Sunday, October 29, 2006

Two out of three ain't bad

It was a two-book, one-movie weekend here. Too bad I didn't save the best for last...

I have nothing but positive things to say about Beverly Swerling's City of Glory and Ariana Franklin's Mistress of the Art of Death, especially the latter - I'm glad Diana Norman's returned to the 12th century. They're both out in early 2007 (sorry). The endnotes in the Franklin ARC says that the sequel, The Serpent in the Garden, will have the protagonist investigating the death of Rosamund Clifford, but that's well over a year away. I will be patient.

Sofia Coppola's film Marie Antoinette, on the other hand, was ridiculous. Shall I count the ways? It was visually appealing, yes, but not believable at all. Then we have the characters not visibly aging over 20-odd years, the near absence of a plot (the gorgeous costumes have a way of distracting one from this, though), the repetitive scenes, and the fact that it was at least 45 minutes too long. The anachronisms and the rock music, surprisingly, were easier to ignore than the other problems. I developed a horrible headache partway through (bad movie posture), which didn't help, and thought about leaving early. It was the first movie I've seen in a theatre in about two years, and we had to travel 45 minutes north to Savoy to see this one. Not an encouraging sign.

19 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:12 PM

    Saw the movie too this weekend, and also blogged about it. I thought it was beautiful to look at, but a disappointment on the whole.

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  2. You did a much more comprehensive write-up than I did, but our reactions weren't dissimilar. The film kept my attention for the first hour or so (and the scene with the elephant was cute), but overall it was very heavy on style, light on substance.

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  3. Okay, I am not seeing Marie Antoinette in the theatres. It doesn't seem to be worth my cash!

    I have one of Beverly Swerling's books sitting here to read, I really must do so.

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  4. I should have read City of Dreams before reading this one, because it's a sequel, but it didn't prevent my enjoying it.

    Thanks to the M-A movie, I've had that song "I Want Candy" in my head all morning. grrr.

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  5. Anonymous11:43 AM

    I'm not going to waste my time on some pretty pics of Marie Antoinette in costume - there's not even a decent battle in that one. :)

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  6. Thanks for the review, Sarah. The Coppola film has not opened in any of the theatres in my area, so I have not seen it yet! It seems to be fading fast, so I will have to wait for it to come out on DVD. It is a shame it is not a better movie! What a wasted opportunity to bring to life a fascinating moment in history on a magnificent scale!! Coppola was allowed to film in Versailles and at Petit Trianon!!! It could have been so phenomenal. I am heartsick....

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  7. Anonymous1:47 PM

    That's a pity indeed, Elena. A movie about the historical Marie Antoinette showing what really happened could have overcome my aversion against the French Revolution I developed during school (our teacher was sickingly communist biased towards the whole thing and never even got that it was a revoution of the burgeoisie not the working class).

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  8. Gabriele, it sounds to me, although I have not seen the film, that the Marxist view of the Revolution (which has essentially become the mainstream view) is what Coppola uses in her film. All of a sudden the starving peasants show up at the gates of the palace, demanding justice, bread and blood. Nothing about the Assembly of Notables and the Estates-General, or even the Diamond Necklace scandal. Nothing showing how the Revolution was carefully planned by the upper classes, including relatives of the king. At least the old Norma Shearer version showed the perfidy of the Duc d'Orleans. Of course, there is never anything about the king and queen's charities and the extensive reforms of Louis XVI, such as abolishing torture and the corvee. He was trying to tax the nobles so that the poor would not be so overtaxed, which is what triggered the revolt.

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  9. That's pretty much what happened - the peasants showed up at the palace within the last 5-10 minutes of the film, but I don't recall any of them saying much (though they were quite loud, and they brandished some evil-looking implements). The Duc d'Orleans was neither seen nor mentioned as far as I recall.

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  10. Anonymous2:49 PM

    I've been especially sensitive towards Marxist biases because my parents fled East Germany so their kids would not have to deal with that crap, and when it sneaked into some school lessons held by socialistic teachers, my father got really upset. I've got medical certificates about headaches for more than one history and literature lesson - it was the only way we could react in a country that would not allow homeschooling. Fortunately, the director was on our side, he would have loved to get rid of those socialist teachers himself.

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  11. No Duc d'Orleans! He was Marie-Antoinette's nemesis!! The flashback first chapter of "Madame Royale" is exclusively devoted to him, his plottings, his hired pornographer, and his mistress. Can't have a revolution without Philippe Egalite!!

    Gabriele, many American schools are not too different! I would always (politely) point out to the teachers their historical errors. Oh, I would have been happier being home-schooled but they didn't really have that back then. There are more options now....

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  12. Anonymous11:49 PM

    But you have to admit Mops the pug was a real cutie.

    Just as a good teacher can bring a book or an era alive, a bad teacher (or one with an agenda) can ruin one. I had a male feminist professor in graduate school who managed to find a subtext of female oppression or empowerment in every damn book we read, and I've never really been able to enjoy any of them since.

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  13. Maybe I was more fortunate than I realised in having to give up formal history at 14 to concentrate on science! At least it left me to find my own way into history and read both sides of any story that intersted me, without falling foul of assorted agendas.

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  14. Yep, Mops was pretty cute.

    I don't think I had any history profs/teachers with obvious agendas, though I did have a bunch that were dull. Most of them, in fact.

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  15. According to the Music editor here at IGN, the movie's ending was also weird...

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  16. The ending was abrupt and dramatic, but when so little of the film dealt with the Revolution, it did feel weird. The whole theatre was silent not because of the shock, but because they were baffled... people were shaking their heads. It was like "okay, that's it, it's over."

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  17. Anonymous11:14 PM

    Mops the pug - lol, that's funny because Mops is the German word for pug.

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  18. I really loved the book I have read by Beverly Swerling! I am looking forward to getting this one!

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  19. Thanks for the interesting discussion. I haven't seen it yet but will wait to hire it on dvd. LOL

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