21 October 2006

35 la reine


after no less than thirteen lifetimes of waiting, marie antoinette finally arrived. so the bombshell and i tarted ourselves up and trotted downtown to greet her. we were not disappointed.

but our adoration for and enjoyment of this film won't prevent my exploiting it's few discrepencies and omissions to make my the whole truth is so much more interesting point.

as people who have people, bombsy and i are unspeakably thrilled whenever any person opts to cinematically/theatrically/televisionally/ biographically depict any of our people. but the thing about having people is that your people are invariably different from the people of others- even when they're the same people.

the bombshell's marilyn and jackie are not mine. we latch on to different details, different characteristics, different witty one-liners. the bombshell's jackie is an aristocrat smoking a cigarette through a long, thin filter in givenchy's atelier. my jackie is a bohemian artist walking barefoot in greece with paint flakes on her jeans. the same jackie, but totally different. this is to be expected.

a surprising lot of how you view your people has to with your introduction to them. i met my marie in stephen zewig's an average woman, a 1932 biography that tenderly danced around the royal sex life and abounded with rogue exclamations ("louis gestured for d'artois to bring the dinner rolls!"). zewig cast marie as an ordinary person of limited education whose sense of duty enabled her to handle the shit in her life with extraordinary courage. in essence, the woman was a master of the emotional kaboom.

sophia coppola's marie antoinette is coppola's marie (which we know is, in part, based heavily on biographer antonia fraser's marie)- a charming, flirty, dutiful vixen who held her head high in a palace echoing with cruel whispers. coppola's louis was awesome. her marie was lovely and was far better than no marie at all, but she was not my marie.

coppola's marie was not my marie largely, i think, because she was uncomfortably confined within one hour and fifty-eight minutes. and while she very adeptly captured the marriage's sexual dysfunctions and the stifling pressures to produce an heir, in such confines, coppola cut from her marie's story the details that most matter to mine.

count fersen appears in three scenes. he would seem little more than a hot one-night stand, which quite possibly resulted in the birth of the dauphin, and whose departure sent marie spinning into a depression manifested by long baths, tamer hairstyles and undereye circles. in reality, he was the queen's faithful lover and friend for over a decade. he masterminded the royal family's unsuccessful escape from imprisonment and risked his life repeatedly venturing into revolutionary paris to see her. he was entirely discrete. he never spoke of her.

there's also a reduction of the royal brood- three children appear rather than four. the death of princess sophie is depicted while the birth of the duc de normandie is not. the birth of the highly anticipated dauphin is portrayed while his death shortly before the revolution is entirely ignored. it was, in fact, the petulant duc de normandie- who does not appear in coppola's film- who would become the dauphin, who would be caught masturbating by his guards, and who would make the molestation charges that sent his mother to the guillotine.

film is a convenient medium in that it allows for easily accessible expression. you don't have to write twenty sentences to adequately convey the wryly disapproving arch of a royal brow. and i know things must be condensed. stories must fit into boxes. plots must flow quickly. we must not make people in theaters yawn over small details. this would probably be why i stick to writing. the movie of my marie would last at least four hours. the movie of my jackie would be ten days long.

because i think you can't know jackie if you don't know that she was keenly aware of her husband's pathological philandering. that her premature daughter died while her husband was sailing in france and that he continued sailing in france for a week before he returned home. that she lost a three-day-old son, a son she never saw, three months before her husband was murdered. that she was leaning in six inches from her husband's face when the final shot hit. that, at parkland hospital, she nudged a doctor and handed him a sizeable chunk of her husband's brain. and that four days later, the day she buried her husband, she threw a birthday party for her three-year-old son.

you have to know that because, to an extent, it is the shit in our lives and how we cope that makes us who we are. admitedly, marie antoinette is a hip film attempting to resuscitate a distorted icon and make her applicable to a new generation. i am wanting it to mean entirely more than it was meant to. but too much is assumed when we deal with icons. most people know nothing about marie beyond the fact that she was decadent and lost her head. if this is the one chance we have to introduce a new generation to her, this is not enough for my marie. coppola verifies the decadence while only skimming the steeliness beneath the surface.

bombsy and i sat through the entire movie watching the princess de lamballe, knowing that we would later be seeing her head on a pike. we didn't. coppola spared us that. but i doubt many people in the crowd knew the lamballe was butchered, her head put on a stake and raised before the prison windows of marie, whom the crowd asked to kiss the lips of her beheaded, beloved best friend. and that's a pretty important smallish detail. you know marie more by knowing that.

coppola left her marie in a carriage with our louis, bidding farewell to their versailles. this was half-assed. i wanted her to either leave them on the eve of revolution or see them through the end. to show the king bidding his family farewell the night before what he knows will be the day of his death. to show marie hearing the accusations her own son made against her, accusations so trumped up that even the revolutionaries were ashamed.

maybe i just want everything to be schindler's list- to be visceral and epic. because these are my people and they deserve to be shown in their full glory. ribbons, feathers, sweets, champagne, and flirtations make for a pretty movie. but they are not a life. these people, my people, have lives of incredible complexity, unbelieveable glamor and harrowing tragedy. it's so much more than a matter of clothes and manners. it's grace under pressure. and we could use more of that these days.

