Thursday, March 29, 2007

Shape of Things to Come

In my mind, at RFC HQ, there's one of those posters of the cute kitten hanging off a branch by one paw -- "Hang in there!" Due to (hopefully) temporary poor connections to the internets, time management issues and things of the sort, the site is far from it's full potential. Still a bit of a work in progress, really. I just want to put it out there for anyone who might stumble across this and see a post that's all kitty whompus, or some missing links, that we're working on it when we have the time and the wi-fi gods permit.

In the near future you should be seeing some shiny bells and maybe a snazzy whistle or two. These would be things like awesomer links, clips from the movies within the posts, and other ideas that haven't quite made it past the test tube stage.

Even though we may be still learning how to walk upright here at RFC, we'll be doing the tango soon enough. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Funny Ha Ha & Mutual Appreciation

Mutual Appreciation & Funny Ha Ha
Dir. - Andrew Bujalski

Sean Says:

Pardon me if I start this one off on a rant but one of the reasons I’m feeling a lot of hate for Kevin Smith these days is because I place a good majority of the blame on him for killing the indie comedy, not to mention that steamer Clerks 2. Summer of ’94, man. Clerks dropped and it all ended. Do you remember what it was like before then? Remember Metropolitan and Barcelona? Remember Slacker, Spanking the Money, Simple Men, Flirting, Kicking and Screaming? These great little movies were popping up all over the place in the late 80’s/early 90’s. It was a renaissance for smart low-concept comedy auteurs with tiny budgets. The Weinsteins were a but a blip in Hollywood (Harvey was actually trying to direct his own micro-budget comedy), laserdisc was a fun fad for rich guys in sweatpants, VHS rentals were at their peak and small distribution wings were popping up all over the place to get these small beautiful movies out there. Then Clerks shows up like the happy-drunk party crasher with all his blunt dirty jokes, handing out free beers and bong hits to the crowd and running off with your date. Think I’m making this up – on imdb.com, peteyrulz from Australia says about Funny Ha Ha, “Save your money for the next Kevin Smith film”.

Well Andrew Bujalski is reassuring proof that some people didn’t follow the crowd to the after party. I swear: I’d given up hope. But Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation (and to a certain extent The Puffy Chair) have proven there’s still some life out there of guys with a camera, a witty script, a few game friends, modest dreams and a unique personal vision. Sure it all sounds a bit pretentious, but if I have to see another comedy about a gay love triangle, some movie about a guy trying to make a movie, or a fucking Edward Burns circle jerk, I’m gonna throw my TV out the goddamn window. Give me something honest. And that’s what Bujalski has in spades. It’s such a feat that critics even started throwing comparisons to Cassavetes at the guy. Now while I don’t think that’s quite fair, on a few different levels, I do think his movies are that refreshing knock upside the head that Cassavetes did with his best stuff.

But these two movies are more or less comedies, albeit downbeat ones. Funny Ha Ha focuses its attention on a young woman named Marnie who’s stuck in that period between college and adult responsibilities. No job, still drinking too much, no solid relationship, etc. We simply follow Marnie along for a few days and nights as she learns a couple of life lessons and takes a couple small steps forward. A short-sighted description of Mutual Appreciation can almost as this same story from the male perspective – replace Funny Ha Ha’s outskirts of Boston location for NYC and the emotionally stunted Marnie with would be indie rock star Alan. If you’re looking for high-concept or thickly woven plots, Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler have some good stuff for you. This is slice-of-life; a sad smile speaks a thousand words kind of stuff. And while some might say, what’s so interesting about watching a bunch of mopey twentysomethings? Well someone’s gotta make movies about the people I know. Perhaps a confident go-getter with a bright future and life by the reins isn’t going to find much to identify with the people in Bujalski’s movies. But I don’t know many of those people and perhaps some of them will find it interesting the way the other half lives.

What most people will find interesting about Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation, especially the later, is the conversational tone of the films. It’s the opposite of the kind of theatricality of a Hal Hartley movie or David Mamet or Kevin Smith for that matter. The dialog comes when it wants to and how it wants to. But its delivery isn’t sloppy or meandering as some might think. It’s purposeful, and to me, genuine. In a way that could be evocative of Cassavetes but really more like plain old good writing. It goes back to French new wave and can be seen in other more recent good stuff like David Gordon Green, Larry Fessenden movies, Linklater’s better stuff; it has a realness to it. While Bujalski may not have the visual power some of those people have, he knows how to direct and edit – when to let a scene go a little longer and when to cut. And that talent combined with good writing chops is hard to find.

