Movies about movies are usually so self-reflexive that the flaws of the film can be attributed to a mobius strip of film logic where the catastrophes that the actors face in the film’s plot movie mirror the eccentricities of the actual film itself. It is difficult to critique something that so obviously is introverted into itself, where a movie about the 60’s is (all at once) a homage to movies of the time, indulgence into period camp, a lost artist’s search for truth and all the usual flim-flam that accompanies any movie who’s plot surrounds the making of another movie.
Jeremy Davies is the day dreaming Paul Ballard, a lowly film editor of a Barbarella-like sci-fi movie in 1969. By day he edits the campy spy flick and by night fights with his French girlfriend and shoots homemade film of himself reflecting on himself. The sci-fi movie’s old-fashioned director (Gerard Depardieu) is replaced by a young hipster (Jason Schwartzman) who is then replaced with Paul by the film’s Italian producer (Giancarlo Giannini). Despite his pretense to make movies that are real and honest, Paul is forced to come up with fluffy action sequences for his new movie, and he soon falls for its female star, code-named Dragonfly.
is Roman Coppola’s debut film, and like his sister’s first movie Virgin Suicides it seems to long for a time in the past when everything was seeped in a delicious haze of style and nostalgia. For a young filmmaker today the glory days of cinema is the end of the 60’s where auteurs were just beginning to grab the public’s attention, and Coppola tries to cash in on any and everything that 60’s cinema has created. CQ is filled with references to films and filmmakers, from Fellini to Kubrick, and it seems to strive very much for the wild and eccentric atmosphere of 8 ½
where the people in the film are surrounded by both illogical personal confusion and the wild and reckless filming of a movie that has no end.
Paul’s day time alter ego of director for hire who’s desire for his 60’s bombshell actress betrays his night time passion of opening his heart to the audience. Yet selling out to make ends meet is not very interesting here because Davies (or Paul) does not seem to realize his own contradiction. The issue of duality is brought up by Paul’s father, the idea that a long lost brother who looks exactly like Paul might exist seems like an odd plot point, but Paul’s detachment between his two jobs seems complete, and one never seems to realize the job the other is doing: the night time director does little more than express frustration at critics and try to piece together his life by filming it, while the day time director blissfully fanaticizes about Dragonfly and the dreamy opportunity shooting her film could mean for his career. They could be two completely different people. As detachment from Paul continues, his story loses focus and the clips of the Dragonfly movie increase.
The split between Paul’s honest film and the superficial Dragonfly spy movie is mirrored in the split in CQ itself, as Mr. Coppola devotes equal screen time to Davies’ artist’s search and the Dragonfly romp that Paul films. The Italian producer hammers in how important a good ending is, but Paul has no idea how to finish his movie, which carries over into the real CQ
, which never seems to have a direction, nor an end in sight. It looks like it’s striving for that anything-can-happen, artistic meltdown, trouble-with-women mood of Fellini’s great 8 ½
but as Paul drifts from Roman parties back to Paris the exposition of his journey looks like filler in between clips of Dragonfly, instead of the artist soul searching, quest for integrity it should be.
ends up being an excuse to pay homage to a lost time-funky bimbo sci-fi spy pictures that people took seriously, wild nights, 60’s clothes and a period soundtrack by Mellow all hint that Mr. Coppola could be as interested in indulging in the throwback style of the 60’s as he is in creating a real film about film. The movie strains to illustrate how much fun campy movies of the 60’s and 70’s were, and then strains it strains ‘til bursting to conform this fun to Mr. Davies’ empty-faced search for meaning in his work.
Mr. Coppola himself mirrors Paul’s obsession with Dragonfly, as Paul dreams of seducing the film’s star Coppola similarly dreams of her campy film which is filled with so much twangy 60’s music, close ups and stylistic money shots (romping on a snow covered moon, making love to a rustic rebel played by Billy Zane on a moon base) that it looks like Paul is just as in love with Dragonfly as Roman is with 60’s camp cinema. The critics in Paul’s head accuse him of being self-indulgent and claim that his film is boring and no one cares about its characters, and similar criticisms can be leveled at CQ
, intended by the director or not. Regardless, neither the Dragonfly film nor Paul’s personal film compliment the other nor comments on their opposite’s action in a meaningful way, both Dragonfly and CQ seem to have a cop out ending where everything somehow worked out, but neither the artistic growth of Paul nor what ever the hell Roman Coppola is getting at is clear by the end of the movie.