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Chill Out Manohla!

Posted by Drew / May 26, 2006


Two takes on dystopia exist: the Orwellian and the Huxlian.

Lately, nobody seems too interested in the latter.

Sofia Coppola is, and anyone who has caught the trailer for her upcoming release Marie Antoinette, sort of immediately gets that she is going to paint a pleasure-based dystopic portrait of court life, with a heavy emphasis on pleasure and a light touch on the dystopia.

So, when the film played in Cannes I was sort of shocked to read The New York Times critic Manohla Dargis’ curt review. Sure, Dargis is prickly, but this review was so entirely devoid of humor and critical sense as to border on the ridiculous. A critic does not have to take a film on its own terms, but the most interesting critical work usually happens when she does.

Dargis tempts risible-ness when she huffs:

“[Sofia Coppola] doesn’t seem to realize that what made this spoiled, rotten woman worthy of attention weren’t her garden parties and fur-lined shoes, but the role she played in a bloody historical convulsion.”


What Dargis doesn’t seem to realize, or more likely, completely realizes but willfully ignores is that:

A.) Right Dargis, we all bloody knew that the sort of quasi-revolutionary film for which you are searching for is not going to be this one, but don’t fear cause I think Ken Loach is working on it.

B.) Cut the shit Dargis, we are all interested in the parties and the shoes. And that doesn't make us desperate and shallow whores. We just want to see the stuff. We get in trouble when we try to deny it. Stop towing the company line.

Surface rules sometimes. As does pleasure.

Contemporary North America is so hell bent on resisting them both that we tie ourselves into sick knots and fall prey to any charlatans shelling out anything “deep,” “true,” “genuine” or “painful" (i.e. "good for you").

The protestant underpinning has us up in arms over smoking but I have yet to be berated by a soccer mom in a public service announcement trying to guilt me into raising the minimum wage, increase vacation time or shorten the work week—you know, for the sake of the children.

Marie Antoinette remains my most anticipated film. It looks mad-beautiful and it is, if nothing else, willing to admit that the thing about pleasure is, well, it’s incredibly pleasurable.

This is the first small step to admitting that we could probably all use a lot more of it in our lives.

Strangely, the other film this past year to take a similar-in-spirit-if-not-in-kind approach to the historical drama was Terence Mallick’s The New World. More on that next week.

Oh P.S. no movie recommendations today. It is the second day of real summer. Man alive!! Get out of the house already.



mercedes / May 30, 2006 at 05:58 pm
Did you know that the L.A. Times picked up on your review?


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