Take it away Padraic.

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I agree completely. Bujalski is a director that has the rare ability to show you something you think you’ve already seen, but upon reflection, you realize is completely original. I mean, these two movies just feel like they should have already been made; you’ve seen this story, you know these people, hasn’t this been done before? With the exception of Slacker, no? What comes across is not so much that Bujalski is derivative of other filmmakers, but that he just gets life (as least life lived by a certain subset of people) perfect; I can’t believe I’m writing this, but he just gets it right. From all the awkward moments, sloppy kisses and cheap beer cans, Bujalski demonstrates that great line from Kerouac (recently cribbed by The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn) that “boys and girls in America have such a sad time together.”

I also agree that Bujalski has the touch of a writer more than director; his camera work (and editing) rarely goes beyond point and hold. There are some finely crafted scenes, especially the rock show in Mutual Appreciation, but for the most part, the characters drive the story. Again, this should be easy—just put a few compelling faces in front of the camera and let them talk—but it comes across as refreshing in a film culture where almost everyone wants to be a minimalist artist or some cut and flash hotshot (or, in Soderberg’s case, both).

What really stuck out was how well crafted the female characters were; I wouldn’t trust the man who didn’t fall head over heals for either Funny Ha Ha’s Kate Dollenmayer or Mutual Appreciation’s Rachel Clift. Bujalski even has the nerve and, despite appearances, self-confidence to cast himself in both movies as the jilted friend, the nice-guy loser who can’t compete with the sensitive guys with great hair. If there is any flaw in these two movies it is that, ultimately, they’re the same picture, with the nice guy, the cool guy, and the conflicted girl, with only a slight shift of emphasis towards the cool guy in Mutual Appreciation.

I do hope that this formula changes, however, or we may see another one-trick pony, a la Sean’s whipping boy Kevin Smith (though this trick is better, if not funnier, than Smith’s). The great independent comedic directors (for me, Jarmusch, Linklater and Anderson) were began with cheap cameras and some good friends, but were able to transcend the level of identification that is mostly the strength of Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation. Slacker, Stranger Than Paradise and Bottle Rocket were not great movies solely because you recognized yourself in the characters, but because these characters were presented within the context of an artistic vision. These directors have had mixed follow-ups, but it has been mostly due to thematic ambition (and in Linklater’s case, selling out a few times), and not because of a lack of ideas. Bujalski may have his Ghost Dog out there, and there are scores of directors who would kill to nail two films as perfectly as he has, but for now his body of work has all the diversity of…well, post-Mallrats Smith.
Oh, and Sean, I love the image of you throwing your TV out the window to protest a new Ed Burns movie, but the act might be as pointless and futile as anything done by a Bujalski character. Remember, you live on the first floor.

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Good point, Paddy, I think I got myself a bit worked up there. But even on the first floor I think the point will get made; and I wouldn’t want to hurt anyone, you know? I think if my neighbor with the PAMOLA license plate on her Subaru station wagon sees my tv in the front lawn below a broken window – she’ll know I accidentally watched the new Ed Burns movie.

My last comment is just reinforcing something that you touched on – Bujalski has a fine eye for casting. Not only Kate and Rachel as you mentioned, but I defy anyone not to find Justin Rice as Alan in Mutual Appreciation impeccably perfect casting - and not just because he may know how to play guitar. He’s so damn charismatic it’s a crime if he doesn’t find a niche for himself in film or tv. Before someone else tries to point out that Bujalski probably wrote the role for him, that doesn’t matter much to me. He knew this relatively untested guy could pull it off and he was more than right. A good stable of actors you can use shorthand with can be any director’s best asset. To drag my comparison to the nth level of derision – Kevin Smith will put whatever guy he was talking to on the phone that weekend into his film. That’s not to say he doesn’t have his stable of actors – lord knows he does, but it all seems fairly interchangeable to me.

I swear I didn’t mean to get into this, but I still like Chasing Amy a lot. Hell, I was there at the Boston Film Festival’s pre-release showing of Clerks and even managed to ask the guy a question. I remember reading the script to Dogma before it was released and being pretty damn jazzed about it. But after I saw that movie it became clear that Kevin Smith is his own worse enemy. I think someone could make an enduringly great movie out of one of his scripts. But I don’t know if he can. And it’s for all the same reasons that Bujalski does make great movies.

