Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Ancien Regime of Hollywood

"Anachronism comes in different forms. Sometimes it is innocuous - no one who goes to see Julius Caesar is much affronted or discomposed when at one moment a character talks, anachronistically, about clocks. Occasionally it can be intellectually bracing, almost a form of aesthetic organisation, as in Virginia Woolf's Orlando. More often than not, however, it is simply crass.

Marie Antoinette falls squarely into category three, despite having aspirations towards category two. Anachronism is so profuse, so ubiquitous in this film that one can't imagine it was not deliberately entered into. And yet it seems to serve no end other than itself. Certainly, if the intention was to make the doomed French queen more accessible to us, and to invite us to participate imaginatively in her predicament, then it was laughably misjudged.

The result is that Marie Antoinette is best approached as an episode of The O. C. in fancy dress. Only residents of the Sonoma Valley, Palo Alto and Laguna Beach will find that this film speaks to their condition. For the rest of us, late eighteenth-century France has been rendered less, not more, accessible by being transposed into the mode of early twenty-first century California - a world which, for most of us, is more of a fantasy, more remote from our lives, more outlandish and straightforwardly weird, than the court of Louis XVI..."