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CQ (R)
United Artists/American Zoetrope
Official Site
Director: Roman Coppola
Producers: Willi Bar, Francis Ford Coppola, Georgia Kacandes
Written by: Roman Coppola
Cast: Jeremy Davies, Angela Lindvall, Elodie Bouchez, Gerard Depardieu, Jason Schwartzman, Billy Zane, Dean Stockwell

Rating: out of 5

As a debut feature film, CQ is visually poignant and interestingly conceived, but only partly realized. The choice of “movies” as a topic and a theme may seem a bit premature for a first-time filmmaker, but then again, this is the debut feature from the son of, perhaps, America’s greatest living filmmaker. But does prolonged exposure to filmmaking make up for lack of formal experience?

The year is 1969. Everybody is confused and concerned about the present and the state of world affairs. Concurrently, everybody is occupied with visions of the future and the search for a utopian tomorrow. Lost in this world of immediate practical concern and future-dreaming is Paul (Davies), an American in Paris editing a big-budget sci-fi film about a beautiful secret agent code named Dragonfly (Lindvall). Paul also incessantly films his own life (with and stock stolen from the sci-fi film) in the search for “truth” and “something real.” But when Paul is suddenly promoted to director on Dragonfly, because Andrezej (Depardieu) has become fascinated with his leading lady and doesn’t know how to end the film, his search for the aesthetics of truth is side-tracked as fiction and reality become intertwined.

The narrative doesn’t develop much further. The thrust of the film becomes Paul’s anxiety as a first-time director (autobiographical?) and his growing fondness for his leading lady. His “personal” film and live-in French girlfriend seem to fade out. But in a unusual narrative technique that grows out of Paul’s tell-alls to the camera, Paul discusses his problems with a pretentious group of film critics whom he fantasizes are interviewing him about his “personal” film. While at first the interview is all praise, it quickly turns nightmarish as Paul becomes more lost in the abyss of Dragonfly. The critics do give him some good advice on how to find his way out of this abyss though: Give your viewers something they can feel. If balancing the mixed elements of commercialism, personal vision, and social politics under the guiding light of “feeling” seems a little too narrow, it is and it isn’t.

It is because this era of filmmaking is much indebted to a style based on feeling, as the renaissance that swept Europe after the influence of the hordes of Hollywood films they missed during the war came full-circle back to America. However, “feeling” wasn’t enough to save Hollywood from itself. Just as soon as the revolution had come, it quickly faded out as the commercial order established itself. This revolution in American filmmaking still has influence today, especially as the next generation (here quite literarily) finds itself amidst the new order, looking for direction. And who knows what the future holds; all I know is that it’s not quite here.

—Eric Vanstrom


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