Monday, March 19, 2007

El Topo & Tears of the Black Tiger

"The Long and Terrible Sadness"

El Topo

Dir. Alejandro Jodorowsky

Tears of the Black Tiger
Dir. Sasanatieng

[Viewed: From the Balcony]

Padraic Says:

This past week, Sean and I watched two movies that approached the western genre from very different perspectives. One movie featured an incoherent and rambling plot that included gratuitous amounts of violence, deformity, and cross-dressing, a naked seven-year-old who kills villains dispassionately, four monks being analy raped before being ridden into the sunset, an underground city of incestuous freaks and some of the most obvious (and, literally, tortured) biblical references I’ve ever seen on screen.

This was, by far, the better movie.

My initial plan had been to do a comparative report of El Topo (the rambling one) and Tears of the Black Tiger (the really, really bad one) because both films had attempted radical interpretations of the western and, well, because they were both playing in the Boston area in the same week. However, I don’t think it is fair to the incestuous freaks—or, for that matter, the gun toting ladies club, the drag queen Colonel, or the traitorous lesbians—to include them in a review with the truly horrible Tears of the Black Tiger, so Tears has been pushed to the end and El Topo will be reviewed in isolation. Sean, of course, can do whatever he wants with this.

Anyway, so the title character of El Topo is the archetypical anti-hero with a not-so-slight Messianic twist: good with the gun, laconic and surly, but also bearded, caring and ready to avenge any wrong inflicted on the weak. The first act features finds El Topo (played by Alejandro Jodorowsky, who also wrote the script and directed) tracking down the murderous Colonel, a balding and flabby loser who has somehow managed to create a cult of personality in this post-apocalyptic frontier. After dispatching of him and his sodomite minions in fine fashion, El Topo takes up the Colonel’s former wife Mara (Mara Lorenzio), an empty-eyed innocent who clearly dates the picture to the very end of the sixties.

In a simple but effective plot device, Mara convinces El Topo that he could be the greatest gunfighter in the land, but that he needs to defeat the four “masters” first. Each one, of course, is very different and has their own powers and tactics, but El Topo is able to defeat them through a combination of guile, gunplay, and luck. This idea is clearly just a way for Jodorowsky to introduce four really badass characters—it doesn’t connect to anything else in the film—but this leads to so many great scenes that you can excuse him for the arbitrary plot twist.

Even after exhausting two ideas that could serve as the basis for an entire film, El Topo still has another 80 minutes or so to go, and plot summary begins to become ridiculous. Though El Topo does defeat the masters (sort of), the consequences of his ruthless gunplay will be mixed, and he will spend the rest of the movie as a demigod, savior, prince, and jester for the aforementioned cave-dwellers. Though El Topo will ultimately lead his people out of the cave and into the Promised Land, their salvation will be short lived.

If this begins to seem like an odd collection of references (Plato’s Republic as well as both the Hebrew and Christian Bibles), you’re not alone. The movie, though compelling and original, is fairly obvious thematically, and therefore rarely rises above 60s acid-laced symbolism into anything transcendent. El Topo isn’t a great movie, and it isn’t even a great trippy movie, but it is an interesting movie, with enough honest-to-goodness pulp western features to offset its fairly sick (and I would argue false) picture of humanity. But if you have a free Friday or Saturday night, some cheap drugs (or, like Sean and I, some Canadian Club and ginger ale) and a fairly high tolerance for ugliness, check it out.

And now, en lieu of a review of Tears of the Black Tiger, a lament* in free verse:


Oh, El Topo,
where were you as
Sean and I watched
Tears of the Black Tiger, a
“long and terrible sadness.”

How I would have loved to see
you,
or your naked seven-year-old son,
kill the hero Dum
15 minutes in.

Oh, Black Tiger,
A.O. Scott called you “sincere,”
though your movie made a mockery of the western
and I don’t think your director,
Wisit Sasanatieng, even likes westerns,
or why would he fail to capture even the most basic point,
fun and adventure.

Instead, you offer false melodrama and bad music,
and the destruction of the western.

Technicolor and soft-focus do not a vision make
and I want to believe not all Thai cinema is
this bad…

…Oh, Dum, when you stare down El Topo at high noon,
I can only hope you shed the same tears as I…

*Note: this is a total rip-off of the Philadelphia Weekly’s tradition of panning movies with Haikus. But it is such a great idea, I had to borrow it.

