Posts Tagged ‘Marie Antoinette’

From the Hootoo archive. Originally published January 25th 2007: 

Moving swiftly on, we turn to Sofia Coppola’s follow-up to Lost in Translation, which I was not surprised to learn would probably not have been made had that movie not turned out to be such a hit. If you walk into the offices of film companies (even ones owned by your dad) and announce you want to make a bio-pic of an 18th century aristocrat, starring an actress best known for playing Spider-Man’s other half and with a soundtrack somewhat derived from Malcolm McLaren’s back catalogue, it helps to have a big hit and an Oscar in your recent past.

Kirsten Dunst indeed plays Marie Antoinette and although the chronology of the movie is rather vague, it covers her life from her arrival at the court of Versailles in 1770 to the Royal Family fleeing the premises at the onset of the French Revolution. In between come many scenes concerning court ritual, her initially-non-consummated marriage, very big wigs, and lots of shoes, but not a great deal of plot as it is traditionally understood. We had a bit of an excursion to see this at the Serial Killerplex in Chiba (mainly, it must be said, because we weren’t aware that The Departed was already showing) and afterwards the consensus was that that this movie would have been much improved by things like a story and some decent dialogue.

The tone is rather uneven, with some bizarre casting decisions – Marianne Faithfull plays the Empress of Austria, Steve Coogan her ambassador to Versailles (Coogan is rather restrained in this role) and Rip Torn is Louis XV. (Everyone uses their natural accent, which is arguably a mistake.) At first this just looks like a rather dull costume drama and then about half-way through everyone starts dancing to Bow Wow Wow and Siouxsie and the Banshees as Parisian Balls. And this is another film that doesn’t really bother with an ending – I’m not saying I feel cheated of seeing Kirsten Dunst get guillotined, but I did come out wondering what the point was.

That said, it is interesting that, for a figure synonymous with decadence and excess, Marie Antoinette is presented entirely sympathetically throughout this movie. Dunst plays here as a sweet girl who finds herself helplessly sucked into the wild debauchery and bedhopping frenzy of court life (a bit like the expat scene here come to think of it), much more likable than (for example) the Duchess de Polignac, one of her cronies, richly played here by the lovely Rose Byrne (interestingly, she and Coppola both have stints as Naboo handmaidens in their past careers). The film’s depiction of overindulged rich girls with outrageous dress sense and obsessions with tiny dogs seemed to me to be drawing an explicit parallel with the likes of Paris Hilton. If this is intentional, then the movie is in some way suggesting that many often-excoriated aspects of modern culture are in fact nothing be ashamed of. This is not a point of view I am much inclined to agree with, but it’s one I’m prepared to listen to. That said, it’s not particularly well-presented here.

I’m not entirely sure if this is a bad movie or not. It’s certainly diverting and passes the time pleasantly enough, but it does seem rather superficial and Dunst doesn’t quite have the chops to pull off a role as significant as this. She gets a number of decorous nude scenes which are bound to raise her internet profile, but I think the one who should be worrying about cries of ‘The Empress has no clothes on!’ is the director.

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