2/21/2007

Marie Antoinette

Director: Sofia Coppola

As she proved with her masterpieces The Virgin Suicides and Lost In Translation, writer/director Sofia Coppola is exceptional at depicting the angst, heartache, coming-of-age and general emotional upheaval of young women isolated by their circumstances—whether it be the desperate, lonely Lisbon sisters in her Virgin debut or a young, married bored wife Lost in Tokyo. Rounding out what has become a sort of thematic trilogy of this particular thematic experience, Sofia Coppola drew inspiration from Antonia Fraser’s biography on Marie Antoinette, reuniting with her Virgin Suicides leading lady Kirsten Dunst for her turn as the sweet, na├»ve, innocent, and bubbly child princess. Married at fifteen, the young Austrian girl left her homeland to become the wife of the equally inexperienced Louis XVI (played by Coppola’s cousin Jason Schwartzman) only to be thrust into the spotlight by becoming queen by nineteen. Feeling isolated by a disinterested husband who seems unwilling to consummate the marriage, Marie Antoinette seeks solace in material possessions—shoes, desserts, wigs, and other decadent articles. Loathed by audiences at the Cannes Film Festival, it nonetheless won the Cinema Prize of the French National Education System. While some consider the film to be an allegorical one of the current Bush administration others can simply be dazzled by the precise and powerfully emotional portrayal of Dunst (who’s done her best work with Sofia Coppola) and the film’s gorgeous, unconventional style. Opting for a fresh approach to period cinema, Coppola uses MTV-like visuals—languid, sensuous photography coupled with creatively modern musical choices to tell her version of the Antoinette’s story, equating her lifestyle to a modern day rock star. While some were put off by this approach, I felt that it made the tale of the Queen more intimate and inclusive rather than feeling distanced by a stiff, pretentious period drama approach and the audacious soundtrack (arguably the greatest of 2006) helped bring the story to life in an unprecedented way for the genre. Seemingly inspired by Forman’s Amadeus, Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, Frears’s Dangerous Liasions, and Fellini’s duo of La Dolce Vita and 8 & ½, Coppola crafts a unique feast for the senses and indeed the short teaser trailer for the movie (available on the DVD) was one of the most exciting ones I’d seen at the theatre since Garden State. Admittedly, one flaw of the film would be the casual and rapid telling of the woman’s life that doesn’t include much in the way of time or dates (inspiring viewers to seek independent research and clarification on their own). Despite this, Marie Antoinette is still a wonderful, luminous conclusion to Coppola’s female coming of age trilogy and indeed Dunst’s character is the first one to embrace motherhood. Fitting to this theme, Sofia Coppola announced her own pregnancy shortly after its debut and while no film plans have been made for the director, I recently read that she’ll be helming a large-scale French opera in the near future—a daunting task of which I’m sure she’ll succeed and one that no doubt the opera loving Queen Antoinette would have approved.

Soundtrack Selections from iTunes


Note: Due to the brilliance of the soundtrack, I'm offering several recommendations.



"Hong Kong Garden" by Siouxsie and The Banshees
Siouxsie and The Banshees - Marie Antoinette (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - Hong Kong Garden

“Plainsong” by The Cure
The Cure - Marie Antoinette (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - Plainsong

"All Cats Are Grey” by The Cure
The Cure - Marie Antoinette (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - All Cats Are Grey

“What Ever Happened” by The Strokes
The Strokes - Marie Antoinette (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - What Ever Happened

“Ceremony” by New Order
New Order - Marie Antoinette (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - Ceremony

“Natural’s Not In It” by Gang of Four
Gang of Four - Marie Antoinette (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - Natural's Not In It

“Pulling Our Weight” by The Radio Department
The Radio Department - Marie Antoinette (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - Pulling Our Weight

“I Don’t Like It Like This” by The Radio Department
The Radio Department - Marie Antoinette (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - I Don't Like It Like This

“Keen On Boys” by The Radio Department
The Radio Department - Marie Antoinette (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - Keen On Boys

“The Melody of a Fallen Tree” by Windsor for the Derby
Windsor for the Derby - Marie Antoinette (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - The Melody of a Fallen Tree

“Fools Rush In” by Bow Wow Wow
Bow Wow Wow - Marie Antoinette (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - Fools Rush In

“Aphrodisiac” by Bow Wow Wow
Bow Wow Wow - Marie Antoinette (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - Aphrodisiac

“I Want Candy” by Bow Wow Wow
Bow Wow Wow - Marie Antoinette (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - I Want Candy

“Kings of the Wild Frontier” by Adam and the Ants
Adam & The Ants - Marie Antoinette (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - Kings of the Wild Frontier