Synopsis: Captivating and sexy, CQ takes you behind the scenes of a sci-fi thriller being filmed in 1969 Paris… but set in ‘futuristic’ 2001. Jeremy Davies (Saving Private Ryan), newcomer Angela Lindvall, Gerard Depardieu (Green Card) and Billy Zane (Titanic) shine in this “unpredictable, stylish and original” (Boxoffice) movie where past meets future, reality blurs with fantasy, and tight leather catsuits are the perfect accessory for a ray gun that can stop time!
Novice filmmaker Paul (Davies) has just been given the chance of a lifetime – to direct the super spy film Codename Dragonfly. But when he starts to believe that the stunningly beautiful “Dragonfly” character (Lindvall) is seducing him from within the film… Paul risks his new position – and his sanity – to join her in an adventure beyond even his imagination.
eyelights: its-movie-within-a-movie conceit. its production quality. its score.
eyesores: its lack of spark. Gérard Depardieu.
“Just because you film every single thing in your life doesn’t mean you understand yourself any better.”
Paul is a young filmmaker. Armed with his camera and black and white film, he’s filming all aspects of his life in an attempt to make sense of it. By day, he’s the editor of “Codename: Dragonfly”, an Italian science fiction film being shot in France.
His home life is strained. His girlfriend, Marlène, is at her wits’ end with his self-absorption and threatens to leave him. But he becomes too distracted by Valentine, the star of “Codename: Dragonfly”, to care. He daydreams about her fictional persona.
That’s when he gets a breakthrough opportunity: a chance to helm the film, after the original director is fired and even his replacement drops out. Paul will not only get a chance to put his stamp on “Dragonfly” but also to move in closer to its heroine.
But it won’t end as he’d hoped.
‘CQ’ is the debut picture by Roman Coppola. Set in 1969, it’s an homage to some of the cinema that inspired the young man as he grew up, such as ‘Diabolik‘ and ‘Barbarella‘. It’s a stylish low budget picture that immerses itself in film-making.
You’d think that I would love it. Yet it leaves me unmoved.
I very much like its throwback elements, like the old school American Zoetrope logo, the robotic bloops, and the score of its ’70s-style opening credits, or the scenes clearly lifted from other films (ex: Dragonfly rolling around on her bed covered in cash).
I also quite like that, as “Codename: Dragonfly” is put together, we see the progression of some of its scenes – some of which remains incomplete because they haven’t gone into post-production yet (there’s even missing footage!). It’s a really nice touch.
And it’s quite cool that reality and fiction blend to some degree in light of Paul’s infatuation with his star and heroine. It puts in perspective just how immersed Paul is in the film-making process, something that I imagine probably happens to real directors.
But none of it resonates emotionally somehow. Watching someone trying to figure out their life is only satisfying if they put the pieces together, move forward. But, no matter how much self-reflecting Paul does, he just can’t seem to get his act together.
Here, we’re given a cop-out in an epilogue that shows him making a personal film out of his home footage and doing screenings of it, but we don’t really know what his breakthrough was and how his life’s changed. He feels like the very same guy.
There’s no progression.
And that’s only part of the picture’s problem: for all its attempts to explore an era that is meaningful to Coppola, it fails to illustrate just why it is. At no point are we convinced of why we should care about that moment in time or its protagonist.
It doesn’t help that Paul is reserved, if not a bit sullen, because he isn’t easy to warm up to. And it’s not Jeremy Davies’s performance that’s the problem – he’s actually pitch-perfect. It’s just that the character is more pitiable than sympathetic.
As for Angela Lindvall, she’s excellent as Valentine, but she never quite fits the bill as Dragonfly. Firstly, she’s a bit thin for a ’60s heroine, but she also doesn’t have sass and grit you’d half-expect. And she simply can’t do action, like running.
Meanwhile, there are cameos by Gérard Depardieu and Jason Schwartzman as the directors hired to film ‘Codename: Dragonfly’ before Paul gets the gig. They’re like treacherous little mines planted in ‘CQ’s landscape, exploding whenever we cross them.
Depardieu is obscenely bad here, shouting his lines, looking all bloated and wearing either a wig or a bad dye job to cover his grotesque face. Ugh. And Schwartzman plays a pretentious b-movie director so full of himself that he’s a cartoon character.
The movie barely recovers every time that they’re on screen.
The biggest draws of the picture are its setting and its music: the late ’60s are recaptured fairly well here and the modern lounge score by Mellow is a groovy old time – so much so that I bought one of their albums and, of course, the film’s soundtrack.
But it’s not enough to bolster ‘CQ’. Though it’s not a bad movie by any standard, it also lacks spark. It’s an experience, but it’s not a pleasing or especially memorable one. It only leaves a vague impression, like a faded memory from so many years ago.
It’s easily forgotten.
Date of viewing: June 18, 2017