dvd mashup: ‘Marie Antoinette’ and ‘The Affair of the Necklace’

Marie Antoinette won an Oscar for costume design. That’s cool — it should have won, though I didn’t think it would. The role that clothing plays in the film, as personal expression as much as an indicator of decadence, is part of what makes the movie worth seeing, and the attitude that the costuming exhibits is an inherent element of what makes the movie so wonderfully eccentric: the incongruous, anachronistic Converse sneaker thrown into a jumble of fancy shoes in one scene is a marker for director Sophia Coppola’s fresh take on the girl queen. This is no stuffy historical drama but an off-kilter novelty, opulent and spare at the same time, isolating the viewer as Marie herself was isolated from the harsh reality outside the palace walls. This is history as extreme sport: we wallow with Marie in extreme fashion, extreme etiquette, extreme dining, and have no clue that revolution is coming to a boil outside. At first I thought that Kirsten Dunst and Jason Schwartzman were too contemporary, too American to play the French monarchs, and then I realized that they were like that Converse sneaker: modern stand-ins that interpret a moment in the past so we can identify with it today. Marie and Louie were the clueless punks of their day, were kids playing dress-up. “This is ridiculous,” Kirsten’s Marie complains at one point, about which it matters not. “This, madam,” she is informed in response, “is Versailles.”
And why not try out a double feature on the prerevolutionary French court? The little-seen, and unfairly so, The Affair of the Necklace, from 2001, is the perfect postmodern accompaniment for Coppola’s truffle. This rollicking tale of intrigue and scandal in Marie’s court has everything a guilty pleasure needs: sex, violence, conspiracy, lust, gossip, forgery, orgies, swordfighting, corruption, prognostication, beheading, actual bodice ripping, and revolting peasants. Mixing cheeky humor, aristocratic hanky-panky, and a hearty dose of self-deprecation, this is part Princess Bride, part Monty Python, and all cheeseball fun. The cast is to die for — in the loving embrace of Madame Guillotine, no doubt — and features Hilary Swank, Adrien Brody, Simon Baker, Jonathan Pryce, Christopher Walken, and Joely Richardson as the be-sunglassed Marie. The whole thing is no more historically precise than Antoinette, but who cares? [my 2001 review

[buy Marie Antoinette at Amazon] [buy The Affair of the Necklace at Amazon]

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