Marie Antoinette. Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, and Judy Davis star in a film written and directed by Sofia Coppola.
Reviewed by D.J. Palladino
Three films in, Sofia Coppola cannot be dismissed as merely lucky in her choice of parents. Not much happens in her films, I admit, but they are far from boring or cinematically pointless. Case in point: Lost in Translation, presumably a May-December courtship story set in a foreign hotel, kept shying away from the usual conclusions of the genre. Instead of a lesson on transient beauty, it was a collection of exotic and everyday moments detached from any sense of consequence.
Marie Antoinette is riveting from its rock ’n’ roll snapshot opening to its ransacked conclusion. Years ago, anticipation was high for a new actor named Heath Ledger in a film called A Knight’s Tale, a medieval adventure with a rock soundtrack. It was terrible, and the music choices lame. This film gets right what A Knight’s Tale didn’t, opening with Gang of Four, who once wrote a song assuring us that history was not made by great men. A tame sex scene here is made explosive by Adam and the Ants’ “Kings of the Wild Frontier.” There is also music by contempo kids like Air and Squarepusher.
The story is all poetic paradoxes revolving around Marie (Kirsten Dunst) and the court, where her inability to coax an heir from the king (Jason Schwartzman) is supposed to be damning, though she keeps making friends. When Marie falls, it’s after she’s done everything expected. In the meantime, the court offers her dazzling sensuality and Coppola seems happy to indulge Marie without any puritanical clichés, like gaining weight.
Coppola’s Marie is not ideological theory, but the dialectic of film has always been between spectacle and truth. Marie is certainly in the jaws of history, though maybe she never said that thing about cake after all. Regardless, she got a lot of it, and she ate it, too.