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Volume 72, Issue 47, Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Life & Arts

Historical lapses aid 'Marie' story


Sofia Coppola is actually Marie Antoinette in disguise. The film about the iconically oblivious French queen, released last week by Columbia Pictures, pretty much disregards the "history" of her situation in favor of a more personal, and arguably more interesting story which explores the world of Versailles that could breed such a woman. Needless to say Princess Sofia, truly her father's daughter, is sympathetic. 

Like the infamous Dauphine the quirky director revels in tossing aside convention, effectively giving her work an artsy feel despite the present subject matter. Taking a page from Antonia Fraser's novel, Marie Antoinette: The Journey, Coppola decided to showcase the girl Marie Antoinette who was sad to give up her puppy, found the court of Versailles "ridiculous" and delved into hedonism to escape the pressures from her peers and ruling an unraveling nation. 

While telling the story of the simple Austrian girl who did everything wrong, the effects are mirrored in the movie's general feel, soundtrack and footwear. 

Reiterating the theme of keeping it real amid rampant frivolity, the film lacks the utterly grandiose ambiance that one would expect in a picture about notorious monarch-slash-fashionista. It feels more like a modern, independent film but doesn't take itself too seriously meaning it's business as usual for a Sofia Coppola picture.

Expanding on this, Coppola infuses the 18th century fairy tale with remnants from the 1980s, suspending any claims she might have had to historical credence, not that that's a bad thing. In fact, it helps the audience relate to the queen more, increasing our sympathy for her, and gives Marie a timelessness that hints at the hopelessness we all feel at being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The score features Bow Wow Wow and The Cure gracefully alongside archaic-sounding, though beautiful, French melodies. In the same vein the lettering of the title and credits point to the same era of the valley girls. During one of the shoe-worshipping scenes, a punk-pink pair of converse finds its way on camera. Historians would call this cameo anachronistic, but this is just a subtle equivalent of Coppola sticking her tongue out at them.

Kristen Dunst and Coppola work well together. The Bring It On alumna brings the glossy persona that the character of Marie Antoinette demands. Even though Dunst portrays the egocentric, immature, very "high school" queen, she brings it like no one else could. The over-the-top girly-ness is particularly fitting with the theme and celebrates all these things that usually warrant negative connotation.

Don't look at the film in the same manner as a strict biography. Marie Antoinette is full of life, joy and pink. It's, like, awesome or whatever. Duh!

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