2002, R, 91 min. Directed by Roman Coppola. Starring Jeremy Davies, Jason Schwartzman, Dean Stockwell, John Philip Law, Massimo Ghini, Giancarlo Giannini, Gerard Depardieu, Billy Zane, Elodie Bouchez, Angela Lindvall, L.M. Kit Carson.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Aug. 23, 2002
CQ, the debut feature by Strokes music videographer and Coppola family upstart Roman (brother to Sofia, son to Francis), has a plot skinnier than its star's waistline, and like the leggy, insouciant Angela Lindvall, it manages to be enormously easy on the senses while simultaneously spinning a pop-art confectioner's idea of a cotton-candy love note to Sixties Euro-filmmaking tropes. That it also has a sneaky-smart filmmaking heart at its bubblegum core is icing on the pink-frosted cake. Roman Coppola loves the movies (and the idea of movies) as much if not more than his dad did back in the day, and like contemporaries Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, and Guy Ritchie, he uses Hollywood and Cinecitta's most creatively satisfying period -- the late Sixties and early Seventies -- as a platform from which to launch his own unique yet familiar take on the filmmaking process. Set in Paris, 1969 (notably, one year after the student riots that took Guy Debord's Situationist manifesto to the streets), Davies plays Paul, an American film editor who spends his days shooting 16mm footage of himself dissecting his tres français flat-life with girlfriend Marlene (Bouchez) and his nights cutting a groovy sci-fi film in the fashion of Barbarella. When that film's director (Depardieu) is jettisoned by the Dino De Laurentiis-like producer (Giannini) for being too political in his intent, hipster filmmaker Felix di Marco (Rushmore's Schwartzman) is assigned to the project. And before long, the film -- Dragonfly is its title -- finally lands squarely in Paul's lap. Wearing François Truffaut's standard outfit of tight black suit over white shirt and dark tie throughout, Paul is already in lust with starlet Valentine (Vogue model Lindvall), and so the assignment comes as a pleasant diversion from his cutting and masturbatory self-documentation. With the producer crying in one ear for an end to the troubled production and his kittenish lead purring in the other, Paul is wracked with doubt (his reveries take the form of a chorus of Cahiers du Cinema critics shouting things like, “Do you theenk you're being clayvar?!”), and hamstrung by romantic pressures both on and off the set. But that's just the film's thinnish plot, which serves as a framework from which Coppola dangles far more memorable images and ideas, many of which reference the great Nouvelle Vague filmmakers of the day and others, from Godard to Truffaut, and Roger Vadim to Mario Bava (Dragonfly takes not only Barbarella as its template but also Bava's terrific Danger: Diabolik and a host of Sixties Euro-spy flicks). Production designer (and Coppola père regular) Dean Tavoularis has at least as important job here as the director, and CQ's garish, sexy parade of eye-popping images and outfits recalls the heady, fashion-mad Paris of the Sixties so well you can almost taste Pierre Cardin's pink-PVC catsuits and André Courreges' black leather boots as they flit across the screen. Coppola's big questions -- what is the nature of high and low art, and how can you tell when you're doing either? -- percolate just below the surface of CQ, but what sticks with you in the end is the film's fanciful images and soundtrack (by Mellow with assists from Jacques Dutronc, et al.), a kicky melange of pop-art retroisms and Day-Glo flash. It may not be art, but it's vastly more entertaining than anything Coppola senior has done in far too long.