Oct 06

let them eat fah-diddley qake qake

FT8 comments • 971 views

wigsok the idea of a vivienne westwoodesque biopic folly abt MARIE ANTIONETTE is so great that — by the time i realised this was what it wz gnna be (yes i waste a lot of energy avoiding moviepromo), i wz psyched for total disappointment

AND DIDN’T GET IT! OK it’s not as westwoodesque as all that seein as there is NO move towards “subversion” — or (to sidestep that stupid word) towards re-uncovering the dark horny kinky energy in seemingly trad tweedy foursquare material — but maybe in a way it’s BETTER. MA and her kingly hub are two sweet dim chips caught in a world-historical storm not of their making — he is a gnetle dullard who likes to collects locks and is terrified of sex; she is a cheerful dutiful simpleton — and the two of them build their ludicrous rococo wendyhouse to hide themselves away from a land and a time they know nothing of, and to free themselves from the crushing boredom of having ABSOLUTE POWER and NO IDEA WHAT DO DO WITH IT (in fact no ideas full stop).

Except she has ideas about clothes!

So it’s mainly (hurrah!) about set-dressing as a let’s-go-ape-crazy three-day dressing-up party, and if the plot is almost not there at all (in a GOOD WAY), the attention lavished on costume is possibly heroically unprecedented (the palace of versailles playingits dementedly overdressed self); court chitchat is banal and vestigial; the evolving politics of the time is dabbed in neat tiny amounts; but the torrent of expensively embroidered fabrics on-screen moves beyond the sublime really (not sublime as in BIG STERN MOUNTAINSCAPES AND CATARACTS at an AWED MALE DISTANCE, but sublime as in whirlpools and vortices of tiny-detail design work piled up massive, as sensual and intoxicating and forbidding as the FEASTS OF RICH FOOD that also structure the film)

And the music = the GOLDEN AGE OF POP! ie LOTS OF BOW WOW WOW! Plus a semi-orchestral “Hong Kong Garden”, Squarepusher, Rameau, Aphex Twin, The Strokes, New Order, “All Cats Are Grey” by The Cure — and, as hyper-precise and intelligent opening creditsong, “Natural’s Not In It” by Gang of Four, intelligent bcz — rather than lamely borrowing the sentiment of that compact piece of situationist agit-pop, the ENTIRE MOVIE is delivered as a subtle counter-argument. (G04 are more or less right where Marie A is wrong, but a film which can unpatronisingly show you how a silly emptyheaded rich girl might be making rational choices and still be completely wrong — which can fill out a wrong and a long-defeated worldview without merely sneerily queueing up with history’s victors, and catch, by its absolute focus on frippery, in word and art, the foolish likeable humanity which their political roles removed from their public being, well, it’s the kind of film that gets called light and throwaway, and gets flak for being reactionary fluff, i expect). (cf Madness of King George I suppose, for a more writerly examination of similar material, but — tho i like a.bennett and i quite like that movie — this is a much MUCH more rewarding piece of wtf awesomeness…)

Except for being super-languid rather than brazenly hyper, it comes at you from the off like an Adam Ant video directed by von Stroheim — think of all the money spent on the silk underwear you never see!! — and caps this by timing the ACTUAL DEPLOYMENT of ant-music pitch-perfectly. SEXY EIFFEL TOWER!


  1. 1

    i wub “related articles”!

  2. 2
    jeff w on 27 Oct 2006 #

    bravo for not even coming close to mentioning S. Coppola even once!

    otherwise, you are closer to the crit hivemind on MA than you might think

  3. 3

    haha fair enuff guv: the cinema was TOTALLY EMPTY except for me and T so i assumed it had been given a pasting! i haven’t read a SINGLE THING about it except a review and a hemhem “blogger review” in LONDON LIGHT on the bus home last night! (the blogger sed WHY NOT MAKE A FILM ABT WORKING-CLASS MME DU BARRY INSTED!)


    there were ICE CHIPS IN THE URINAL! what’s that about? (ok i assume they were “fancy urinal cakes”)

  4. 4
    mark c on 27 Oct 2006 #

    do you not know that urine should be lightly chilled??? it is de rigeur in all the poshest establishments

  5. 5
    sterl on 31 Oct 2006 #

    good gosh i loved this movie. crits seem evenly split on it and yeah there’s a lot of “ich– frippy eyecandy and reaction” sort of vibe from plenty of them. but also there was a sense i got of how trapped ma was which i thought was v. nicely done. thort this was as close as i’ve seen a film come to bakhtin’s idea of novelization. ma had some ideas too, they were nice and came from rousseau and made things pleasant.

  6. 6

    hi sterl!

    i loved when they cleaned the eggs before she “found” them

  7. 7
    Pete Baran on 31 Oct 2006 #

    Rip Torn was great in it, and the film could have done with a little more stunt casting. Though Asia Argento’s Madame Du Barry was great and would have liked to have seen a bit more of that (what is probably a much more interesting story too). But clearly all of the films flaws (lack of momentum, seeming inconsequentality etc) were absolutely deliberate and therefore clearly not really flaws at all.

    Where was the official food chewer?

  8. 8

    haha “Madame Du Barry = much more interesting story” was also the “blogger’s” argument in london lite!

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