“Marie Antoinette” is a (Post) Modern Revolution
Sofia Coppola’s historical pastiche enters the new canon.
Of all the female characters that populate Sofia Coppola’s films, the obvious stand-in for the director herself is Scarlett Johansson’s Charlotte in Lost in Translation. But what if Coppola’s true reflection is to be found in a gilded, Versailles mirror instead? After all, if you want to fashion a figure of (cinema) royalty, whose lavish and privileged lifestyle was heavily scrutinized and perhaps even stifled by expectation, then Marie Antoinette isn’t a bad model.
After the near-unanimous adoration for 2003’s Lost in Translation, the dismissive reaction to Coppola’s 2006 follow-up, Marie Antoinette, seemed unjust. And just over a decade on, the film appears to be undergoing some serious critical re-evaluation. It’s now being viewed as a work about shallowness and frivolity, rather than being infected with such traits. It’s a highly (post) modern take on an old warhorse of cinema: the historical epic. And while Coppola used the real boudoirs and ballrooms of Versailles as her own larger-than-life dollhouse, she does much more than just play dress up. Underneath all the designer dresses and shoes, parties and feasts, there’s a young woman, out of her depth and struggling to locate herself — and a director who knows exactly how to find her.