The exceptionally sensual pink derrière in "Lost in Tokyo" left a lasting impression on me. Even when recalling that film today, it's the memory of that pink posterior, not Bill Murray's expressionless face, that comes to mind. "Marie Antoinette," the latest work by Hollywood's rising star, Sofia Coppola, following her earlier "Lost in Tokyo," was featured at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. However, at Cannes, she was met with criticism instead of applause.
Having watched the movie, it's no wonder that "Marie Antoinette" was drowned in the sea of criticism in France. The concept of foreigners making films about their own country often takes time to be accepted, and even in their home country, such attempts are met with skepticism. Moreover, this film about Queen Marie Antoinette, closely tied to the French Revolution, hardly delves into politics, instead focusing on personal affairs and romantic entanglements. This narrative choice proved challenging for many critics to embrace, ultimately leading to the film's failure at Cannes.
However, facing criticism doesn't imply that this film lacks merit. The movie poster immediately captivated me from the moment I laid my eyes on it. The rosy skin, seductive smile, and exquisite costumes hinted at a visually enjoyable experience. With the director's unique female perspective and a keen appreciation for beauty and detail, "Marie Antoinette" offers something male directors could never quite master.
As expected, this film is a visual masterpiece. One color stands out prominently throughout the film: pink. It brings back memories of the pink posterior from "Lost in Tokyo." It may be Coppola's affinity for pink, but it plays a significant role in this movie. Marie's attire and numerous accessories prominently showcase pink colour, beautifully complementing Kirsten Dunst's radiant and rosy complexion. It reminds me of the iconic toy from the director's hometown – Barbie dolls.
Every child meticulously dresses up their Barbie doll, adorning it with various beautiful outfits and cute accessories. Similarly, Marie is carefully pampered under Coppola's direction, with different exquisite gowns, countless pairs of shoes, extravagant hairstyles, and silk fans embroidered with various flowers. Under the director's guidance, Marie appears adorable and glamorous.
The cinematography is so precise that every frame could be deemed a work of art, reminiscent of a Rococo-style European court painting. The film was shot on location at the Palace of Versailles, a famous European palace that's resplendent, luxurious, and defies description with any superlatives. The film perfectly captures the opulent style of the 18th-century European court with its bell-shaped dresses, tight corsets, high heels, cloud-like floral decorations, and fans with lace borders – all contributing to a visually sumptuous experience.
Director Coppola stated that her film was merely about telling a woman's story, free from political entanglements. Following her vision, the film discards politics, focusing on the luxurious lifestyle. Many may link this extravagant lifestyle to the iconic French aristocratic symbol – the grand French feast, something ordinary people could never afford. Surprisingly, the film rarely depicts how Queen Marie Antoinette enjoyed these feasts. Instead, it features another culinary delight – cake. Cake plays a significant role in the movie, starting with the first shot of Marie playfully dipping her finger into a cake and smiling at the audience. Throughout various occasions, such as weddings, birthdays, the birth of a little princess, and lavish parties, cakes are a constant presence – from towering confections to small slices. It's a film created by a female director with a unique perspective. Just as men have a natural affinity for cigars and alcohol, women love cakes. Exquisite and sweet cakes tell the story of a woman's dreamy world, which belongs to both Marie and Sofia Coppola herself.
The film's soundtrack itself is a masterpiece. The opening song is "Natural's Not In It" by the famous post-punk band Gang of Four from the late '70s and '80s in the UK. As Marie, dressed in a pink gown, playfully dips her finger into a cake while smiling at the audience, the accompanying guitar creates an eerie atmosphere that initially made me think I was watching a satirical film. Subsequently, the film features music from Aphex Twin, The Radio Dept., and even the renowned rock band The Cure. Finally, when a group of French aristocrats in 18th-century attire elegantly dances to the beat of guitars and drums in the opulent Palace of Versailles, it creates a surreal and otherworldly scene.
This entirely mismatched soundtrack might have been a point of contention for some critics. The underlying surreal style points directly at the contemporary world of fame and the upper echelons of society. Versailles Palace more closely resembles a fashionable New York bar where a group of upper-class individuals squander themselves in the throes of ecstasy after consuming ecstasy. Time changes, but decadence remains.
Marie herself is a product of her time, shaped by the era in which she lived. She had little control over her destiny and was compelled to navigate the intricacies of courtly rituals and political maneuvering from a tender age. To add to her challenges, her husband, Louis XVI, was more engrossed in locksmithing than in her. Essentially, Marie was perpetually lonely and pitiable, with her madness and extravagance serving as coping mechanisms for her profound sense of isolation. When one quietly longs for the Duke of Orleans, it becomes apparent how lonely she is.
Using oil paintings on the walls to depict the passage of time is a clever idea. After seeing a few paintings, we understand that time is rapidly moving forward and learn about the premature death of her child. However, despite these creative elements, the film's emphasis on costumes, props, and sets ultimately slows down the narrative, resulting in a flat plot devoid of significant climaxes or twists. The overly monotonous plot is one of the reasons why this film failed to receive critical acclaim.
In the end, "Marie Antoinette" resembles an exquisite Paris fashion show, a delightful treat of cakes for young girls, and a lavish visual spectacle.