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Insider's view, dated themes bog down 'CQ'

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

Paul Ballard (Jeremy Davies) wants to make serious movies. Movies that are real. Movies that gaze at his own navel on grainy black-and-white film. But filming every little detail of his life, he never actually lives it.


Rating: R for some nudity and language

Starring: Jeremy Davies, Angela Lindvall, Gerard Depardieu

Director: Roman Coppola

WEB SITE: www.mgm.com/



Any student of TV news could tell you the presence of the camera alters events. Thus, cinema verite could never be as truthful as its name implies. It could, however, be boring. So could Paul, who barely speaks loudly enough for us to hear him drone.

The movie "CQ," now at the Squirrel Hill Theater, casts Paul as its protagonist, which leaves us as wary as his girlfriend, Marlene (Elodie Bouchez), who wishes he would gaze at her navel once in a while.

They live in Paris in 1969. He pays the bills by working as film editor on a mindless popcorn movie about a sexy secret agent known as Dragonfly (Angela Lindvall), who wears tight white leather suits -- or not much of anything (think Modesty Blaise).

The producer is a smooth-talking Italian (Giancarlo Giannini) reminiscent of Dino De Laurentiis in his salad days, and the director, Andrzej (Gerard Depardieu), displays more artistic temperament than is good for him. When they clash, the producer calls on Paul to take charge.

One of the jokes in "CQ" is that the Dragonfly movie, with its shag-rug science-fiction accouterments, takes place in the year 2001. But while it views our present with tongue in cheek as a gigantic block of Velveeta, the joke on "CQ" is the fact that it feels so trapped in the past.

Director Roman Coppola (son of Francis Ford Coppola) calls "CQ" a tribute to the films of the late 1960s, when the artistry of Antonioni stood cheek by jowl with a babefest like "Barbarella," which allowed a political firebrand like Jane Fonda to strut her sexy stuff without feeling like a sellout.

But outside of film students or nerds like Paul, who really cares anymore? Sure, it was the era of "Easy Rider," which spawned the revolution of the 1970s and hastened the death of old Hollywood. But have you tried to watch "Easy Rider" lately?

The biggest joke of all is that the Dragonfly excerpts, despite the fictional film's ridiculous plot and over-the-top performances, feel more cinematically accomplished than anything else in "CQ." (The title derives from an old Morse code message sent by those looking for someone to communicate with -- literally, "seek you.")

Coppola, who also wrote "CQ," puts some laughs into the film and also plays with some intriguing notions. Paul's father (Dean Stockwell, in what amounts to a cameo) plants in his son's head the notion that he might have a double. Many people in this movie have double lives, from the obvious example of the actors to Paul himself (the artiste vs. the working stiff, the film subject vs. the filmmaker, and so on). Those lives begin to merge as the film progresses.

But how many times since "8 1/2" have we seen films about a director who can't figure out how to end his movie? By the end of this one, I figured Coppola knew where he wanted to go but had so many ideas on how to get there that he never quite made it.

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