January 2016 BLIND SPOT: Marie Antoinette (2006)

MarieAntoinettePoster

I have to confess that since I visited Paris a couple of years ago, I’ve become slightly obsessed with French history. Sofia Coppola‘s retelling of France’s iconic but ill-fated queen promises a character study of the title role instead of a historical account that led to the fall of Versailles. I have no problem with that, after all I’m not expecting a documentary of the subject. If one actually wants to learn more in depth about French history that’s also visually stunning, there’s a good three-part docs called The Rise & Fall of Versailles on Hulu.

MarieAntoinette_archducessAustria

It’s loosely based on the Marie Antoinette biography by Lady Antonia Fraser which reveal the humanity of the French icon. The film opened with the archduchess of Austria at 14, being betrothed to Louis Auguste by her mother Empress Maria Theresa to secure the fragile allegiance between France and Austria. I can only imagine what it must’ve been like for a teenage girl like her to have to part with her family, and her beloved pug, and enter a strange new world on her own. I think the film captured that sense of alienation perfectly, as well as the intense loneliness, not to mention utter bewilderment, of all the new traditions she must quickly become accustomed to. Some of the most amusing scenes pertain to the mystifying traditions at Versailles.

MarieAntoinette_tradition

There’s one where the young queen had to be dressed in front of dozens of courtiers. Given that the most important courtier had to dress her, she literally had to stand shivering in the cold room waiting for someone to finally put clothes on her!

Kirsten Dunst was quite mesmerizing in the title role and being that she was Austrian, I thought she looked the part physically. There’s a playfulness as well as fragility in her performance, and despite being in her early 20s at the time, she looked quite believable as a teen. Jason Schwartzman on the other hand, seems miscast here as Louix XVI. He wasn’t given much to do here either, perhaps that’s purposely done to further the sense of estranged marriage between the two.

MarieAntoinette_Schwartzman

Some critics have said the film is style over substance and there’s certainly style in abundance. The film is lavish and absolutely gorgeous to look at. I have to admit that the first half hour or so I was marveling at the spectacular set pieces and colorful costumes, but the film grew rather tedious and repetitive that it threatened to grind it to a halt. Coppola seems obsessed with the unconsummated marriage that the scenes of Marie being frustrated in bed is played over and over again. I understand Coppola intended to create an unconventional biopic, and that’s to be commended, but it feels overly indulgent. The young queen might’ve been giddy and frivolous, but it doesn’t mean the film depicting her has to be done in the same way.

MarieAntoinette_Cake

“Qu’ils mangent de la brioche,” (Let them eat cake)

As a character study, I feel that Coppola didn’t really go deep enough into the titular heroine. Marie Antoinette is depicted as a friendly, vivacious and sweet, though like most teen, she has a penchant for gossip and spectacular parties. ‘The Party That Started A Revolution’ one of the film tagline says, and well, the queen sure gave some ridiculously opulent parties in a time where the French citizens were starving. Whether she actually uttered the heartless remark ‘let them eat cake’ had been largely disputed, but she did say that line in this film. There’s perhaps a good five minutes or so devoted to the Revolution, there’s not even a mention of the Guillotine anywhere in the film. By the time the crowds had seized Versailles and the royal family escorted to Paris to await their doomed fate, I felt a tremendous sympathy for the characters, but more because of what I’ve learned in history about them, not necessarily due to their depictions here.

MarieAntoinette_Dunst

The supporting cast was filled with actors who’ve become quite famous of late, especially Tom Hardy who had basically a cameo here as one of the French aristocrats. The other pretty boy was Jamie Dornan as a French soldier who became Marie Antoinette’s lover Count Axel Fersen. There’s also Rose Byrne as Duchesse de Polignac, the queen’s best friend. Rip Torn played Louis XV here, a role which was apparently offered to French actor Alain Delon, which I think would’ve been perfect. According to IMDb trivia, it has been speculated that Delon did not have confidence in the young American director to do justice to a film on this period of French history.