35 comments:

oline said...

just imagine how long it would've been if i'd hated the thing...

and incidentally, i have no idea how the bombshell would describe her jackie. the bombsy jackie could just as easily be sitting on a whale-stool with a daqueri in her hand, nodding sympathetically to callas records and cursing that greek bastard.

Les Savy Ferd said...

i'll admit that I too grade my film experience by the presence or conspicuous absence of royal heads-on-pikes. And we know Coppola has no qualms about impaling young women on wrought iron... if virgin suicides taught us anything it tought us that.

oline said...

i did have coppola pegged as a member of the let them have heads-on-pikes camp. because if ever there was a heads-on-pikes story it would be this one. but clearly, she does not want the centerpieces of her oeuvre to feature female impalement. and that's understandable, i suppose.

Les Savy Ferd said...

To have an oeuvre, *sigh*. And you can bet my oeueuoeurve would have silly fuscia wigs just like Coppola's. But no angsty precocious pretty young things. Evil Man Smells Baby Kills Snowman (and the subsequent novels) will have no angsty precocious pretty young things.

oline said...

but will there be heads-on-pikes? it seems your masterpiece, evil man smells baby stabs snowman, could very easily feature some heads-on-pikes.

Les Savy Ferd said...

That is the eternal question, isn't it? That line has the potential to be the title of chapter 3. (by the way, i'm dorkily excited we've managed to retain the hyphenated combined concatenation 'heads-on-pikes' rather than the clumsy, abiguous, wimpy 'heads on pikes' throughout the bulk of this strand)

Les Savy Ferd said...

in case the logic of my last post was unclear, the proposed title of chapter 3 of EMSBSS is "But will there be heads-on-pikes?" that is all class, back to study hall.

oline said...

i do believe there would have to be heads-on-pikes. though t'would be rather clever to have an entire chapter entitled "but will there be heads-on-pikes?" while refraining from actually giving the reader what he/she will expect/want. namely, heads-on-pikes. (hurrah for the hyphen!)

Les Savy Ferd said...

so is EMSBSS to be set in revolutionary France? 16th century Slovakia? Genghis Khan times? Did the Huns build snowmen?

oline said...

mr. authorO, those are your eternal questions to be answered. all i know is that the phrase "heads-on-pikes" must be featured at least once in conjunction with EMSBSS. even if only in my laudatory quote on the front cover.

oline said...

my laudatory quote for the front cover:

"with his masterwork, evil man smells baby and stabs snowman, the dread pirate dougO exhuberantly advances a new form of narrative dasein, repackaging the Now through his heroic homage to a defiler of snowpeople-kind and coaxing his tale to a nervy climax with the single, simple, yet shattering inquiry: but will there be heads-on-pikes?"

Les Savy Ferd said...

your bold use of the italic font is a credit to your trade. fair wordsmith may my novel deserve such praise.

oline said...

oooh. my uses of italic fonts- much less my usages of other tradely tools- have never been celebrated as a credit to my trade. not that i've been maligned as a lout or a shame or a detriment to my trade, but my trade has not always been so adulatory as it sometimes should be. so i'm all blushes, pirate. all blushes.

nick said...

i really do think hollywood in general could use more heads-on-pikes -- and more hyphens. and italics. and would a bold font kill them every once in a while?

oline said...

so clearly, someone we know who is not me (because anything i do is going to turn into der ring des nibelungen) needs to go to hollywood and make unflinching biographical films featuring heads-on-pikes, hyphens, italics, and enboldened words.

Les Savy Ferd said...

In the biographies of our collective existences which popular hollywood actors would play us? I don't know if this is good or bad but I'm thinking one of the Fiennes-es for me.

Les Savy Ferd said...

and croftie would be rachel weisz, hvgrvgrhgr!

oline said...

(you win major points for this convo, dread dougO.) this is hilarifying since i can't at all imagine her acting alongside fiennes-es or weisz and it pains me to admit it, but i would probably be played miss j love hewitt- albeit after a significant breast reduction.

Bombsy said...

Taking it back a bit- My Jackie is sitting on a boat alone with the wind in her hair and a sweet but wry smile on her face. She has her huge sunglasses on. I think she's pregnant.
Cupcake, have you heard of that new book "Jack's Widow"?

