DaysAreNumbers – Film of the Day – CQ (Roman Coppola, 2001)
It’s turned out to be rather appropriate that, after much deliberation by Paramount in the early 70s, none other than Francis Ford Coppola was eventually selected to direct that ultimate familial epic of modern American cinema, The Godfather…
The beardy super-director sits at the head of a sizable and influential brood of his own, after all: You’ve got composer dad Carmine (who picked up an Oscar for his work on The Godfather Part II), documentary filmmaker wife Eleanor (who seems to specialise in films about other Coppolas), actress sister Talia Shire, director daughter Sofia and a pair of highly-regarded thespian nephews in indie fave Jason Schwartzman and crazed superstar Nicolas Cage. Perhaps the least renowned of the Coppola clan is son Roman, who has also followed in his father’s footsteps and taken up the chief position behind the camera. But while his little sister Sofia’s films are regularly met with rapturous critical praise and not inconsiderable box-office, the Coppola boy’s sole feature film to date seems to have slipped into obscurity, and undeservedly so.
CQ is a film in which the main characters are involved in the making of a film, but what sets it apart from most other efforts in this subgenre (Truffaut’s Day for Night or Barton Fink, for example) is how Coppola chooses to place as much emphasis on the ”fictional” film-within-the-film itself as he does on the drama going on around it. Jeremy Davies plays an American film editor in Paris, currently involved in the making of Codename: Dragonfly – a swingin’ Sci-Fi spy romp, in which a foxy femme agent is deployed to take down a band of revolutionaries who have taken over the moon (!). After the production sheds two different directors in quick succession, our young editor has his wish fulfilled when he is asked to take charge of the film’s completion… But with a crush on his lead actress and a controlling producer to contend with, is he up to the task in hand?
These days, Roman Coppola seems to have carved out a role for himself as Wes Anderson’s right-hand man and Owen Wilson-surrogate (having co-written both the underwhelming Darjeeling Limited and the upcoming Moonrise Kingdom), but based on the evidence here he really should get round to making another film of his own sometime*. Not only does CQ boast a plethora of fantastically rendered retro sequences from the decidedly Danger: Diabolik-esque Dragonfly (and you can really feel the love off them, this is no lazy spoof), but it also has a convincing and involving storyline running through it, an essential which has been oddly lacking from the aforementioned Anderson’s most recent work. The young Coppola also seems to have inherited his father’s knack for directing actors, and there are fine supporting turns from Gerard Depardieu, Diabolik’s very own John Phillip Law, Dean Stockwell, Jason Schwartzman (but, of course!) and Billy Zane (seriously!) – although I will say that the rather wet Davies doesn’t deliver the kind of charismatic Marcello-ish performance that this often impressively Fellini-esque film is calling out for.
*Well, I just checked and it looks like he has made another one – A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charlie Swan III, whatever that might be. It’s not come out yet, but until then the sublime CQ is more than enough to keep you busy. Check out the trailer below!