It has taken quite a while for us to get there, but on the weekend we finally managed to get to what has been our most hotly anticipated release of 2006/07 so far... Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette.
You are all,no doubt, au fait with Coppola's contemporarising of the story via analogous comparisons made between the new hollywood brat pack (Paris, Lindsey, Britney etc) and the 18th Century French court. And, that Marie Antoinette represents the final chapter in a trilogy of films that includes The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation. You may also know that all the shoes (sans the controversial lilac chucks) were made by Manolo Blahnik.
What you may not know is that the film is funny, moving, subtley acted, intelligently scripted with restraint and maturity, is fantastically shot and includes a kickass soundtrack... any film that uses Adam and the Ants Kings of the Wild Frontier as the backing tape to a plein air make out session between the pompadored regent and her swedish lover gets our vote!
The costuming by veterean costume designer Milena Cononero (who designed Stanley Kubrik's Barry Lyndon another HML fave and the best work Ryan O'Neil ever did) exceeded even our expectations. But dont think (as perhaps we did) that the frocks, in all their splendour overshadow the unfolding story. Coppola knows that the dress can reflect the mood, when Marie asks "Do you prefer it with ruffles, or without?" we knew that she was seeking approval beyond the taffeta cloud she found herself in. When Marie demands something "simple" to wear in the garden we held our breath as she was at last, briefly, allowed to be herself.
Hands down the very best costuming in cinema. Marie Antoinette makes comparable costumy films - The Age of Innocence, Dangerous Liasons, Moulin Rouge - look crass by comparison. This is costume as language, landscape and lament for a dying era and a doomed girl.
Shot in the Palace at Versailles, production Designer KK Barrett (who also worked on Lost in Translation) used the claustrophobic rush of Rococo excess brilliantly, and Coppola's approach of filling the screen with these period details led to an optical overload that literally takes your breath away like a corset being pulled tight.
We did expect to absolutely love this film, but we didn't expect to be surprised by it. A fantastically delicate, refined and deliciously subtle feast of light. Please Ma'am can we have more?