Lost in Translation is probably in the top 10 list of films made in this decade. Her work means a lot to me, and I knew going in that I would love this film. The film pops with so much energy, both visually and aurally that it feels exhausting. Its a visual workout, and worth every moment. Simply amazing....