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Old 10-20-2006, 10:29 PM   #1709
Spiwak
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Marie Antoinette - I wrote this here "brief review" of it soon as I got home. Not meant to be formal, so forgive the shady writing and what-not.

It's been a long time since Sofia Coppola stunned me with her magnificent Lost in Translation (y'know, that one that should have received the awards Return of the King did), and based on that as well as her haunting Virgin Suicides I could only be but enthusiastic about her latest, Marie Antoinette. The notable difference from her previous two efforts is obvious - why, this is a period piece, which are typically characterized by just about everything not characterized by Coppola's two other movies. Whereas courtly period dramas typically relish in their decadence and flamboyancy, Sofia's style is more simplistic that in itself adds layers of beauty without the visual flair; period pieces love the long shot and still frames to evoke the likeness of a painting, but Coppola keeps her camera moving and probing. So it turns out this new period drama is actually more of a combination of these two distinct styles, and both are used effectively. The period style is used for scenes of pomp and courtly ritual, showcasing the distance between the Austrian-born girl and her newly imposed way of life as a French dauphine. "Private" scenes with the girl, when we see her perspective more or less, is when the camera resumes its intimate contact, allowing us to personally connect. As the trailer has made well known, throughout the movie is flamboyantly modern period clothes that sometiems scale proposterous proportions, as well as music from the 80s (though never in the diegesis, as A Knight's Tale attempted). While these elements could have become gimmicky or silly, Coppola chooses her music to fit the atmosphere--no surprise there--and the extravagant costumes and desserts actually fit this obscurely fanciful setting well.

The movie stars Kirsten Dunst, who carries the weight of the movie, as well as pounds and pounds of wig, on her shoulders fantastically. Without every saying too much dialogue she is able to convey all the range of emotions that Coppola needs from her extravagant, unhappy queen. Jason Schwartzman of Rushmore fame plays Louis XVI with timidity, but as the movie progresses Coppola and Schwartzman turn the oft-ridiculed king into a surprisingly likable, pathetic character.

I'm glad Coppola did not try to turn this into a political statement about the French Revolution; in fact she never shows a glimpse of "common" life at all, but only shows a mob of stereotypical angry villagers cast in shadows as a conclusion to periodically and sparcely given information of the political situation. [SPOILERS AHEAD] I'm also glad that Coppola chose to end it where she did, when many directors might have chosen to go to the beheading and it as a tragedy. While it is clear throughout that the queen is losing popularity among both the upper- and lower-class, the point of the movie is in its portrayal of the young girl as she grows up in the public eye and struggles to please both her French and Austrian families, not the queen. The end leaves us in the position of uncertainty despite knowing what will happen from our history classes, and with the more important maturing of Marie Antoinette, who finally seems to show responsibility--to her subjects, to whom she finally shows herself at the end, and to her husband by deciding to stay by him during the tumultuous final days of the monarchy. [END SPOILERS]

It was a beautiful end to a beautiful movie, and a worthy addition to the career of one of the brightest American directors working today.
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