The Festival de Cannes welcomed its second France-filmed feature here today with the debut of Sofia Coppola‘s “Marie Antoinette.” While the festival’s opening night movie, “The Da Vinci Code,” was shot at The Louvre in Paris, Coppola’s third feature (opening today commercially in this country) was shot at Versailles. Unlike “Da Vinci” however, audiences at a Wednesday morning showing offered the film a warm applause that was quickly punctuated by a round of boos. As the fest approaches its final weekend here in Cannes, just a few more of the competition films remain to be screened. indieWIRE sat in on a conversation with Coppola in Cannes Wednesday, to discuss her distinctive take on the life of French royalty. Meanwhile, indieWIRE also reports on some of the latest from the American Pavilion.
Re-Imagining Marie Antoinette
Big crowds showed up at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday morning for the competition press screening of Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette,” starring Kirsten Dunst and Jason Schwartzman as the ill-fated last Bourbon monarchs of France. Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette,” based on the biography “Marie Antoinette: The Journey” by Antonia Fraser, is a sympathetic 21st century look at the life of the young Austrian-born Queen of France who was forced into a marriage with the heir to the French throne. At 14, she lived a gilded exile in the Palace of Versailles, marked by a court of rigid royal protocol, intrigue and stinging gossip. ’80s bands, especially New Romantics like Bow Wow Wow and Adam Ant (alongside others including The Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees) appear on the film’s soundtrack, recalling a particularly decadent period in recent history, rendering Marie Antoinette and her legendary indulgence.
“My biggest fear was making a ‘Masterpiece Theatre’ kind of movie,” Coppola explained in notes about the film. “I didn’t want to make a dry, historical period movie with the distant cold tableau of shots…In the same way I wanted ‘Lost in Translation‘ to feel like you had just spent a couple of hours in Tokyo, I wanted this film to let the audience feel what it might be like to be in Versailles during that time and to really get lost in that world.”
Coppola’s film, opening today in France (and on Friday, October 13 in the United States), takes the viewer on a similar opulent journey, viewed through Marie Antoinette’s experience primarily inside Versailles. The plights of the peasants and revolutionary zeal do not penetrate the lives at court until the very end of the movie. Though perhaps one particular allusion to the final end comes during Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI’s coronation scene when Coppola employs a sumptuous version of British goth band The Cure’s “Plain Song” from their Disintegration album, offering an eerily regal symbol of the royal couple’s eventual demise.
“I wanted to make them in this bubble and portray them from their point-of-view,” said Coppola during a conversation with journalists Wednesday afternoon at Cannes’ Martinez Hotel. Coppola mentioned that she felt there was a parallel between the decadence that existed in the ’80s and its reflection in music and wanted to use some bands during this time period in the film. Bow Wow Wow’s “I Want Candy” plays during a series of particularly decadent scenes of Marie Antoinette’s legendary consumption at court. Yet, the film is, in the end, a mostly sympathetic depiction and certainly unconventional. “I didn’t want to make an historic epic,” said Coppola. “I wanted to make an impressionistic portrayal of these figures.”
The early morning screening ended with a mix of enthusiastic cheers and some audible boos, perhaps not surprising in a country that is naturally going to hold strong opinions on how their historical figures are viewed. “The movie is an interpretation of how we understand Marie Antoinette and not everyone can [agree with] what artists do,” said Dunst at the same roundtable event. “We didn’t make a movie about the French Revolution.” [Brian Brooks/indieWIRE]
Distribution Panel enlightens beginning filmmakers
On Wednesday, May 24, a group of experienced producers, film festival directors and producer representatives spoke to student and aspiring filmmakers on what to do with their films after getting them in the can. Anne Thompson from The Hollywood Reporter moderated a panel discussion with producer and producer representative Jonathan Dana, Warner Independent‘s Laura Kim, who coauthored (with John Anderson) a “how to” book on distribution called “I Wake Up Screening: What to Do Once You’ve Made That Movie,” Picturehouse‘s Sara Rose, PR man Mark Pogachefsky and the Sundance Film Festival‘s Geoff Gilmore. The discussion was mainly centered around the advantages and disadvantages of attaining representation for one’s film in order to find distribution.
“Are reps worth it? Yes. Are all reps worth it? No.” Explained Gilmore, who has seen deals made and broken at the Sundance Film Festival.
Amongst the other topics discussed were the multitude of strategies to go about selling a film, the risks of prematurely entering a film into a festival and using festivals as a career launching pad.[Kristina Woo/indieWIRE]
Cast and crew of “Lying” deconstruct their film
On Wednesday, May 24, the American Pavilion hosted a Case Study discussion of the Director’s Fortnight film “Lying,” by M. Blash. Moderated by SAGIndie‘s Paul Bales, the film’s two producers Molly Hassell and Lilly Bright were in attendance, along with the lead actresses Jena Malone and Chloe Sevigny and the director/writer himself.
The talk analyzed their filmmaking process from preproduction to distribution, all which occurred within one year. Last year, Blash came to Cannes searching for financing for this film, and this year has returned as a Camera d’Or candidate in the Director’s Fortnight series.
“The whole experience was probably the best experience I’ve had on a film,” commented producer Hassell. “We set up the production to leave for lots of creative range,” added Blash. “The virtue of that was priceless.” [Kristina Woo/indieWIRE]
[Get the latest from the Festival de Cannes throughout the day in indieWIRE’s special Cannes ’06 section.]