Cleolinda Jones (cleolinda) wrote,
Cleolinda Jones

Let them wear Converse

So I loved Marie Antoinette. I'm not sure if it's actually a good movie, objectively speaking, because I am hugely biased in that I love the Antonia Fraser, and I developed a MA fascination after I saw the 1939 Norma Shearer movie my sophomore year in college. Granted, it was a bit whitewashed and sentimentalized; in that version, Fersen refuses to have an affair with MA and then tells her, "And when we will meet again, you will tell me, 'It was well done.'" (No, see, it wasn't done at all, because you won't--that is--so it isn't--) But then, it also makes MA look like a huge slut right before she meets Fersen, so I have no idea what that little flip-flop is about. Anyhoo, the finer points of the Coppola version's filmmaking may have been lost on me because I was so busy being thrilled that the book had come to life. There were some interesting anachronisms, I thought--I don't know if anyone else noticed this, but there's a pair of (blue?) Converse sneakers on the floor at one point when MA is trying on shoes. That one didn't really work for me--see, the New Wave music did, because MA herself ruffled a lot of feathers; it was a very old court, generationally speaking, and she breezes in and wants to wear simpler gowns and live more casually and perform in private plays and do all kinds of things that upset the status quo. The music fits that sensibility--on a certain level, it doesn't fit, the way that MA herself didn't fit in. On another level, the actual songs fit perfectly--"I Want Candy" when she's binge-spending, "Fools Rush In" after she falls for Fersen. The Converse shoes didn't work for me because I didn't see them functioning in the same way--they weren't in the scenes where she was pushing for more casual clothes, but rather in the scene where she was spending on fancier ones, and just seemed like a gimmicky afterthought. Or at least, I didn't see them in the casual-chic scenes, although I've seen a behind-the-scenes still where Kirsten Dunst is wearing pink Converses under her garden dress.

Something else that was interesting was the way Kirsten Dunst very plainly, flatly, had an American accent, and the way that she and her friends would chat like modern girls--for example, over the fabric samples, saying things like, "Ooo! That one-- Yeah, that one-- Wowwww..." I heard "yeah" so many times in this movie, but it worked for me. Much like the music, it was a contrast to Madame Etiquette's fussy aristocratic diction. It was precisely what so many of the courtiers found so offensive about Marie Antoinette: not only did she not fit in, she didn't want to. They didn't use the contrast consistently, unfortunately, but I was willing to buy it for the most part because I liked the general effect.

(That, and I love Rose Byrne, and she was fab. There's something about her breezing in and out of an opera box with "Well, it was very nice to meet you!"--you know, directed towards the Dauphine of France--that just cracks me up endlessly.)

I will say, in terms of just the filmmaking, there was one scene that I can remember offhand being impressed with: the one where the Comtesse de Sister-in-Law delivers her baby, and MA goes to cry in a corner. I kept trying to figure out where the hell she was, because she seemed to be in a closet the size of a shoebox, but without any shelves or hangers or anything--what the hell was it? And then the camera pulls back and you realize she's in a corner of a perfectly large, open room, and it was just that she felt boxed in. I loved that. I thought the last shot was kind of odd, in that it seemed like it needed something else after it, or it needed to come before "I'm saying goodbye." It just seemed abrupt in a way that didn't serve the tone of the movie, which seemed more elegiac than that. I don't know. Maybe it was the writing; after I pondered the movie as a whole I started to think that, while it was shot beautifully--as all of Sofia Coppola's movies have been--the story structure reminded me more of movies you'd see from the '70s (and/or in your film class, for that matter) where the director would set these vignettes out and then just... leave. (Antonioni is the extreme example here, IIRC.) As in, the movie would be over, and you'd be left to make something of it yourself. And given the filmmaking Coppola obviously grew up around, I can see how her own style might have turned out this way. Whereas I think I prefer a more structured story--not structured to death, mind you, but--well, to use the same historical period, think of a movie like Amadeus, with the Salieri frame story and that last scene ("I absolve you!"), which is almost inexplicably powerful. I think my problem is that I want to leave the movie with something substantial to think about, whether I noticed the structure at the time or not. But then, I'm a writer, so I'm naturally going to place more importance on strong storytelling, whereas your aspiring directors might value the imagery and to hell with your "rules" and your "structure."

(I once knew a guy, an art major, who pitched this random, angry outburst at me one day because--you know, I can't remember exactly why, but I think it may have been because we were experimenting with form in my poetry workshop, on the understanding that even good free verse has form even if you don't see it immediately, and I was really into the idea of playing with rhyme and meter in a modern kind of way--the whole class really got into it, actually--and he busts out with, "I don't even know why you LIKE Picasso!" But then, his sister also didn't "believe in" revising her work, as if revision were the Tooth Fairy, or some particularly outlandish sea creature. Perhaps the bloop?)

But I'm really no good judge of the whole thing as a piece of cinema, because I enjoyed the hell out of it regardless. I was practically quoting the parts that Coppola skipped--and I knew she wasn't going to try to do the whole book, so I was jazzed about what got included rather than pissed about what got cut. Also, the costumes were eye-candy heaven, and God knows that's what I was there for. (God, I want those earrings so bad.) (Wow, Manolo Blahnik did the shoes?) I think my contenders for favorite dress were a very plain blue stripe, just because it was so simple and lovely; the light striped dress with the hat; the floral letter dress; the red dress Rose Byrne wears with the roses at MA's birthday party; and the blue dress with the red belt, just because it was awesome. I swear, I usually like the big dresses with the giant hoops and panniers, but for some reason I preferred the simpler ones this time.

Meanwhile, I'm looking for covers of "Fools Rush In," which I fell for completely. The version on the soundtrack is Bow Wow Wow (sorry, all I have is mp4), but it sounds so '50s-'60s that I figured the song itself had to be a cover. So I go look it up, and it was written, sure enough, by Johnny Mercer. Apparently Sinatra popularized it, although Doris Day also did a version. I did a little digging and found what I think is an earlier Bow Wow Wow version; the one on the MA soundtrack is a Kevin Shields remix, and it's lovely--the background instrumental has this dreamy, swirling quality, even as the song itself is more uptempo than the other versions I've found so far. Problem: The lead singer--Annabella Lwin?--is a bit... shrill. Not high-pitched, just... she's not hitting the correct notes or the tones or the right key or something in the chorus ("Then I don't caaAAAaarRRRE!"). They're not even particularly high notes--or maybe they should be, and she knows she can't hit them, so she's not trying. All I know is, she gets louder instead of higher, and it kind of hurts, which I hate because the remix itself is lovely, and it's used to great effect in the movie itself. I'll just put it this way: if I can hit the notes better than you can, you have a problem.

(Wow, she was fifteen at the time? Well, maybe that explains it. Oh, Annabella Lwin, if only you would rerecord the vocals now.)

So far I've found a Julie London cover, which, like "Cry Me a River," is very slow and wistful and meditative, and... not really what I'm looking for; two Bow Wow Wow versions, as previously mentioned; a UB40-labeled "Fools Rush In" that instead turned out to be that cover of "Can't Help Falling in Love" they did for Sliver (hi, just because uses one similar line doesn't mean it's the same song); and the Sinatra version. Really, I just want Bow Wow Wow Girl to be less American Idol about the whole thing, and it would be perfect.


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Tags: marie antoinette, movies, music, prince
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