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April 05, 2007

Marie Antoinette


I've seen almost every movie Kirsten Dunst has made. I think she's wonderful, and not just because she's half Scandinavian and half German, like me. In Marie Antoinette, just out on DVD, she gives a beautiful and sympathetic performance as someone I thought I was supposed to hate.

Only Sofia Coppola could have made this movie. It's very sensual, like all of her pictures. Lots of food, lots of pastels, lots of shoes (designed by Manolo), lots of flowers, lots of hair, and of course cake. It was filmed at Versailles the Versailles which is reason enough to see it.

Marie Antoinette's story is essentially a girl's story, and the movie never loses that perspective. It's told from her point of view alone, and thus the French Revolution never intrudes until the very end. That was the problem, you see. Court life was completely insulated from the real world, and Marie Antoinette really had no clue what was going on outside the palace borders.

She was an Austrian princess, who was sent to France to seal an alliance with the Holy Roman Empire by wedding the somewhat shy, but basically decent grandson of the Sun King. Louis XVI is played by Jason Schwartzman, who is Sofia Coppola's cousin.


After the wedding, Marie Antoinette's biggest problem is getting the dauphin to consummate the marriage. He's sort of an Eighteenth Century nerd, more interested in the inner workings of locks, than in producing an heir. Eventually, after a man-to-man talk from the Holy Roman Emperor himself, Louis is persuaded to do the deed.

Later, Marie Antoinette enters into a secret affair with Count Axel von Fersen of Sweden (A close confidant of Gustav III, the Swedish king assasinated during a masquerade ball, and whose blood stained costume I viewed last summer at the Livrustkammaren in Stockholm, a must-see museum, but I digress.) who's a real hottie. Louis never finds out in the movie, although historically there is some debate about whether the real Louis suspected that Fersen was the biological father of the dauphin.

Anyways, the movie is as slow and dreamy as one should expect from a Sofia Coppola flick. The photography is great, as is the set and costume design. Interestingly, the costumers made a conscious choice not to include any browns in the color palette, because they didn't want to suggest sepia tones, lest the viewer get the feeling it was a historical pic. Along the same lines, there's plenty of cool Eighties new wave in the soundtrack, to add a contemporary feel a la A Knight's Tale.

I gave Marie Antoinette four stars ("really liked it") on the Neflix scale of one to five. When I got back from Sweden, I rented Queen Christina with Garbo, and last month I saw and enjoyed Cleopatra. Now I'm inspired to rent Elizabeth with Cate Blanchett, to complete my quartet of movies about iconic queens.

Update: Casca asks an interesting question: "Do they show her head getting cut off?" Actually I debated last night whether to reveal the ending, but decided not to. This morning I changed my mind, so *SPOILER ALERT* she dies at the end.

Seriously though, there is one problem with the movie, and that is that they do not show Marie Antoinette getting beheaded. That didn't spoil the movie for me, and I totally understand Coppola's decision not to show it, but I think a lot of people (i.e. guys) will end up scratching their heads at the ending.

My boyfriend hated the movie. I think that's because it's a chick flick, and if you're doing a biography of Marie Antoinette, there's sort of an implicit promise that you're going to show her head getting chopped off. That's pretty much all most people know about the subject anyway. She says "let them eat cake," (which they show, but which she never said) and she gets her head cut off. So when the movie ends with Kirsten Dunst still having a head, there's a lack of resolution, and guys are all about resolution after the build-up.

For me, the movie was not about a chick who got beheaded. It was about the contrast between court life and the life of the common folk, whom we never get to see. To fully appreciate this subtlety, you have to go into it knowing the story of the French Revolution. You also have to have a well developed sense of irony, because the movie is infused with irony. Otherwise, when an aide tells Marie Antoinette that the people have no bread, and she responds by saying, quite seriously, "well the kids will just have to go without diamonds," you won't get it.

The queen was serious, but we the viewer know that her insulation from the populace has left her hopelessly naive as if going without diamonds could stave off the reign of terror we know will come. So even though the Revolution is not shown, the knowledge that it is brewing animates the first two acts, but only if one knows the history. Otherwise its probably just a boring costume pageant.

Or maybe Chris thought Antonella Barba was going to be in it. Just kidding honey.

Posted by annika, Apr. 5, 2007 | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Let's Go To Hollywood


Do they show her head getting cut off?

Posted by: Casca on Apr. 6, 2007


Cate B. is amazing as Elizabeth which is half the reason for seeing the film the other half is that is quite a good movie.

Posted by: strawman on Apr. 6, 2007

Louis XVI is played by Jason Schwartzman, who is Sofia Coppola's cousin.

We need not mention who Sofia's father is.

Ah the comforts of nepotism.

Posted by: Mark on Apr. 6, 2007

Learning about the French Revolution is one of the events that persuaded me to become a conservative. Reading Burke's take on the subject is wonderfully enlightening. Everything you need to know and despise about the Left can be learned in that brief time period.

Posted by: blu on Apr. 6, 2007


We both agree that Ben A. totally sucks ass and that Cate B. totally rocks. It's a strange world indeed.

Posted by: blu on Apr. 6, 2007

I was being a smartass.

Posted by: Casca on Apr. 6, 2007

I saw Elizabeth today....sort of.

That should sate anyone's penchant for beheading and dismemberment.

Posted by: reagan80 on Apr. 6, 2007

Acton and Burke are good to read on the Revolution.

Posted by: Scof on Apr. 6, 2007

Since i am a History freak, I will probably check it out. Although French history was never my major area. I think that kirsten Dunst was incredibly good looking at one time but sort of uglied up on me. I don't know quite what happened, but I no longer find her attractive,

In just the opposite way, the vastly overrated Hilary Swank got attractive to me. I still think she is overrated as an actress, but she used to be a bow wow, and now is kinda hot.

Posted by: kyle N on Apr. 6, 2007

What a coincidence, I just put The Affair Of The Necklace, in the Netflix queue, with Hillary Swank. It's about a scandal involving Marie Antoinette.

Posted by: annika on Apr. 6, 2007

nd when Cate speaks in her native Aussie it doesn't make you skin crawl the way Nicole K. does. Speaking of Aussie actors I think Judy Davis is also terrific.

Posted by: strawman on Apr. 7, 2007

Yes, but do they show her head getting cut off?

Posted by: Casca on Apr. 7, 2007

I think Sophias a great film maker. I'll check it out, even if it does make me a bit of a 'girlie-man.'

Posted by: Mike C. on Apr. 8, 2007

Do we get a tit shot from Kirsten?

Posted by: Radical Redneck on Apr. 8, 2007

i loev teh movie!! although, i think it would be way better at the end if krsten's head got chopped off like in real life, this movie touched me in so many ways, i cant stop watching it!! and marie antoinette will always have a place in my heart!!

Posted by: melissa on Apr. 19, 2007

omg!!! this is the best movie ever, amrie antoinette is soooo fastinating, and the movie rocked my world, it made me mad that in real life, marie had to be such a slut and cheat on her husband, ecspecaily cause he was sooo sweet in the movie, and kind of cute too!!! i agree with that other person though, she should have gotten heer head chopped off, so that teh story made more sence, and you know what? this si my favorite movie, and all the things that you mentioned about it was not shown in tehj movie, they all should have been, sio we all could have seen and heard the whole story bout this truley beautiful and facinating princess!!

Posted by: melissa on Apr. 19, 2007

Melissa, sounds like you might like my favorite Kirsten Dunst movie, Bring It On. Actually that's my second favorite movie ever.

Posted by: annika on Apr. 19, 2007