Thursday, December 16, 2004

Review: "CQ" (2001)

I loved "Lost in Translation", as did many critics and a fair share of audiences. Aside from the joy of seeing a well told story of two lonely people and their platonic romance in the mysterious environs of Tokyo, I was also happy that Sofia Coppola had earned her props as a director. She had already impressed people with "The Virgin Suicides". "Lost in Translation" simply reinforced with people that despite her poor acting in "The Godfather III", this particular apple didn't fall far from the tree. I just wish I could say the same for her brother.

"CQ" takes us back to 1960's Paris where a young filmmaker named Paul (Jeremy Davies) is currently working on a Science Fiction film. His home life is strained as he tries to maintain a relationship with his girlfriend Marlene (Elodie Bouchez) while attempting to shoot a film about himself in his apartment. At work, he's frenzied by a film crew that are all a little bit off and he's secretly fantasizing about the star of the film, Valentine (Angela Lindvall). After awhile, his fantasies about Valentine start to merge with reality and vice versa.

It's easy enough to lay blame at the feet of director Roman Coppola. This is his first film, which he has written as well as directed. His arty camera shots and pretentious dialogue doesn't add up to anything, and this is common enough with beginning filmmakers. The fact that all of these elements are attempting to tell the story of a beginning filmmaker who is similarly self indulgent really puts you into a Moebius Strip that goes nowhere. Francis Ford Coppola directed a half dozen forgettable films before hitting with "The Godfather", and I can only hope that time will improve his son's filmmaking talents, as well.

Far more interesting than the travails of Paul is the cheesy film-within-a-film, "Dragonfly". "Barbarella" is the obvious inspiration for this, with the heroine featured in skimpy outfits and flying around in a spacecraft lined with shag carpeting. There's also a bit of the European spy flick "Diabolique" (whose star, John Phillip Law, has a brief supporting role here) as the title character similarly rolls around naked in a pile of paper money which magically shifts to conceal all the naughty bits. The "Mod" aesthetic of these 1960's films is well maintained, but not well enough to conceal the hollowness of the film itself.

The one really memorable scene for me was when Paul goes to meet his dad (Dean Stockwell) at the airport during a two hour layover. They sit in the airport lounge and chat, his father showing some fatigue from the jetlag. In a film filled with and about artifice, it seemed the only genuine moment, and therefore something to cling for dear life to. Unfortunately, It's over before you know it, and we're back to Paul shooting footage of himself talking to the camera while sitting in his bathroom.

There is one last thing I'd like to remark on concerning the star of this film. I don't really support the trend of plastic surgery, but I think I'd like to see some work done on Jeremy Davies, Henry Thomas or Robert Sean Leonard. These three actors are beginning to so much resemble each other as to be surreal. If not plastic surgery, then may I suggest one of them get into some fights and sustain a broken nose. Hey, it would give them a much darker vibe and set them up for more interesting roles. Just a suggestion.

I'd recommend this only to people only interested in Coppola's offspring and/or the whole "Mod" vibe the film constructs. In the end, it's best to go with the real thing. Go rent Fellini's "Roma" and Blake Edwards' "The Party" and watch them back to back. You'll get the same effect. Sure, it'll take twice as long as "CQ", but quality should count for something.

Five out of Ten

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