Weekend posts are clearly going to be about entertainment.

Today PJ and I saw Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, a dazzlingly beautiful tribute to Versailles, eighteenth-century French fashion (especially shoes), and cake. Kirsten Dunst is quite good in it, as is Jason Swartzmann. I also thought that the modernized soundtrack worked well.

On the downside, the film’s obsession with these visual and aural elements ultimately seem to substitute for any particular point of view. We are given a sympathetic vision of Marie Antoinette but one can’t help but wonder why. Why give us this portrait now? Likewise, the film doesn’t seem as interested in historical events as it does in showing us Marie Antoinette’s good humor, fondness for cake, and loneliness. The less informed audience members (like me) find it difficult to follow the film’s leaps through time. On the one hand, the actors show little sign of aging. On the other hand, the film covers some 20 years in Marie Antoinette’s life.

On the whole, this is an entertaining, if somewhat empty tribute to the style, protocols, and excesses of the Bourbon court. It is a feast for the eyes, but I would have liked it better if it had also aspired to move or educate me.

I had hoped that this film would be good to show in class sometime. I sometimes teach a course on Women and Literature in the summer. This past summer I focused on eighteenth-century women writers: Aphra Behn, Eliza Haywood, Francis Burney, and Jane Austen. I began the class with a viewing of Stage Beauty and ended the course with Pride and Prejudice, which worked well.

It made me think that a course on the eighteenth-century on film might be fun. There are a lot of good movies to choose from for such a class: The Libertine (which I intend to blog about sometime soon), Tom Jones, Dangerous Liaisons, Tristram Shandy (not a great film either, but an interesting one), Amadeus, all of the recent Jane Austen adaptations, etc. I went to Marie Antoinette hoping that it would inspire me to want to teach such a class. Unfortunately, I don’t think it did. It might be useful to show the fashions and snack choices of the French monarchy, but it doesn’t really do enough besides that to justify showing it to students. Oh well.