I’ve had some requests to get up reviews for the films found on my 10 Great Rentals When There’s Nothing To Rent, so I’m trying to get around to some of them here and there. This one, a great, quirky little number from several years ago.
CQ (meant to be sounded out – ‘Seek You’) is a morse code ‘term’ like ‘SOS’ (meant to be sounded out – ‘Help!’), which is roughly the equivalent of a person with a CB saying, ‘Anybody got yer ears on?’ Basically, CQ is the first thing you say when transmitting in morse code, in order to see if anyone is on the other end, and, in order to ask the question, ‘Is anyone listening to me?’
Though the movie only makes a cursory connection to its title, in the grander scheme (that of being Roman Coppola making your first movie) it’s a title that gives you a little wink.
CQ is the story of Paul (Jeremy Davies). Paul, living in Paris circa 1969, is a film editor working on the upcoming cheesy, sci-fi, monstrosity Codename: Dragonfly. He is also working on his ‘personal movie’ while at home, and is thus constantly filming his life and himself in perhaps typical ‘trying to explore truth’ fashion.
While behind the lens of his ‘project film’, we are treated to visions of swirling coffee, the doorknob to his apartment, and the prone and naked body of his girlfriend Marlene (Elodie Bouchez), because what, beyond these three things, could be more ‘true’… or something.
Needless to say, the constant filming of life annoys Marlene, and Paul reveals during his ‘confessionals’ (which will unfortunately make a lot of people today think of The Real World) that he feels that he and Marlene are drifting apart. Marlene feels neglected, as all of Paul’s time goes to one movie or the other.
Meanwhile, back at the five-dollar model of a spaceship, things are not going well for Codename: Dragonfly. The director of that film, Andrezej (Gerard Depardieu), can’t come up with an ending for the wild, action flick, and the producer Enzo (Giancarlo Giannini) is becoming impatient. When Andrezej reveals his general plan for an ‘artistic’ ending, Enzo fires him. He turns to screwball, wild-child, hot ‘B’ horror director Felix DeMarco (Jason Schwartzman) to complete the picture. Before long, DeMarco’s general nuttiness catches up with him, and he is unable to continue working on the picture. Paul finally gets the nod, and is given the reins to the movie he has worked on for so long.
He is now faced with the arduous task of trying to put something out that will make everyone happy. Codename: Dragonfly is a goofy, spy adventure with low production values, trips to the moon, plenty of action, and a leggy, gorgeous bombshell playing the lead role (Barbarella….as a spy….on the moon). With that as his basic material, Paul has to: give Enzo the action-splash ending he wants, live up to his promise to Andrezej to leave a certain twist of the ending intact (for the art/meaningfulness effect), and find a way to put a bit of himself into the film as well.
Unlike The Virgin Suicides, this outing by clan Coppola defies you to avoid mentioning Francis Ford. CQ is a movie about the world of moviemaking, and borrows from/pays homage to many film styles, genres, and personalities. It is rather difficult, in a film by Roman Coppola which is about a young man in love with the world of cinema, not to see the influence his father had on him.
CQ borrows lovingly, and I might even say honorably, from a host of sources covering this era of film. Most especially from the French ‘neuvo’ set. There aren’t many spots in the movie where you can go far without being reminded of someone else, or someone else’s movie. Whether it’s Fellini, Truffaut, Roger Corman, or just Dad (well, his Dad), the references to the world of movies never ends. And, even things that aren’t directly from other people of this era, are as they would have been done then. The shag carpeting in the spaceship, and the ‘visions’ Paul has of Dragonfly, for example.
What really makes the movie interesting, and entertaining, is that though it is riddled with homage, and is thus a treat for cinemaphiles, it is also put together in such a way as to include those who aren’t aware of the references. While there is much more here for those who understand the ‘in jokes’, the movie is also something that can be enjoyed by those who don’t.
Jeremy Davies is not exactly loved by the public or the press, but I think he was an excellent choice here. He has a certain unapproachability that renders him hard to ‘get inside’ whatever he does, and that works in this film. That is, it seems, part of the point. The whole movie is about him trying to express, find, and understand himself, and more to the point, his not being very good at it on some level. That the character ‘relays’ himself without us ever really getting in touch with him, seems to serve the purpose of the film.
Angela Lindvall, as Dragonfly/Valentine, is a choice so perfect it is difficult to relate. She has a certain ‘reality’ about her, and is nevertheless the perfection of ‘bombshell’. She is, pretty simply, the woman of your dreams if you were looking for someone to be Dragonfly in your wedge of cheese movie Codename: Dragonfly. That we see a scene of her being ‘discovered’, showing her looking quite natural in less than glamorous circumstances, is a great addition to her character, and a great decision for a writer/director to make.
CQ is expressive, wildly entertaining, and as good a look at a period of cinema as you’re going to get. Roman Coppola may have had a lot of help in making this (and he did), but whether the production design is pure genius because people already famous for such things were on board (and it is), or the soundtrack fits beautifully because there were lots of suggestions about how to use it (and there probably were), the final product is something that stands as being all Roman Coppola’s. Just as the final version of Codename: Dragonfly becomes something that is entirely Paul’s.
There are many things that impress me about Francis Ford Coppola. The new one is that he has returned some dignity to the idea of the entertainment dynasty. Both Roman and Sofia have put out movies that, whatever else they may be, are intelligent, meaningful films.
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