Marie Antoinette still unloved - even at Cannes

24th May 2006, Comments 0 comments

CANNES, France, May 24, 2006 (AFP) – 'Marie Antoinette', the long-awaited movie from Oscar-winning US director Sofia Coppola, was booed here on Wednesday, dismissed as a kind of Barbie meets 'Desperate Housewives' romp.

CANNES, France, May 24, 2006 (AFP) – 'Marie Antoinette', the long-awaited movie from Oscar-winning US director Sofia Coppola, was booed here on Wednesday, dismissed as a kind of Barbie meets 'Desperate Housewives' romp.

Despite being beautifully filmed in the Versailles palace, and backed by a rollicking sound track with the likes of 80s bands The Cure and Bow Wow Wow, the film largely failed to live up to expectations.

More than two centuries after France's last queen was beheaded in 1793, Marie Antoinette still raises opposing passions here. And although many critics enjoyed the luscious feast for the eyes, they said the tale failed to convince.

The 40-million-dollar movie starring Kirsten Dunst is light years from the beautifully understated 'Lost in Translation' which won Coppola an Oscar in 2004 for best original screenplay.

"I feel in my three films, there's a kind of a connection, a theme of young women trying to find their way and their identity, and to me it just feels like the last chapter of these three films," Coppola told journalists.

Marie Antoinette arrives aged 14 at Versailles for her marriage to the dauphin who becomes Louis XVI on the death of his father.

But she is quickly lost and stifled by the court's rigid etiquette. The couple's ignorance of sex means the marriage is not consummated for seven years, causing concern in both the French and Austrian courts desperate for an heir to secure the alliance.

To relieve the boredom, the teenager gives vent to her natural, youthful exuberance, seduced by fabulous clothes, opulent balls and mountains of cream cakes.

The film is as fluffy and light as the many macaroons consumed by the courtiers, with sumptuous costumes, and delightful shoes provided by the shoemaker to the well-heeled Manolo Blahnik.

But as eye-pleasing as it is, it never manages to overcome its MTV video clip feel, as attempts to redeem Marie Antoinette as she matures and becomes a mother, including having her read French philosopher Rousseau, come over as shallow.

Coppola's cousin Jason Schwartzman, who plays Louis XVI, is also like a nervous rabbit caught in the glare of the camera.

At the end, as Marie Antoinette and Louis are seen leaving Versailles after the storming of the palace, the film received some applause but that was drowned out by the boos.

"It's a bit of a Barbie Antoinette," said Sophie Torlotin from the French radio RFI, who said overall she had liked the film. "It's a beautiful object, but I was not touched."

Jean-Luc Wachthausen, heading up the team from the French daily Figaro, said: "We would have liked a more polished script, it lacks a bit of depth. It's a beautiful film, but not satisfying."

Asked if her film was a bit like 'Desperate Housewives', Coppola said she had never seen the prime time soap about the secret lives of housewives.

"But yeah, I thought there's this lonely wife whose husband is not paying any attention to her so she's staying out partying and going shopping," she said.

"We've all heard that story before. I thought it was interesting to see what this search for all this frivolity was really coming from."

Told about the hostile reaction, Coppola admitted that it was disappointing but said: "I think it's better to get a reaction that people either really like it or don't like it, than a mediocre response."

"For the first half an hour, I really enjoyed it, and then I found it that it wasn't uninteresting, but it wasn't very interesting either. But I was surprised that half, or a third of the theatre, booed," said Lisa Nesselson, a critic from Variety.

It is only the third feature length movie by the 35-year-old Coppola, whose famous director father Francis Ford Coppola took a back seat at the press conference.

"For me the biggest challenge was making something on this scale, with a much bigger crew than I've ever worked with, extras and so many costumes," she said.

But with several strong movies among the 20 in competition already touted as possible contenders for the Palme d'Or, it would seem unlikely that Coppola's offering will knock Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar's 'Volver' off the critics' top spot.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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