C.Q. (2001)

Directed by Roman Coppola
Jeremy Davies, Angela Lindvall, Élodie Bouchez, Gerard Depardieu, Billy Zane, Jason Swartzman, Giancarlo Giannini, John Phillip Law, Dean Stockwell
Music by Mellow

C.Q. is a curious little film from Roman Coppola (Son of Francis, brother of Sophia). It is set in the final months of 1969 and stars Jeremy Davies as Paul, a film editor on a European sci-fi/secret agent film. This fictitious film is an Italian French co-production and is being filmed in Paris. The film, Dragonfly is being directed by Andrezej (Gerard Depardieu). Andrezej is a radical who does not want to pander to the mainstream, and has no ending for his film. But he does not want an ending. He thinks the film is complete the way it is, ending with a whimper, not a bang. Unfortunately for Andrezej, the film’s producer Enzo Di Martino (Giancarlo Giannini) is not happy about the weak ending and fires the director. He replaces him with schlock film maker Felix De Marco (Jason Swartzman). De Marco, who appears to have Attention Deficit Disorder ends up opting out of the Dragonfly after he breaks his leg in an automobile accident. Paul is called up to the plate to direct the remaining portions of the film, complete with a brand new ending. But Paul cannot think of a new ending.

C.Q. (Seek You) is put together rather stylishly, using three different techniques. Firstly is a black and white cinema verité style. These scenes reflect Paul’s journey as a person as he moves from 1969 into 1970. At home he films small slices of his life, along with his long suffering and neglected girlfriend, Marlene (Élodie Bouchez).

The second technique employed by Coppola, is your standard, film-making. It’s in colour. It’s low-key and doesn’t draw attention to itself. This is used during the narrative portions of the film. This is how the story moves forward from point A to point B.

The third and most visually impressive style, are the scenes from the 60’s sci-fi/secret agent film that Paul is working on. The sets, the costumes, music and special effects all hark back to the techniques used on films from the 1960’s. These scenes are candy coloured and deliberately artificial.

For fans of films from this era, a lot of fun can be had trying to spot the influences and direct film references. The obvious ones are Danger: Diabolik, Barbarella and Modesty Blaise, but there are more to be found. In fact, Diabolik himself, John Phillip Law has a role as the head of the group that hire Dragonfly.

What is Dragonfly about? The movie Dragonfly features Angela Lindvall as Agent Codename Dragonfly (it is deliberately worded awkwardly to reflect some of the clumsy English translations of 60’s European films). Dragonfly is hired to infiltrate a militant revolutionary group who have a secret base on the dark side of the moon. The revolutionaries are headed by Mister E. (Billy Zane), and he has invented a powerful new weapon that can freeze people in time. The weapon itself resembles a red bulbous pistol, but to me, it looks like a capsicum. Dragonfly has to fly to the moon; enter the secret base; retrieve the capsicum, er, weapon, and return home. It must be said that Angela Lindvall looks fantastic, and echoes the sex kittens from the sixties. And Billy Zane seems to having a great deal of fun as the revolutionary leader.

On the MGM/UA R1 DVD, on the flip side of the disk, you can watch the Dragonfly movie, which at around 20 minutes, is perfect for those with short attention spans.

The soundtrack by Mellow is absolutely fantastic. It sounds incredibly sixties, more so than any soundtrack that is actually from the sixties. And it moves through the real world and the film world with consummate ease. My favourite snippet is the Dragonfly Carchase, which reflects Ennio Morricone’s long lost Diabolik soundtrack. Also the song Take Me Higher, featuring vocals by Allison David is pure, smooth, sixties pop. Again, I could compare it to Deep Deep Down off the Diabolik score, but that would be unfair to Mellow. Sure this music is derivative of many sixties soundtracks, but this is a loving homage, rather than plagiarism. I am sure the album is licensed by different companies for different territories around the world, but the soundtrack to C.Q. is available from Shock Records Australia.

C.Q. is a film that I enjoyed immensely, although it will not be everyone’s cup of tea. Because it has so many styles and stories running simultaneously, each viewer will enjoy different aspects of the film. Obviously I am drawn to the Eurospy homage. Others may connect with the drama of Paul’s personal life. Some will be fascinated by the inside look at the film making process (albeit from the sixties). It’s the type of film you will respond to on the strength of your own personal experience. I can imagine people watching this film and afterwards feeling rather cold, and wondering what the hell it was all about.

From my point of view I highly recommend C.Q.. It is original and clever film making.

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