I haven't seen Sofia Coppola's spun-candy take on the life of Marie Antoinette yet, but I've got to laugh at the way Columbia Pictures has decided to market the film. At the end of the latest promotional trailer, in which the teen queen (played by Kirsten Dunst) is seen flitting about lavishily appointed rooms of Versailles as Gang of Four's "Natural's Not in It" blasts on the soundtrack, then traveling in he royal coach through the misty, early morning countryside to the melancholy strains of New Order's "Ceremony," these words appear: "Based on a True Story." I'm not exactly sure what to make of this. I know Coppola has been taken to task for her apparent political indifference and the historical inaccuracy of a film that purports to tell the story of an important real-life figure whose death marked one the most momentous occaisions in the history of Western Europe - the French Revolution. Since getting booed at Cannes - those French tend to take their own history very seriously - Coppola has maintained that she never intended to make a politically minded, factually responsible docudrama, but rather a period piece that would portray Marie Antoinette as a flesh-and-blood young woman in terms a modern audience might better understand. To do that, she needed to take certain liberties, like fudging the facts, using unaccented, vernacular dialogue and an '80s pop soundtrack. OK, I get it. Derek Jarman ( Caravaggio) and Ken Russell ( Mahler) did this sort of thing years ago, and whether I agree with Coppola's approach will have to wait until I actually see the film and read a book or two about the ill-fated queen. My question is this: Is Columbia Pictures trying to deflect further criticism by positioning the film as a fictional drama that's only loosely based on real-life events with what amounts to a disclaimer? Or are they afraid that a big part of the target audience may not know that Marie Antoinette was a real person? Or maybe it's something else entirely. I noticed the same strategy used in the ad campaign for a very different kind of movie, Steve Zaillian's recent adapation of Robert Penn Warren's novel All the King's Men. Instead of selling the film as a movie based on a famous, Pulitzer-winning book, the trailer took advantage of the fact that Warren originally based his 1946 masterpiece on the rise and fall of Louisiana Governor Huey Long and went for the old "Based on a True Story" angle instead of mentioning anything about Warren or his Pulitzer. Do we no longer care about French history or great literature? Could it be that that same mania that sells E! True Hollywood Stories, reality-TV shows and ficitonal "memoirs" like A Million Little Pieces is now being used to boost movies like Marie Antoinette and All the King's Men?
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