Friday, January 05, 2007

"Our Leaders. Ourselves"

Two of the past year's most talked about films, Stephen Frears The Queen and Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, kick off in virtually the same way: A direct acknowledgement of the movie going audience from her royal majesty. In the first film after a brief Princess Diana news clip we watch as Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren) sits still for a portrait. In close up, she turns her head to smile at the audience as the title card arrives: The Queen. The second film offers us a luxuriously decadent long shot of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France reclined in splendor, a towering cake behind her. She turns lazily to the camera with a self-possessed smile. In both cases one immediately wants to know what this royal will reveal about her character as the film progresses.

It goes without saying that these films diverged considerably from there. Despite their shared ‘meet the royals’ opening and their preoccupation with queens in their bubbles, they diverge considerably in style, tone, dramatic purposes and effect. But it struck me as I watched them both again recently that the Shakespeare quote used in The Queen “heavy is the head that wears the crown” could be placed at the start of a number of the year’s films and make a peculiar sense.



READ THE REST... for more on 2006's dangerous authorities and the vacuum of good leadership suggested by three of the year's scariest films.


previously in the 'Year in Review'

The Overrated from Dreamgirls to Clint Eastwood * Best Trailers, Posters marketing efforts * Cinematic Shame -obnoxious actors and terrible films * Stocking Stuffers cool items from the movies * This Blog is so self indulgent!


Tags: movies, cinema, royalty, apathy, 2006, authority figure, United 93, An Inconvenient Truth, leadership queen, film, Helen Mirren, Kirsten Dunst,world leaders

8 comments:

Jess said...

very thoughtful write-up

Kris said...

I had to read that twice.

"Marie Antoinette" - one of the year's most talked about films?

NATHANIEL R said...

i didn't say "talked nicely about"

Anonymous said...

Nice angle on the year, Nathaniel. It's always good to put the film year in some kind of perspective, and I hadn't thought of this at all, but it makes sense. It's interesting that last year's theme was "political films" and this year's could be "leaders." Definitely a comment on our times.

But my favorite of your "year in review"s was in 2002, where everything was a mirror images. A little bit spooky, especially since 2002 itself was a palindrome.

p.s. have you seen that website that cites all kinds of numerological evidence that George W. Bush is the antichrist??? It's kind of amazing.

adam k. said...

Oops, that anonymous was me. Don't know how that happened. Weird.

amir_uk said...

Yep, definitely a perceptive article, Nathaniel - I like it. The leader 'resonance vs. critique' idea is very true.

Love the way you contrast the prologues to Marie Antoinette and The Queen - two truly excellent films, I feel, in a year very short of them. Can't believe I hadn't spotted that myself!

Kamikaze Camel said...

Nice read.

Stephen G said...

Nice piece. I'd noticed earlier the similar themes of Prada and Scotland (naive young person starting out in career seduced by flattering attention and authority of a rich/powerful mentor). Great to see you cast a wider perspective on this.