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Sean Says:

Your first three sentences up there are hilarious and well-put, Paddy. Who’d have thought that John Lennon’s favorite drippingly pretentious, ultimately boring movie would be the one that beats the “dazzling”, “hallucinatory”, “good-natured”, “action-packed” romp. And it ain’t like it beat it out by much. But El Topo delivered on what Tiger did not. That is, giving you the quasi-psychedelic/surrealist western vibes that both movies promise, while presenting interesting characters in a decent story.

Tears of the Black Tiger did none of these things in abundance. God… Thinking about this movie just brings up boiling hate and to tell the truth I really can’t describe all the reasons why, but I’ll try to touch on some. I understand that the movie is supposed to be this kitschy throwback to the old westerns of yesteryear, but the main plot of the star-crossed lovers was excruciating. We start off with this fun little shootout where we meet our main cowboy characters and get an inventive death that shows off some tricky camera work. I’m thinking, All right, this is what I was hoping for – tongue-in-cheek action playing off all the conventions of the genre in a fun and entertaining way, all the while giving us cool hyper-colored/stylized Thai strangeness. That “all right” quickly leaves the theater, gets drawn and quartered, and spends the next two hours getting beaten with its own bloody stumps. Immediately following the opening shoot out we’re treated to one of the many excruciating montages the film pummels you with that either leads up to or is the result of some slathered on melodramatic moment revolving around this inane doomed relationship story. God, those fucking montages… and that same damn song over and over again… And like a sucker punch to your privates, every once in a while, in between montages, we’ll get another one of these over the top moments of violence. Oh, and that cool stylization wears off just as quickly too once the soft focus starts adding to the whole headache recipe. What are we doing here, Tiger? Are we playing with the conventions? Or strictly adhering to them in a masochistic way? I know westerns love montages and melodrama and having a theme song and sticking to it, but what gives? Where’s the fun?

El Topo at least gives you half a movie’s worth of fun right up front. Starting off with a series of great iconic images and throwing you head first into a great, simple western story – become the best gunfighter in town by taking out the competition. It even pays tribute to the genre that begat the western, the samurai movie, in an early scene where El Topo beats down a bad guy while using his rifle like a sword. Alejandro Jodorowsky is actually perfect for the mysterious stranger with the bare-assed kid wandering through the desert. This is due mostly to his ability to successfully hide behind his big white ball of facial hair – but hey, it works. And we find out soon enough that with the beard gone, so is Alejandro’s charisma. But the movie starts to decline really once we leave El Topo Jr. with the monks and pick up Mara. It’s interesting that you call her an “empty eyed innocent” when as far as the story goes she’s more like the crazy eyed psycho determined to corrupt and drag El Topo’s soul to the depths of hell.

Let me say before I wrap this up that I have a pretty high tolerance for pretentiousness in movies. Milius, von Trier, Vincent Gallo, Harmony Korine, Woody Allen, Coppola, Bergman, Fellini – this all stuff I find endlessly fascinating and see a lot of beauty in even in their ugliest moments. But imagine if Mel Gibson cast himself as Jesus and was beaten and crucified by a bunch of women in The Passion of the Christ and you get a sense of where El Topo dares to go. [I’m about to get a bit spoiler heavy for the rest of this paragraph folks.] I’m okay with the women he loves being the succubus that forces him down the path of evil. I’m all right with the whole cock rock thing, you want to beat us over the head with idea that the penis is the giver of life, ho-hum, ok. But then you’re going to tell us that it turns out the woman he loves would rather be a lesbian and together the two women crucify him? Yeah, that’s when the movie blew past my pretentious meter and into bizarre levels of misogyny. But it was reinforced even further when the cave dwellers he spends the second part of the movie freeing are uniformly cut down by rifle toting, angry, fearful, yes, women. The only woman not bringing death upon the people around them – a dwarf who loves El Topo unconditionally. Yeesh.

But hey, it was better than Tears of the Black Tiger.

=========================================================

Padraic Takes it Home:

I really have to thank you Sean for actually trying to figure out why Tears was so terrible; I just didn’t have the stomach for it. One thing I would add is that the movie fails mostly because it doesn’t even work as a fun western. All of the actions sequences are terrible, with guys just lining up to be shot, and absolutely no thought is given to staging an intriguing gun battle. Sasanatieng (the director) does come close to giving a great kitschy western twist at the end, but it is ultimately marred by all the heavy music and stupid Hong Kong hyperviolence. Okay, I think that’s all I ever want to say about Tears again.