In any case, the star of this film is definitely Dunst, who carried the film with her charisma. She’s able to convey a variety of emotions throughout and make me sympathize with her despite her obvious flaws. The feeling of total isolation and tremendous pressure of having to produce an heir seemed so unbearable and she conveyed those emotions convincingly.

Technically the movie is a marvel. The cinematography by Lance Acord is simply stunning, a *decadence porn* displaying the most extravagant aristocracy lifestyle in history. I also like the use of contemporary music, as I quite like anachronism in period films when it’s used well. I think Sofia Coppola has been known for having good soundtrack in her movies. This one called Fools Rush In is one of my favorites:


Overall I think Marie Antoinette is a pretty shallow affair, an incomplete and rather unmoving character study that could’ve been much tightly-edited. The film tends to only focus on certain aspects of the character and leave others out, for example the infamous diamond necklace affair that forever tarnished her reputation wasn’t mentioned here. I do think the second half of the film is a bit more interesting as the revolution drew near. I’d still recommend this if you’re into this genre and anything to do with French history. I’d also still applaud Coppola for taking a novel approach to the subject, even if it’s far from being a superior work.

3halfReels


Check out my full 2016 lineup by clicking the graphic below

Blindspot2016


Well, have you seen Marie Antoinette? Well, what did you think?

Advertisements

60 thoughts on “January 2016 BLIND SPOT: Marie Antoinette (2006)

  1. Brittani

    I’ve seen bits and pieces of it, but have never finished it. I remember Dunst actually saying during promotion this wasn’t going to be a truthful Marie Aontoinette biopic or something like that, that it was mostly for fun. Great write up!

  2. A perfect review, Ruth. You mentioned all the great aspects of it, the lavish sets and colors, the music is a trip, and as a character study, Dunst was wonderful. It is style over substance, but I can think of worse movies and wish Ms. Coppola would direct more films.

    1. Thanks Cindy! Oh I agree I think there are far worse films out there and I too wish Ms Coppola would direct more. I’d like to see her tackle something different than ‘privileged people in anguish’ theme she’s done in pretty much ALL of her films.

  3. When I first saw it, I was expecting something like The Last Emperor but the reviews at Cannes when it first came out where so notorious as well as being polarizing. Several re-watches over the years made me understand what Sofia was doing since the film is really part of an informal yet thematic trilogy of young women and their encounter with alienation that were preceded by The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation.

    The repetitious tone of the film I think was intentional as Sofia stated that one of her influences in the film is All That Jazz by Bob Fosse which also played into the concept of repetition. The casting choices I think were more interesting because it played against the rules. If it did play by the rules, it would’ve been too easy for the actors to try and do accents when they’re likely to screw it up. What Sofia did was have actors be comfortable and just play it in their own interpretations which I think worked.

    I think some of the post-punk/New Wave music in the film actually made sense as some of the fashion during the late 70s/early 80s New Romantic movement was inspired by those periods. Count Fersen was in some ways to look a bit like Adam Ant which definitely made sense for having his music featured. Hearing something like Siouxsie & the Banshees and Bow Wow Wow I think made perfect sense since the rhythms and melodies were very similar to the music in those times.

    I think in a lesser film, they would’ve shown Marie Antoinette get her head cut off but what Sofia did was say “no, let’s go for something else as that would be expected. Her leaving Versailles is the way to end”. There is another film that I think should be recommended since it is about Versaille and Marie Antoinette which is called Farewell, My Queen starring Diane Kruger and Lea Seydoux which plays into those final days in Versailles.

    1. I think the theme of alienation and loneliness is captured well here. I think ‘Lost in Translation’ is just a better film overall though. I haven’t seen ‘The Virgin Suicides’ yet, might give that a shot. I think playing against the rules is commendable but I find the repetitiveness aggravating in this case, but I don’t mind the variety of accents (as the actors were using their own) as French accent is just too difficult to get right.

      Yeah, I do love the music. I didn’t realize the New Romantic movement were inspired by those periods, very interesting! And I agree I think it’s not necessary to have the Guillotine scene be shown, I think we pretty much know what’s gonna happen and that final scene in the carriage is quite heartbreaking. I quite like ‘Farewell, My Queen’, perhaps a bit more than this one. Lea Seydoux was outstanding!

