Marie Antoinette… She’s just zis girl, you know?

Apparently, Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette was booed in Cannes. Now that I’ve seen it, I am tempted to say that French film critics are pretentious shrinking violets with an utterly neurotic attitude to their own past. It’s not a great film, and I would rank it lower than both The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation (both of which I liked a lot), but it’s a well made film with some good performances, and it’s definitely beautifully shot and edited. Frankly, I don’t know what les critiques Françaises are on about.

However, Marie Antoinette has one big problem: the beginning is by far the strongest, most subtle illustration of the film’s main motif – a young woman taken into a world that is foreign to her and that regards her as an alien intrusion into their rules and conventions – and almost everything that comes after is much more obvious, much less elegant. Coppola’s use of anachronisms, especially in her choice of music (but also in one semi-witty image of a Converse sneaker among the hundreds of Baroque shoes the young queen tries on), works well enough, but once you’ve seen one scene indicating that “she’s really just a lost, rich, poor teenager… and in the end, aren’t we all?”, you’ve seen them all.

In addition, the film does suffer from being under-plotted. This may be strange coming from someone who loves Lost in Translation, hardly the most plotty of movies, but because Marie Antoinette sticks pretty much to history, there’s little of the smooth flow that a well-told story has. There’s a sense that you could walk out for five minutes, to get yourself a drink or have a bathroom break, and come back without having missed much. I don’t think that films have to be plotted tightly, and in fact many of my favourite movies aren’t, but if you know from the beginning where the story will end – off with her head, and all that jazz – then the film can’t really afford to meander.

On related news, I’m going to keep myself short on Deadwood and Six Feet Under. Just know that there are things more frightening in Deadwood than Al Swearengen on a good or bad day, Francis Wolcott, or even E.B. Farnum talking dirty to a leather bag…

This man couldn’t be scary… could he? Could he?

P.S.: Brian Cox should be a fun addition to the citizenry of Deadwood… I wonder whether he’ll ever get that theatre built – I’d love to see auditions for amateur night!

The cake is a lie… or is it?

“The Enrichment Center is committed to the well-being of all participants. Cake and Grief Counseling will be available at the conclusion of the test. Thank you for helping us help you help us all.”

“Did you know you can donate one or all of your vital organs to the Aperture
Science Self Esteem Fund for Girls? It’s true!” 

Portal is probably this year’s most written about game, even more so than Halo 3. And for good reason. It’s the first game I’ve every played (and I’ve been doing this since 1982, roughly) that I would call perfect. This weirdly wonderful offshoot of the Half-Life franchise, feeling like the movie Cube, if it had been written by Charlie Kaufman, doesn’t take a single wrong step. The brilliant idea that forms the premise of the game gets the usual Valve polish, but it’s the script that turns this into something special.

 Which is also why I’d rather show than tell. So, here goes, courtesy of YouTube:

P.S.: Portal‘s AI GLaDOS, who gives good old SHODAN a run for her money, is brilliantly written. The funnier she gets, the more disturbing she gets. And the song at the end makes me want to cuddle and cuddle and cuddle this game.