On El Topo, I disagree that the movie is misogynistic. Sure the women are mostly twisted and violent, but so is everyone else, from the Colonel and his henchman, to the cross-dressing sheriffs in town. If there is a target group, it isn’t women but the placid and civilized bourgeois. It’s not hard to see the counter-cultural elements here, the women with the guns at the end are just Jodorowsky’s version of the two country hicks who shoot down Captain America and Billy at the end of Easy Rider: convenient shorthand for the oppressive culture.

I think the pretentiousness charge has some merit, but the movie is just so blindingly obvious in its symbols (as most Surrealism is), that I laugh rather than cringe at most of the Christ references. This may be a bigger insult, but I have to think the days of Surrealism are beginning to look more silly and less ugly. I went to a Dali show in Philadelphia last year and the irony couldn’t have been greater; a bunch of middle age couples in fanny packs and headphones, looking at the work of a man who detested and feared these same people. Even some of the women had some of the creepy grins that recur as a motif in many of Dali’s paintings! I seriously doubt the bourgeois will be coming around to Jodorowsky anytime soon, but if they do, I think the freak-out factor will be long gone. They’ll just laugh or shake their head at the end and head for the parking garage.

Friday, March 16, 2007

A Note, Updated

So yes, this is launch day for RFC. Some of the bells and hoo-ha's need some tweeking, I know. But hey, it's good enough to say, check me out why don'tcha.

Paddy jetted off to Philly without giving the go ahead on his first lead review (check back Monday) so we're launching on Marie Antoinette alone. I think it's a good example on what we're aiming for and what's ahead.

The Boston Independent Film Festival is around the corner here so keep an eye out for some coverage of that. Hal Hartley's Fay Grimm and David Wain's The Ten are a couple that I'm looking forward to based upon first glance of the schedule that just dropped in my inbox. I'm sure upon further inspection some others will be calling out to Padraic and I.

Ok for now.

Marie Antoinette

"This is ridiculous." "This, Madame, is Versailles."

Marie Antoinette
Dir. Sofia Coppola

[Viewed: From the Couch]

Sean Says:

The past couple of years it seems that Cannes is becoming more and more like the Fox News of film festivals. Or maybe it’s just that the American press reports coming out of it are focusing more on knee jerk reactions and bad news is more attractive than good news – anything to make the French seem more pompous – things like that. I don’t know, but Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette probably received the most press at last years Cannes and most of it was debate over whether there was some or a lot of booing, how much or how long the booing lasted, were things being thrown, were effigies being burned, did a riotous mob call for Sofia’s beheading, or was it actually well received and in fact one of the top candidates for the Palm d’Or. It was hard to tell, but after watching it last night, I’d say it was the later.

I’m sure many history buffs and those close to the subject matter at hand here – the rise and fall of Marie-Antoinette and her tenure at Versailles – can find a lot to cringe about, especially if they happen to be French. I’ll be the first to admit that I know little of the facts of Marie’s life so what I saw were the many things that were done right. I remember hearing much talk about inappropriate use of 80s/90s pop music and how the story is more concerned about superficialities, so I approached with caution. But the music actually worked beautifully. (Though I will admit that the middle 20 or so minutes of the film was a bit like one long montage and I’d liked to have more of incidental music that worked so well in the beginning.) And this is a story interested in the absurdity of what went on at Versailles, so the attention to the superficiality and the grand procedure of daily life is part of the point.

What I liked most about Coppola’s Marie Antoinette is the little things. Most of the relationships and character development happen in these beautiful little glancing looks, wordless exchanges, quiet moments that carry great meaning for the characters. Coppola small filmography excels in these kinds of moments and she’s proven herself a master at moving a story and saying a lot with little dialog. Memorable moments off the top of my head: the recurring scenes of Marie and Louis having (I’m guessing) lunch, Marie and her brother, the looks Louis gives Marie at the operas, the walk of shame.

Kirsten Dunst’s acting chops are always being brought into question with each new film she’s in. But I think she more than proves herself up to the challenge – moreso than Jason Schwartzman anyway. They work well together but Schwartzman’s limited number of acting faces tends to get a bit dull at times. He was great as comic relief in the beginning and as Marie’s rock at the end but I can’t help but think someone else could have given a bit more life to the roll. Whereas Dunst does a great job of showing us how Marie aged/matured while at Versailles without the movie relying on makeup or other such tools. I thought she was fantastic. Padraic?