  4. Great review Ruth! After reading this I have a pretty good feel for the movie and don’t feel the need to watch it haha. I’ve actually never seen a Sofia Coppola directed film yet, if I do I’d probably start with Lost in Translation. Wow that’s a lot of cake in that pic! 😀

    1. Hi Eddie, thanks for stopping by even though this isn’t your cup of tea. You should definitely check out Lost in Translation, esp if you like Bill Murray!

  5. I’ve never seen this film but I remember how hyped up it was before it hits theater. But when it came out, I think most top critics hated it and of course it tanked at the theater. I don’t think I’ll ever watch it, mostly because I just don’t care for period dramas.

    1. Hi Ted, I actually don’t even remember the time this was in theaters. Well if you don’t like period dramas I won’t recommend this one, though I still recommend Sense & Sensibility even if they’re not fond of the genres 🙂

      1. Oh it was such a hyped up film because it’s right after Lost in Translation, so Ms. Coppola was the talk of the town. Also, Kirsten Dunst was still considered a “star” because of the SpiderMan films. I think the studio thought it’s going to get lots of awards and made some money at the box office.

        I can’t say I want to see Sense & Sensibility either; only period pictures that will interest me are war and/or action theme.

  6. Nice review Ruth. I’ve always been curious about this one but also a little hesitant. It’s good to read a more in-depth take on it. Sounds like there is enough there to drop my interest.

    1. I remember you love Paris right? I think people who like French history might get something out of this. If anything, Dunst’s performance is quite wonderful.

        1. Then I think it should be something you’d enjoy Keith. I’d also recommend the documentary I mentioned in my intro, it’s a 3-part doc on the 3 famous French kings, all set in Versailles.

  7. Paul S

    I haven’t seen Marie Antoinette but it does sound like a disappointing start to your blind spot series. I hope I have more luck with mine.

    1. Oh I wouldn’t say disappointing. 3.5/5 is still a decent score. I think it could’ve been more compelling yes, but I’d still recommend it, Paul. What’s your Blindspot this month?

        1. Very cool! I look forward to your post on it. LOVE your double bill reviews, we share a love for The Age of Innocence. As far as forbidden romance is concerned, I think it’s just as powerful as Romeo & Juliet.

  8. I loved this review Ruth, Dunst was indeed very well cast as the young queen. I’d totally forgot that Tom Hardy and Jamie Dornan featured in this film.

    1. Hi Vinnie! Thanks for your comment. Yes I was quite mesmerized by Dunst. I didn’t know about those pretty boys either, but that was a nice surprise!

      1. I loved the way Kirsten Dunst managed to get across the pain behind her frivolous exterior. Marie seems so misguided and not really given a lot of help. Speaking of Dornan, I do remember that he has an affair with Marie. There is that scene set to Adam and the Ants were Marie is lying on her bed with just a fan and a pair of stockings, along with a come hither look.

        1. You’re absolutely right. She seems frivolous on the outside but there’s an inner turmoil that Dunst captured in the film. Marie was under such a tremendous pressure from all sides, I can’t imagine being in her place. Yep, that scene w/ the fan is quite memorable. There’s a certain giddy-ness to their affair, like a schoolgirl. I often forget this girl was just in her late teens when she became queen.

          1. She was just swamped by people telling her that it was important to produce an heir and act in the restricted setting of monarch. There is a certain giddiness to her affair I must agree. I think many people forget that Marie was just a teenager at this time, and the amount of pressure must have been unbearable.

            1. Yeah, esp from her mother and the ambassador. It must’ve been so stifling, not to mention frustrating when the husband couldn’t um, perform.

              If you like French history, you should check out the documentary I mentioned in my intro. It’s a well-done and fascinating doc, not to mention also gorgeous to look at!

              1. Haha, you made me laugh with the perform line. Then again I do have a saucy sense of humour at times that borders on the ribald. You should check my gif posts, most sexy.

