Robert D. Yeoman
Jeremy Davies (Paul)
Angela Lindvall (Dragonfly/Valentine)
Élodie Bouchez (Marlene)
Gérard Depardieu (Andrzej)
Giancarlo Giannini (Enzo)
Massimo Ghini (Fabrizio)
Jason Schwartzman (Felix DeMarco)
Billy Zane (Mr. E)
John Phillip Law (Chairman)
Dean Stockwell (Dr. Ballard)
mpaa rating: R
release: May 24, 2002
availability: VHS -
An homage to the high art and
pop art of '60s European cinema.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
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.