CQReviewed By Thom
Posted 05/21/02 17:11:52
(Worth A Look)
Roman Coppola has done his homework and brought to the screen a unique, entertaining and thoroughly human film lovers film. Growing up a Coppola has paid off. Like his sister Sofia, Roman has paid attention to all the good advice he got. He pays tribute to the French New Wave and B grade camp films of the 60’s while neither recreating either for ironic effect a la’ the Austin Powers series.The film is thoroughly modern while being self-consciously “moderne”. It’s an aesthetic triumph and a neat apology for the film maker as artist.
Gerard Depardieu plays an auteur with a vision, Andrejz, that is compromised by the financier for his latest film, a sex-kitten James Bond film. The film is set in Paris in 1969 when the student protest movement was in full swing. The film within the film uses the mood of the time as much as Coppola uses it for CQ. The (film) is about a secret agent “Code Name: Dragonfly” (model Angela Lindvall in her acting debut), who is hired by “the government” to steal a secret weapon from a group of anarchic revolutionaries who want to smash fascism and bring freedom to the people. Freedom to do what is never made clear. I imagine it is along the lines “we wanna do what we wanna do. We wanna get high!”. Or more importantly, freedom of self-expression and speech. Freedom to dissent, to break from tradition and create a future rather than be subsumed by one.
Lindvall has a double role as Dragonfly and the actress Valentine. And for being a first time actress, she pulls off the double role remarkably well. It took her some time to get into the part though. There were only two weeks between getting called about the role and being on set in Luxembourg. She shot most of the non-dialogue scenes first to grow into the character.
Coppola thought she would be a natural playing the icon/regular girl duality and they worked with her on the set throughout the whole shoot to build the character around her.
Jeremy Davies playes Paul, a student of cinema who is asked to take over production due to creative differences. Andrejz makes him promise that he will give the secret weapon back to the anarchists instead of the government agency that hired her to steal it from Mr.E (yeah, say it fast and you’ll get the joke, played by Billy Zane). Mr.E, the leader of the revolutionaries has set up base camp on the moon while they plan their attack. There was a conscious effort on the part of Andrejz to use his film about Space Age Sex Kittens and Revolutionaries on the Moon to address the student uprisings and capture the zeitgeist of the (then) youth movement.
Coppola’s film within the film has a fun, low production value B-grade camp aesthetic while the film outside the film is set against a euro-boho-chic fantasy environment. Think, “The Party” starring Peter Sellers. So you’ve got an idealistic European intellegentsia film auteur trying to make a social comment through a B-grade sci-fi blond bombshell flick and a self-obsessed cinema verite’ film maker ultimately less interested in verite’ and more interested in poosay.
Paul suddenly loses interest in his girlfriend when he meets Valentine as Dragonfly.
The film within a film theme acts as a thematic bridge between a “Secret life of Walter Mitty” theme, where Paul plays out an imaginery romance with Dragonfly who he confuses with the actress.
That might have sounded like an echo of a real life fan obsession where actor/character are not easily distinguished. Coppola uses the film to make a few comments on the experience of being in the film world. In one late scene, Paul is showing his film at a festival and an audience member approaches him to ask him to deliver a script to a director he knows. Critics get their moment as well but instead of making the critic look foppish, overly sycophantic, or as some kind of failed artist, they are shown to be a probing mirror of the artist, helping him to define and refine his work and his approach to the audience. These are critics who understand the creative process and the role of art and want to support the artist’s highest aspiration as a necessary function of good living.
They also come off as a little snooty. A little snitty. But this is Paris in 1969 and you couldn’t have found a more pretentious intellegentsia. They knew they were the leading art world intellectuals and while they were desperate for bleeding edge artists to give them some raison d’etre, they didn’t want to waste their time with a pretender.
The opening sequence is enough to see this film. A future-retro soundtrack by Mellow is the hipster nostalgic element, like the rage for 60’s French pop in certain underground clubs like Bardot A Go Go in San Francisco. Coppola calls this film a “comic book film” and it does have a clean, stylized, comic book element and a story told in frames rather than in sequence. But it is not just the jokey plaything of an extraordinarily enriched film maker but a serious and successful use of the medium.Artists kids who follow their parents always seems like a cheap shot. You don’t expect much. Roman may have had more of an education in film and the opportunity to live in the world in a way many young struggling film makers can’t. But he doesn’t rub his privelege in your face. He clarifies, remembers, immortalizes, comments and ultimately creates something worthy of his audience.
|© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.|