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Marie Antoinette – Viewed in Paris

Maybe the best thing about viewing Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette is the chance to see this film (original version with French subtitles) at the Pagoda movie theater at 57 Rue de Babylone in the 7th arrondissement. Metro: Francois Xavier.

The Pagoda was built in the late 19th century by owner of the Bon Marche department store for his wife who loved Asian design. He went to great pains to duplicate a pagoda from the Meiji era in Japan. Soon after its inauguration and great festivities, his wife left him for the son of one of his business associates.

Marie Antoinette should have had such luck. First let me focus (as French friends did) on the beauty of Sofia Coppola’s recreation of the Versailles court during the reign of Louis XVI. It is an exquisite picturebook. For anyone who has ever visited Versailles or wants to visit Versailles, the effect of seeing the chateau filled with people of the era where it was the playground of the ‘rich and famous, or at least rich in blue blood’ is well worth a glimpse at this film. Such painstaking effort. As an interior decorator friend pointed out, they picked out a material (Pierre Frey) for the upholstered chairs that perfectly fit the era. (But yes, you can actually buy that material in the 21st century) Not to mention you can even buy your own canopy bed a la Marie Antoinette (see “Spend the Rest of your Life in Bed – A Canopy Bed“)And if you’re ready to take the plunge and become a Marie Antoinette wannabe, you can even check into ordering your very own ‘Marie Antoinette’ custom made canopy bed at:

But there is where my endearment with Marie Antoinette begins and ends. I kept feeling as if I was watching a long MTV video – a very expensive one, pulling out all the stops, but as much as Kirsten Dunst is a fine actress – her very 21st century voice didn’t fit. Rather than stick with the safe Hollywood box office draw names, why not find an excellent Austrian actress (with just a touch of accent). It would have worked beautifully because even the actual Marie Antoinette may have spoken French with an accent.

In spite of her vulnerable situation, I never sensed this Marie Antoinette’s vulnerability.

And what about dialogue? What would a day at the courts of Versailles be without some profoundly humiliating jabs. Of course a big deal is made about Marie Antoinette snubbing the Duchesse of Berri but those verbal jousting scenes are truly mastered in films like Beaumarchais and Ridicule.

Undoubtedly Marie Antoinette will be a smashing success. It is the way that 21st century consumers want to digest their history. With a sprinkle of champagne and handful of chocolates. She deserves more!