starring Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Judy Davis, Rip Torn
screenplay by Sofia Coppola, based on the novel Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser
directed by Sofia Coppola
starring Jodelle Ferland, Jeff Bridges, Brendan Fletcher, Jennifer Tilly
screenplay by Terry Gilliam & Tony Grisoni, based on the novel by Mitch Cullin
directed by Terry Gilliam
by Walter Chaw In going from The Virgin Suicides to Lost in Translation to Marie Antoinette, Sofia Coppola appears to be charting the arc of her own soft, unstructured dive into the morass of melancholia and regret, discovering her voice along the way in the bell tones of Kirsten Dunst, who plays a fourteen-year-old in The Virgin Suicides and, at the start of Coppola's latest film, a fourteen-year-old again, the Austrian Archduchess Marie Antoinette. Coppola's "Fast Times at Palais Versailles" opens with Marie loping through her Austrian palace, just another sleepy, stupid girl with a tiny dog, one poised to have the fate of two countries riding on her ability to produce a male offspring. Betrothed to nebbish French King Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman), she's put into a French court ruled by gossip and bloodline (in one of the film's few literal moments, Marie offers that her waking ritual attended by what seems the entire family plot is "ridiculous") and, while crowned with the mantle of governance, thrust into the role of most popular girl in school, sprung fully-grown as the captain of the football team's best girl. It's impossible for me to not see something of Coppola's own premature coronation as the emotional centre of her father's own royal court, the third Godfather film--and to see in the intense media scrutiny afforded her in the wake of that fiasco the source of all these films about lost youth and the pain of hard choices made on her behalf. Marie Antoinette isn't a historical film so much as it's a dress-up picture; and like most any work of honesty, it's autobiographical (as indicated by its selection of '80s punk-influenced pop) and intensely vulnerable--at least for most of its first hour.