Monday, October 23, 2006

Shoes! Glorious, beautiful shoes!

This weekend we saw the long-awaited Marie Antoinette by Sophia Coppola. I spent most of last week internet-stalking the movie and becoming a veritable expert on all things Marie Antoinette. I love cultural insight, so I was thrilled by the scenes that showed the day-to-day activities of being an 18th century queen, like how she had to wait for the women of court to dress her in the morning, how she and the dauphin were put to bed by a crowd of people (including what appeared to be a cardinal) on their wedding night, how they acquired a glass of water at dinner and how, when she gave birth, the room was so crowded with people they could barely open a window after she passed out. Those moments were interspersed with long sequences of listening to music or watching the sun rise - leading some to criticize the movie for being "boring," but really they give the impression of what it might have been like to be bored, despite having all of Versailles at your disposal.

Operating under a post-modern principle that it's quite impossible to accurately represent a time and place you have no real familiarity with, Marie Antoinette rather strives to represent what it might have been like for a bright, extremely young woman who suddenly became the most powerful and wealthy women in France, having to deal with intense pressures and living a fairly isolated life.

Great performances were put in by Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman (as Louis XVI), Judy Davis (as a Comtesse who guides M.A. through the complexities of French court life), Asia Argento was great as Madame Du Barry (the lover of Louis XV), and humorous performances were put in by Rip Torn (Louis XV) and Shirley Henderson (you'll remember her as Bridget Jones's friend Jude, and Moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter.)

One of my favorite sequences was played out to the tune of "I want candy" - a series of shots alternating delicious looking cakes and petit fours and The. Most. Gorgeous. Shoes I've ever seen in my whole life. (The cakes are Ladurée and the shoes are Manolos.) Presumably it's for scenes like these the film was booed at Cannes and generally disliked by French audiences, where Marie Antoinette remains a controversial figure. Speaking of, I heard a French girl complaining at the end of the movie, "How can you end that movie without a beheading?!?" (Still calling for her head, aren't they?) Frankly I was relieved that the film didn't include the miserable final years of the royal family's lives (not just because I have a no-death-penalty-rule that I employ, and I couldn't quite decide if it might apply in the case of Marie Antoinette), but because the ending, while avoiding the shedding of blood, perhaps even more convincingly implies that the era was over, but also illustrates the grace and bravery with which Marie Antoinette faced the end of her reign.

I'd recommend the film to any fan of Coppola - ooooh, I can't wait to see what her next movie will be!

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