The honor of France was at stake last spring when Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette premiered at Cannes to a continuous accompaniment of hoots and whistles–“a welcome,” Le Monde reported, “even colder than the one reserved for The Da Vinci Code.” Note that “reserved.” The festival audience, ripe tomatoes at the ready, surely knew that decades earlier, in Si Versailles m’était conté, Sacha Guitry had given the French monarchy a storybook treatment no more fanciful than Coppola’s pop-rock approach. But Guitry had looked at French history from within; Coppola was doing it from without. That’s why I’m glad to have watched Marie Antoinette not at Cannes but at the New York Film Festival, where an estrangement from eighteenth-century France could be perceived as the movie’s point instead of its problem. Even before the Cure and Bow Wow Wow had drowned out Rameau on the soundtrack–before a pair of sneakers had shown up amid the heroine’s piles of footwear, or Asia Argento (as Du Barry) had complained, in fluent Brooklynese, that “Nobuddy treats me like a lady heah”–Coppola had estimated the gap between Marie’s era and our own and gauged it, correctly, as unbridgeable. The unit of measurement: Kirsten Dunst’s gaze. In… Read full this story
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