  9. I’ve always loved this movie so much and I think it’s because as you mentioned so damn stylish. I love the colors, the costumes, all the richness that is conveyed with that sumptuous lifestyle. I like how Jason Shwartzman acts like an oddball. I also love everything and anything French so that could be why. Great review Ruth. I actually chose this one for Rob to see too. 🙂

    1. It IS very stylish, so visually it’s perfect for all the decadence of Versailles. I love all things French as you already know, and of course I wished Stanley had played the role of Count Axel (Jamie Dornan’s role) and he’d be the perfect age for it, not to mention he’s actually French!!

        1. Well he did that as Louis XV in the documentary I mentioned in the intro here, but I think this seductive role would no doubt get him noticed more as it’s an International production.

            1. Well season 2 hasn’t come out yet so no I don’t think people know him yet other than die-hard Outlander fans. I mean I got like 50+ retweets when I mentioned Hardy and Dornan but got ZERO likes when I mention Stanley on Twitter so it makes me sad. I stand by him though and he IS my crush AND my muse 😀

              1. Well I think it’s better that way. He will be yours and yours alone! HAHA. Hopefully you can snag some type of interview with him, right now before he’s a hot commodity with the rest of the world. That would be cool!

                1. “yours and alone” ha, yeah right!!! If only!! 😉 It’d seriously be an absolute dream come true though if he’d want to star in my movie. I’ll DM you about it, but I think I’ve just thought of a reason to convince him that he’s the ONLY person I can think of to do the role 😉

  10. I watched this for the first time last week and thoroughly enjoyed it. It has a few flaws but it’s very charming and Dunst is so captivating she carries you through. I agree it’s utterly gorgeous to look at! It reminded me a little of Baz Lurhmann’s style – the opulence and the music – but there are also a lot of similarities to Coppola’s Bling Ring too (another film I really enjoyed despite its flaws). I’m looking forward to seeing more of Coppola’s work in the future. Great review Ruth!

    1. Hi Natalie! I agree it’s quite charming and even mesmerizing thanks to Dunst’s performance. Yes it’s got Baz Luhrmann’s style, I totally missed that but you’re absolutely right. I actually didn’t care very much of The Bling Ring, this one is far more watchable for me.

  11. Spot on review. The film is visually stunning but definitely lacking in depth. It’s still a fun movie to watch, but when I saw it for the first time, it just felt like something was missing. More style than substance for sure!

    1. Hi Tiffany, how’ve you been girl? Glad we’re on the same page as this one. It’s just a very frivolous film which is a missed opportunity considering how intriguing the subject matter is.

      Btw, are you excited for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?

      1. I’ve been good! I’ve been a bit MIA from the blogging world, but I think I’m back in action now! 😉
        I’m not too excited about Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. I tried reading the book when it first came out, and only got half way through it because I thought it was awful. The movie does seem a bit more interesting than the book actually. I’ll probably end up giving it a try just bc I’m so obsessed with period dramas. However, I just can’t help but feel like Jane Austen is going to come back from the dead as a zombie and kill us for making such nonsense based on her brilliant works, lol.

        1. Oh I actually had fun w/ PPZ, but then again I’m not a purist. I think it’s cool to mashup classic genres, and the people involved are actually loyal to the original P&P work, apart from the twist of course. I haven’t read the book but I think the film was entertaining, but it could be as I’m crushing on Sam Riley as Mr. Darcy 😉 I will do a full review on it, it’s not perfect by any means but I think Austen fans should check it out and perhaps be pleasantly surprised by it.

          1. I’m not too much of a purist. I loved Lost in Austen for example. I think I’m not too excited solely based on the book, which I was very disappointed in. I’m still gonna give the movie a try, and I look forward to your review!

            1. Ah I see. Well, I’d still give the movie a shot then, they play it straight which makes it even more amusing.

              Btw, did you see my comment on your post about Five for the Fifth? I hope you’ll take part 🙂

                1. Yep, or TV is fine too. You can throw some ideas and see which one we haven’t covered yet on the series. I look forward to your email, Tiff!

    1. I think it’s still an enjoyable film, but it could’ve been a really compelling and emotional drama given the subject matter. Still, Dunst was excellent in the lead role here.

Join the conversation by leaving a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s