CQ (review)

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The Fantasy Film Library contains flicks like MANT, Sand Pirates of the Sahara, Habeus Corpus, and the Tom Baxter adventure The Purple Rose of Cairo: movies that exist only within other movies, ideally movies you’re dying to see. Add a new one to the archive: Codename: Dragonfly, which looks like the best kind of glorious crap the late 60s had to offer, a sexy bit of sci-fi spy popcorn fluff that is the bane of one serious filmmaker. American Paul (Jeremy Davies: Up at the Villa) is in Paris to edit Dragonfly while also making his own autobiographical, cinema verite documentary of his life. The writing/directing debut of Roman Coppola (Francis’s son, Sofia’s brother), the sprightly, cheeky, thoughtful CQ depicts Paul’s coming of artistic age with nary a hint of pretension or self-consciousness — Coppola clearly doesn’t suffer from the halting, creative confusion that plagues Paul until he realizes that it’s possible for the commercial and the artistic to coexist, even in a pseudo-James Bond flick. His two projects become unexpectedly intertwined when Dragonfly‘s director gets the boot and Paul is promoted to the prime spot behind the camera, and that’s when he surprises himself — in Davies’ wonderfully understated way — by discovering that he can take inspiration from reality to fix the film for the producer and satisfy the revolutionary wishes of the original director at the same time. Part of that inspiration comes from Paul’s brief visit with his college-professor father, played in a delicately touching one-scene cameo by Dean Stockwell, and it’s small moments like this one, contrasted with the blustery, brash excerpts from Dragonfly that makes CQ so refreshing. But Coppola also manages a feat rarely seen in the poking-fun-at-Hollywood genre: he tweaks the foibles of ditzy actors, impossible directors, and slightly maniacal producers without ever robbing them of their humanity.

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