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review by rob gonsalves

Roman Coppola

Gary Marcus

Robert D. Yeoman


Leslie Jones


Jeremy Davies (Paul)
Angela Lindvall
Élodie Bouchez
Gérard Depardieu
Giancarlo Giannini
Massimo Ghini
Jason Schwartzman
(Felix DeMarco)
Billy Zane
(Mr. E)
John Phillip Law
Dean Stockwell
(Dr. Ballard)

mpaa rating: R
running time: 87m
u.s. release: May 24, 2002
video availability: VHS - DVD
official website

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An homage to the high art and pop art of '60s European cinema.

Oh, joy.

Yeah. It could've been fun -- in fits and starts it is fun -- but this patchwork movie by Roman Coppola (the most recent of Francis Ford Coppola's heirs to take up the filmmaking mantle, after Sofia and The Virgin Suicides) isn't ultimately about anything except its own fondness for the era.

Jeremy Davies is actually top-billed?

Yeah, for the first time since Spanking the Monkey, I believe. Problem is, almost ten years later he's still giving the same cringing-ectomorph performance, here as a film editor named Paul who's simultaneously working on a nonsensical Barbarella-like sci-fi extravaganza (Codename Dragonfly) and on his own sort of film diary, in which he films himself and girlfriend Élodie Bouchez in grainy black and white, trying to capture intense realism.

So he's basically a young John Cassavetes if Cassavetes had ever worked for Dino De Laurentiis?

CQ (if any readers know what the hell the title means other than being a message momentarily flashed on a computer screen in Codename Dragonfly, please fill me in) can fairly be described as '60s cinema in a duck press. Paul could be Cassavetes or any number of other artsy-realism artistes (Haskell Wexler, Albert Maysles, etc.) who emerged around the same time. Codename Dragonfly's Italian producer (Giancarlo Giannini) is obviously De Laurentiis; the sci-fi flick's original director (Gérard Depardieu) might be a what-if version of Godard (who did make his own sci-fi movie, Alphaville); the hotshot American director (Jason Schwartzman) hired to replace Depardieu might be a tip of the hat to any of the up-and-coming filmmakers who worked for Roger Corman and would've come in for a quick polish on a cheesy sci-fi flick just for the experience (someone like, say, Francis Ford Coppola, back in the day).

This doesn't sound bad. Didn't you enjoy it?

Well, the central problem is that Codename Dragonfly -- with its gorgeous Dean Tavoularis design, and its gorgeous Mother Nature design in the person of Angela Lindvall, who plays the babelicious agent Dragonfly as well as her "real-life" portrayer Valentine -- is simply more fun than the surrounding material. If Roman Coppola wanted to recreate bubble-headed '60s Euro-eye candy, he should've gone ahead and done it. But we keep going back to Paul and his domestic problems and his never-even-close-to-requited feelings for Valentine. It's as if the first Austin Powers movie had been half Austin Powers and half about a film editor working on Austin Powers. Of course, as some critics pointed out, CQ might've been more entertaining if Mike Myers hadn't scooped Coppola. Now, after two Austin Powers sequels, it just looks like Coppola trying to jump onto the retro-hip bandwagon.

Anything you did enjoy?

Aside from the Codename Dragonfly material, it's a treat to see two European giants, Giannini and Depardieu, barking at each other. Schwartzman (the director's cousin) seems at times to be channeling Robert Evans by way of Roman Polanski (check out the chintzy vampire flick he's shooting) and enlivens his scenes. Dean Stockwell stops by as Paul's dad for a fairly meaningless bit that still scores because it's Dean Stockwell. Angela Lindvall has an unaffected appeal in her moments as Valentine. And the movie looks and sounds (props to Mellow, who did the score, which can only be described as "groovy") pretty cool. But there's nothing much to the film besides its pretty-coolness. Fundamentally it goes nowhere and says nothing.

So do you think Francis passed down at least some talent to his offspring?

Oh, sure. Qualms about CQ and The Virgin Suicides aside, these movies are not hackwork. But they do self-consciously exist in some dead zone between art and fluff, as if the royal son and daughter were afraid to commit to either extreme. Sofia and Roman both respect actors, and they both have an eye for arresting images. Someday one of them may contribute a work of art to stand alongside the best work of their father. When their eye for material equals that of their father, that day will come.

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