Ah, La Reine. I accidentally on purpose launched in to a ginormous history lecture on the complexity that was Marie to Tyrone last night. For like 40 solid minutes.
I want to kiss Sofia for doing our girl justice. Cupcake, going back to our earlier convos that a woman's story is usually told by a man...do you think this resonated all the more wiht us because it was presented with a very feminine viewpoint?

nick said...

while not known for his fine acting on screen - he's quite good on stage. and can be a complete goofball, too. so i think i'd have to be played by paul rudd.

oline said...

the Jack's Widow review had this fabulous line: "readers who enjoy historical personages cast in an unflattering, unsavory or unappealing light will be most rewarded." so i'm thinking, um... no.

an interesting idea you have there, bombsy. always thought it was much more difficult biographically to write about someone of the opposite gender (though it obviously can be done, probably most easily with writers). all the early jackie people were men and there was a whole lot of "AS A WOMAN, she felt..." generalizing business that was ridiculously stupid. maybe it's easier for a woman to tell another woman's story with more resonsance simply because you cut out the need to say "AS A WOMAN." but i think in a way, coppola didn't push the feminine viewpoint far enough. she's exceptionally good at telling provocative female stories, and though what she delivered was very good, i had hoped for a little more (and i don't just mean the heads-on-pikes). and that's not to say i'm not madly in love with the movie anyway.

paul rudd's acting will undoubtedly appear oscar-worthy alongside j. love hewittoline.

Bombsy said...

i want to be played by rita hayworth, now that i'm a redheaded. or maybe jenna jameson. naw, i'm kidding- M.I.A. will play me.

Les Savy Ferd said...

Well, the US would actually have to go back on their word and actually issue M.I.A. a Visa if you wanted the Biography of Our Lives to be filmed on location. But I'm told you'd be surprised how well southern slovakia will pass for the near north side of chicago.

oline said...

so ESLA: the movie is being filmed in southern slovakia and features fiennes-es, rachel weisz, jennifer love hewitt, paul rudd, MIA, and we, of course, know that beloved auntie em could only be captured by elizabeth berkley. howsabout tyrone, piperoni and osutein? do we have any other friends? aussie eric the sleeze should probably make an appearance as well. he seems pretty definitive. of what, i know not.

oline said...

ooooh. slater could play aussie eric the sleeze. it would be his stunning dramatic debut (or at least his other stunning dramatic debut after the greg luganis movie). would be so appropriate for him to be all buddy buddy with jessie spano, lamenting how he LOOOOOVES women but women don't love him and complaining about the wall seperating him from MIAslie, j loveoline and weisztie. i think we have a blockbuster on our hands, people. that or a saved by the bell reunion.

Bombsy said...

Elizabeth Berkley? No way! I say Virginia Madsen.
Tyrone will be played by Ewan McGreggor, and I will now be playing myself. There will be many extremely graphic and drawn out sex scenes.
Vinegar will be appear only in memory sequences, with NO sex scenes, and will be played by aristotle onassis. or danny devito.
aussie eric should be played by an actual troll if we can find one.
Kari, when she appears very breifly, should be played by angelina jolie.

Les Savy Ferd said...

do we get a phoebus cameo or not? Perhaps he and the rest of the feline lot will be our teamsters.

oline said...

danny devito is so signed up and donning the lanyard. and you should have unfortunate hair in those memory sequences- just to reenforce the "vinegar was like a bad hairdo no one could tell me i had" metaphor. as long as ewan mcgreggor has some singing, he can stay and the pair of you can have graphic, prolonged sex scenes. someone's got to bring the sex!

Bombsy said...

oh, we'll bring the sex, ewan and i. rrrreeeeowww.
phoebus should be played by the notorious B.I.G., huh? or, if we're going wiht actual living people, will ferrel? what about vieve?

oline said...

now i have this glorious image of will farrel in a blonde, furry body suit sitting on the lap of jennifer love hewitt and shedding all over her black shirt. i think the vieve would have to be played by victoria beckham. or lindsay lohan.

Bombsy said...

brilliant vieve casting.

nick said...

and if we're casting our feline friends, our cranky 20 year old cat who we actually just call, "kitty" would have to be played by dame judi dench.

Meggie said...

So, I'm on the phone with you discussing this. We decided it should be Sarah Michelle Gellar for me... You'd have to tape down Jennifer Love Hewitt's boobs if she is gonna play you. *laughs*

Engagement ring????

oline said...

so we're all agreed that jennifer love hewitt's chest might be a great impediment in her portrayal of me. since i'm all for historical accuracy, she'll obviously have to do something about that if she's to snag the coveted oline role.

and meggie, darling- engagment ring???? i have no further ideas.

Meggie said...

His parents are coming up this weekend and I don't know if I'm expected to meet them yet. Eek!

We did have a talk about our last relationships though... And I'm going out with one of his good friends and his fiancee in a couple of weeks. This is just odd. *laughs*