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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 May 2006, 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK
Coppola's period drama falls flat
By Darren Waters
BBC News entertainment reporter in Cannes

Marie-Antoinette (2006)
Marie-Antoinette became queen of France at the age of 19
Marie-Antoinette, one of the early favourites for the Palme d'Or at Cannes Film Festival, was booed at the end of the first press screening on Wednesday.

The period drama stars Kirsten Dunst and was directed by Sofia Coppola, who made the award-winning Lost in Translation.

Coppola looked taken aback after being told of the early reaction and said it was "disappointing".

She said: "It is better to get a reaction that people really like it or don't like it, than no response.

"Hopefully some people will enjoy it - it is not for everybody."

Decadent world

British actor Steve Coogan, who plays the Austrian ambassador in the film, said: "When you make something which is personal and specific it is inevitable there will be some nay-sayers."

He added: "Sofia is being true to her voice. It is consistent with all the qualities which made her films brilliant in the past.

"People who love Sofia Coppola movies will love this."

Coppola details a decadent world in which the French aristocracy live to excess, with no part of the outside world to disturb them.

Marie-Antoinette (2006)
Sofia Coppola wrote the screenplay based on Antonia Fraser's book

Marie-Antoinette is a young Austrian girl in a foreign land who turns to drink and gambling when her husband, the heir to the French throne, spurns her in the marital chamber.

It is based on the book of the same name, by Britain's Lady Antonia Fraser.

"I could picture Kirsten playing that role. I knew she had both the effervescence and playful side of Marie-Antoinette, and also the more deep, substantial side that dignified her later in her life," said Coppola, of her leading lady.

Dunst, who appeared in Coppola's first film, The Virgin Suicides, said: "Sofia gave me liberties to be who I am and not be confined by trying to portray an historical figure in a regimented way."

She said Coppola was the only director in whose films she was able to recognise herself.

"She doesn't make me into somebody who I am not. A lot of directors affect you in a way, into what they see you as. Sofia sees me honestly."

Steve Coogan, in Cannes
Sofia didn't want it to be an historical document
Actor Steve Coogan

Coppola said the movie was not a political statement on current times.

"I wasn't making a political movie about the French revolution I was making a portrait of Marie-Antoinette and my opinions are in the film," she said.

Although a period drama, the film is suffused with a sense of modernity and stylistically resembles pop videos and teen dramas.

"We modernised certain things that were relate-able to me and a modern audience," she said, referring to the music and language used in the film.

Coogan said: "Sofia didn't want it to be an historical document.

"Often in period dramas people fall into a certain style of acting that is inherited from previous period dramas, which becomes cyclical.

"It was important to break out of that and be true to the characters."

French history

Dunst said she was not entirely familiar with the story of Marie-Antoinette before she made the film.

"When you grow up in France you learn about French history. When you grow up in America, French history is a smaller paragraph in your text book."

But Dunst said she could relate to the book's story of a young girl who has been brought to a new world not knowing how to behave.

Sofia Coppola (l) and Kirsten Dunst
Coppola directed Dunst in her acclaimed debut The Virgin Suicides

Coppola said she wanted to make a movie she would want to show her friends.

"The story is about teenagers in Versailles, so I wanted it to have that energy of youth and teenage feeling to it.

"I feel that in my three films there is a theme of young women trying to find their way, their identity."

Dunst said she felt that Sofia was the only film-maker telling stories about women and their personal lives.

"There are plenty of mopey man movies, but there are no movies about women being introspective, their troubles and relationships.

"She speaks to women my age."


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