========================================

Padraic Says:

O good, something to disagree about!

Though I may fall into the category of history buff, my objections to the film (and cringes) are not the result of some pedantic objection to artistic license, but rather to the (ahem) artistry itself. Sure, the movie abuses history enough so that justifiably outraged Frenchman appear as rational as the mob that lynched Frankenstein’s monster, or that Austria is portrayed with as much depth and realism as your average kingdom from Middle Earth, but this is fine; I’m not expecting the Cambridge History of Spoiled Habsburg Princesses here.

No, the problem with Marie Antoinette is not that it sacrifices accuracy on the alter of art (though in one howler of a scene, Coppola decides to have the Queen’s mistresses depart Versailles into the sunset; the only problem being that as the horse-drawn carriages recede into the lush backdrop, they are rapidly approaching the grand staircase!), but that Coppola has only two artistic gears, melancholy and revelry. The vast majority of Marie Antoinette consists of Kirsten Dunst being sad, withdrawn, alone or contemplative punctuated by party scenes backed by eighties music. Indeed, it seems at times that the only thing that can cure our young girl’s blues is another one of those splendid Sophia Coppola montages.

And the “little things”? Well yes, Coppola is quite good at those but that is sort of like complementing Michael Bay on his explosions—well done, but we get the point already. The lunch scene was nice the first time, but how many times do we need to see it to understand that our little Dauphine (and the audience) is bored out of her skull? What seems remarkable is that Coppola seems to want us to feel exactly the way a little princess feels (bored, wanting more music, more parties, more corsets, more Swedish soldiers). This is really the only level on which the film works, like a creepy movie about a serial killer that makes you feel just as deranged and disgusted as the main character.

Coppola also fails at subtlety, apparently thinking it synonymous with hushed voices and unintelligible dialogue. While she is able to annoy the audience by preventing the audience from hearing what the characters are saying, she drives home her thematic elements—try to guess!—with a sledgehammer. We are treated to not one, but at least three letters from her mother, Marie Theresa, reminding her of her duty to Austria and commentary ad nuseaum from members of the court that the marriage bonds will not be sealed until she and Louis produce an heir (you can almost hear the tympani pounding away in the background). And even then, after Marie is able to manage a little action from Louis? Well, she gets bored again …oh, and then there is a montage.

After two hours of this, the movie ends with Marie being carted away to her destiny in Paris, with no reference to her eventual fate, save for a not-so-subtle bow to the masses. At the end we still have no better answer to the question posed in the lyrics that open the movie: The problem of leisure/What to do for pleasure? One is tempted to scream out, however, to Marie, and to Coppola, and to any other jaded aristocrat with too much time and money on her hands: “hey, try caring about other people, try dedicating yourself to something above and beyond yourself, try looking for something other than pleasure and distraction!” It is possible Coppola will one day have characters who say this but it won’t matter anyway. The audience won’t be able to hear them.

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Sean’s Last Words:

I didn’t have any of this “unintelligible dialogue” problem you speak of so I’m not quite sure how to address that. Though I'll stand by my opinion that subtlety is the secret weapon of this movie in both the melancholy and revelry. The "little things" are the subtle glances, the subtle ways relationships are given meaning with little screen time.

I did feel that part of the absurdity which you brought up in your closing paragraph was touched on well in the movie – the people that were supposed to be leading the country back then really had no idea what was going on outside of Versailles. I actually thought it was a pretty interesting idea to have someone thrown into a position of royalty and have them drowned with pleasure and distraction that they can’t possibly object or think of being responsible with their position. The more music and more parties that you speak of was really confined to the first half of the movie – you make it sound a bit like wall to wall montages which, as I tried to point out, it really isn’t. I guess those are the moments that people remember most.

Her mom’s reminders I felt were an apt and probably accurate one – giving birth was all she was brought on board to do and what can be more stressful in that regard than the nagging from your mother. While Sophia Coppola can be faulted for trying to make Marie Antoinette too recognizable and relatable to today’s youth (and for making the movie a bit too long) – the fact that she was brought to France to give someone a kid and then fell into being Queen by a series of unfortunate events, well what’s a girl to do? You can’t really change that fact. She’s been secluded all her life with no idea of what lies beyond the gates. Louis even gives a well-placed line to the effect of, “Shit, what are you guys doing? We’re way too young for this.” Perhaps they didn’t try as hard as they could have to take advantage of their positions but I think that’s a question for a different movie.