Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Wishing Cats Could Talk: CQ (2001)

I love this film. Roman Coppola’s groovy ode to love, identity, fantasy, and most importantly, the delirious joys of Italian B-pictures from the 1960s, pretty much flew under the radar when it was released in 2002. Too bad, since it was one of the best, most thoroughly enjoyable films to come out that year. It’s now out on DVD, so perhaps it’ll find a more appreciative audience. Jeremy Davies (who has quickly become one of my favorite actors) plays Paul, a young film editor living in Paris in 1969. Although he’s working on a science-fiction film called Codename Dragonfly, a wild mix of Barbarella and Mario Bava’s Danger: Diabolik, Paul’s real passion is in completing his own black & white film that is basically a cinematic diary of his own life (an homage to Jim McBride’s classic David Holzman’s Diary starring L. M. Kit Carson, who also has a cameo in CQ). Unfortunately, it’s working on the science-fiction film that is going to help him pay the rent and hopefully make a name for himself, especially when the film’s quasi-Marxist director, played by Gerard Depardieu, is subsequently fired for not giving his film the proper action-oriented ending. When Dragonfly’s new director, played to perfection by Jason Schwartzman, is injured in a car accident and decides to take some time off, Paul is given the chance to complete the film. But is it worth it?

CQ is a wonderful surprise for lovers of late-60s European exploitation films. But even if you’re not well acquainted with directors such as Bava and Jess Franco, the film still works on many other levels. Coppola’s persistent questioning of what is real (whether through visual terms or verbal) is never heavy-handed or clumsy, and his low-key directing style perfectly complements the film’s re-imagining of the era. The gorgeous Angela Lindvall, in the duel roles of Dragonfly and Valentine the actress, is great as the object of Paul’s wistful attraction, as is Giancarlo Giannini as Dragonfly’s tyrannical producer. John Phillip Law, the star of Bava’s Danger: Diabolik, also makes an amusing cameo in Dragonfly. The spacey, Euro-hip soundtrack by Mellow is also superb and is worth picking up as well. It’ll be interesting to see what Coppola will focus on next. Let’s hope he doesn’t make us wait long.

CQ is available on DVD from MGM Home Entertainment.