Surfacing

kiki_antoinette

I’m growing increasingly disappointed with Sofia Coppola’s films, which seem to focus exclusively on passive, frustrated women living in beautiful glass houses. Disappointed, because, as a hugely successful female director (a rare enough thing to be, sadly), she is in a position to say so much more about her characters. Her protagonists’ continued muteness —and by extension, her own— is looking more and more like an unfortunate combination of artistic limitation and sheer directorial laziness.

I should reserve judgment —at this point I’ve only seen the Marie Antoinette trailer and read the comments coming out of Cannes, where the film had its premiere this week. And a gorgeous trailer it is too, with painterly colors (Delft blues, creamy whites, and eye-popping shades of poppy red and rhododendron pink), Kirsten Dunst’s coquettish vogueing, and New Order’s shimmering, magisterial “Age of Consent.” The first time I saw it I thought, “Oh, someone’s cut a bootleg trailer,” because the music was so bizarrely, marvelously anachronistic to a period piece like Marie. And then the credits flashed: “Marie Antoinette. Kirsten Dunst. Jason Schwartzman. 2006,” chunky sans-serifs clumsily angled for maximum Jamie Reid-esque affect.

Coppola_Antionette

The combination of anachronistic musical and graphic quotes struck me, initially, as cheekily amusing but then upon reflection as hollowly, lazily provocative —meant to bring a postmodern frisson to material that hardly required it. Of course, it has occurred to me that the film’s final graphic direction may be something completely different, so I should withhold judgment there too.

“Age of Consent” is a brilliant choice of music, however, because it confers warmth and much-needed emotional heft to a trailer (and, possibly, an entire film) that’s potentially a triumph of art direction over substance.

****

MMOH_The Black Rider

Unrelated: The Tom Waits/Robert Wilson/William S. Burroughs collaboration The Black Rider is currently playing in LA. Mary Margaret O’Hara —whose brilliant album Miss America [1988] is seemingly a one-off, despite a subsequent film soundtrack, backing vocals for the Moz, and a Christmas-themed EP— plays the female lead. And she is fantastic. If you’re in LA between now and June 11th, SEE IT. (I’m not a huge fan of Robert Wilson, it must be said, but I really do think that O’Hara’s performance is something special and worth the price of admission. And yes, she is Catherine O’Hara’s sister.)

And, contrary to Pitchfork’s assertions, O’Hara is Canadian, not Irish. Jeez. Fact-check, much?

You can find New Order’s Power, Corruption and Lies just about anywhere. Such is sadly not the case with Mary Margaret O’Hara’s Miss America —despite a Koch reissue a few years ago it’s increasingly hard to find. Try Ebay or your local used record emporium. “Help Me Lift You Up” is also covered on This Mortal Coil’s Blood. The original MMOH version can also be found on the THC box-set, now also frustratingly OOP.

MP3New Order, “Age of Consent”

MP3New Order, “Age of Consent” [Live BBC, 8/25/84]

MP3Mary Margaret O’Hara, “Help Me Lift You Up”

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7 Comments

  1. You totally scooped me! I had a similar post in mind for today, but decided to go with self-promotional birthday action instead. (And happy belated birthday to you!)

    • Nothing wrong with self-promotional birthday action —I was guilty of that a couple of days ago! (And happy birthday!!)

      Did you see the He Said/She Said side-by-side commentaries by AO Scott & La Manohla in today’s Times? He seemed to damn it with faint praise; hardly surprisingly, she did no such thing.

  2. James

    Another (negative) early review, with lively debate in the comments section:

    http://hollywood-elsewhere.com/archives/2006/05/blood_of_a_lady.php

    • Interesting commentary —thanks for the link.

      I have to remind myself that I thought “Lost In Translation” was going to be a terrible movie too —and I ended up loving it.

      I do think that whoever said that her films are tone poems that lose something when seen on the small screen at home was spot on. I think she does have a canny eye for visuals that augment her protagonists’ inner turmoil. But I also feel that her films become less compelling with each successive viewing (LiT certainly has); not sure if Marie Antionette will fall into that category or not. From what people are saying in that thread, it doesn’t sound that compelling after one viewing, never mind several…

      It does look gorgeously composed though.

      • James

        I watched Lost in Translation once, and I loved it then. But later I decided that some of the criticism of the film’s depiction of Japan (that neither the characters of Coppola showed any interest in Japanese culture, and the Japanese charcaters are played for laughs and nothing else) had merit to it.

        It sounds from the Hollywood Elsewhere review that the new film has a similar problem (or theme).

        When I watched Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers, I wondered if the movie wasn’t (at least partially) a response to Lost in Translation. Bill Murray plays a similar world-weary character closed off from life, but here he discovers the cost of cutting himself off from other people. It’s known that Jarmush made Ghost Dog as a response to Tarantino’s movies, so I suppose it’s possible.

        Jubilee is a politically conserative film with liberal punk rock music on the soundtrack. Punk is supposed to represent the decay of English culture. It would be interesting if Marie Antoinette worked in reverse (the degenerate royals of the 1780’s are the decay, punk rock songs are the bright populist future).

  3. Eek — that sort of coy anachronism reminds me of “Moulin Rouge”, which made me cringe in embarrassment (good thing I saw it on video so it was easy to just leave the room.)

    Although anachronism can be done well … like the Elizabethan drama with motorbikes in one Monty Python episode.

    • I don’t get the impression from people who’ve seen it that the film itself has any particular satirical intent, or uses the music as a sly comment upon the events unfolding. But I really need to see the film for myself to see how the soundtrack is employed. Who knows —maybe she’ll pull a Jubilee on us after all. Although I kind-of doubt it.

      I just noticed that I’ve consistently been misspelling Antoinette. Damn it!

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