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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look53.13%
Average: 40.63%
Pretty Bad: 3.13%
Total Crap: 3.13%

4 reviews, 8 user ratings

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by Scott Weinberg

"Coppola's kid hits a solid double."
4 stars

While sitting through Roman Coppola’s debut feature, CQ, it’s plainly evident that the young director is obviously a movie-lover. Of course, having a legendary director for a father probably helps to foster a love for cinema…to say nothing of getting your movie produced. (It’s unlikely that this movie would ever have seen the light of day were it not for Coppola’s lineage.) But nepotism is nothing new in Hollywood, and much can be forgiven if the movie at hand is actually worth seeing. Aside from a few clear faults, CQ is surely a movie worth seeing, particularly for those who consider themselves hardcore film fanatics.

It’s 1969, Paris, and Paul is an American film editor working on a new sci-fi flick. When the pretentious director Andrzej (Gérard Depardieu) proposes an “artistic” finale for his project, ruthless studio head Enzo (Giancarlo Giannini) promptly boots him from the picture. Enzo goes to whacked-out wunderkind filmmaker Felix DeMarco (Jason Schwartzman, Coppola’s real-life cousin) in an effort to salvage the production. While he’s a wildly popular and respected goofball, Felix’s childish behavior forces him to pass on the project, and Enzo then turns to Paul to finish the film.

The movie in question is Code Name: Dragonfly, a kitschy and unintentionally hilarious sci-fi tale, one that couldn’t be more different than the project that Paul is currently working on: a black and white art film that revels in artistic honesty and the meandering minutiae of Paul’s private life. But as the fledgling filmmaker starts concentrating more on Dragonfly, he finds that the world of fantasy may be more rewarding than real life…or at least more entertaining.

CQ is a gloriously beautiful film to look at, particularly for a first-time director (and regardless of whom their parents may be), and Coppola seems to have a great time with the Dragonfly sequences. (The movie-within-the-movie most closely resembles the colorful cheesiness and playful sexiness of Roger Vadim’s Barbarella.) The production design is fantastic in Code Name: Dragonfly, but Coppola also depicts France in the late 60’s to glorious effect.

The weakness of CQ lies in one simple-yet-all-important area: characterization. Most of what goes on during CQ is interesting enough to sit through, but an audience only cares when they have nobody to relate with. Paul (as played by Jeremy Davies) never really becomes a sympathetic character, and nobody else earns enough screen time to make much of an emotional impact. It seems somewhat clear that this is a movie about movies, and not people, so one may assume that this lack of meaty characterization was intentional.

The cast is generally strong, with the standouts being Giannini as a hilariously dismissive studio chief and Schwartzman as the world’s most obnoxious movie director. Davies handles his insular character fairly well, but there doesn’t seem to be too much beneath the surface. Elodie Bouchez is fantastic as Paul’s underappreciated girlfriend, and Dean Stockwell pops in for one humorous scene as his harried father. The Dragonfly sequences feature two entertainingly corny performances: Angela Lindvall vamps and stretches as the gorgeous superspy, and Billy Zane chews the scenery as a villainous revolutionary.

In many ways, CQ is a messy flick: underwritten characters abound, a few scenes come in completely from left field, and it’s often difficult to tell whether we’re celebrating art or pretense. But CQ is also a colorful and fascinating little movie, one that may appeal most to hardcore cineastes and Francophiles.

Those looking for a more ‘traditional’ movie about filmmaking may leave CQ scratching their heads, but the good easily outweighs the bad…and it’s always nice to see a first-time director deliver something compelling. Speaking as only one movie addict, I was fascinated by this quirky look at French filmmaking in the late 60’s. Roman Coppola may never become the filmmaker his Dad was, but heck – few filmmakers will. But based on CQ, I will certainly be keeping an eye out for his next projects.

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originally posted: 05/30/02 14:58:06
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2002 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2002 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/12/08 brian Looks great, less filling. 2 stars
2/06/04 ian sinclair subtle art 4 stars
6/28/02 Robert Great and enjoyable film. The two young Coppolas have done well. 4 stars
6/01/02 MovieEssence Lacks effective pump! An over ambitious film with a direction that fails to convince... 1 stars
6/01/02 Heather Pretty good debut, enjoyed the cosmopolitan feel and attention to detail, quirky & offbeat 4 stars
6/01/02 Butterbean Not bad. I wanted more conflicts withSwartzman and Davis and less of the forced romance. 3 stars
5/25/02 frank fun, stylish; an all-around good time 4 stars
5/25/02 AB Most fun I've had since "Amelie" 4 stars
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  24-May-2002 (R)
  DVD: 10-Sep-2002



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