Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Marie Antoinette, 2006

MARIE ANTOINETTE Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film holds up well after a ten year gap in viewing. Is it marketed for a teen audience or does it depict Marie as an impressionable teen which today’s teens can relate to? The production is sumptuous as the teenage Marie leaves Austria to travel to France when still only 14 to marry Louis XVI and become queen at 19. We spend a lot of time with the teen Marie Antoinette (and Kirsten Dunst is perfect in the role) as she gets used to the lavish court and the rituals she has to abide by. It starts rather like Von Sternberg's 1934 THE SCARLETT EMPRESS with that other more knowing teenager heading off to become Catherine The Great ....

Later the birth of her children when in her 30s after she finally gets her husband to consummate the marriage is all glossed over rather quickly. The mob only appear once at the climax as she bows to the will of the people and we end with her and her family in a carriage, as the sun sets, on their way to their destiny.. The cast is quite good – nice to see Marianne Faithfull (if only briefly) as her mother Maria Theresa, and comedian Steve Coogan as the advisor, Rip Torn as the older king and Jason Schwartzmann as the diffident husband, plus Judy Davis, Rose Byrne and Tom Hardy. We also get to see a lot of the opulent and eccentric court at Versailles as Marie matures. Other characters like the Princess Lamballe and Count Fersen are rather glossed over.

The modern (well, 80s) music by the likes of Adam and the Ants, Bow Wow Wow and The Cure has caused a lot of comment (there are 854 reviews on IMDB alone! - as one puts it: "Gidget goes to Versailles and when she gets there, she gets bored, gossips, reads Rousseau, and has beach-blanket pot parties and wild balls in Amadeus outfits".) but for me it suits the images – even the shot of the trainers among the shoes – as these are the bored teens of their time, as they indulge in clothes, shoes, cakes and champagne.
We do not see enough of the mature queen or her trial where she defended herself, but this obviously was not part of Coppola’s plan – she also scripted from the well-regarded Antonia Fraser biography. Fraser expressed pleasure with the end result but then what historian would not like a lavish film to be made from their historical tome?
So really it is all about Marie Antoinette as a sweet, utterly conventional and finally boring teenage girl acting out the fantasy of becoming a queen without realising the implications that follow … certainly a fascinating contrast to the equally opulent MGM film of 1938 with Norma Shearer's majestic performance. There will always be a market for doomed queens, whether Marie Antoinette, Mary Queen of Scots or Elizabeth (Sissi) of Austria - Marie's story though is hard to beat - and it looks marvellous of course, as good as anything in BARRY LYNDON (which set the benchmark for period films).

1 comment:

  1. Loved this; loved the cast, loved the costumes and above all loved the score...another one I need to watch again.