CQ July 19, 2016
2001’s CQ is two movies for the price of one, but only one of them is actually worth the ticket. It’s split between two camps, one an homage to 1960s mod movies, the other faithful to certifiable quarter life crisis theatrics. Since I’m sure that I, along with most casual viewers, prefer movies with a tongue in their cheek over projects that take themselves much too seriously, CQ is better when it’s on the side of swinging réclame. When it’s not, it’s a bore.
Set in 1969, it is mostly dedicated to detailing the fictional production of Codename: Dragonfly, a low-budget science fiction adventure caper with much in common with Barbarella and Danger: Diabolik. Everything about it looks beautiful: its leading lady, American newcomer Valentine (Angela Lindvall), is a honey and an ace at mastering the characterizational tone of her debut, and the set design is ‘60s chic with a touch of winning gaudiness.
But ignore its handsomeness and you’ll observe that most of the set is plagued by trouble. In a short period of time, the film loses grasp of two separate directors (Gérard Depardieu, Jason Schwartzman). Production is taking slightly longer than expected. The script isn’t even finished — those involved are still deciding what the best climactic payoff would be for a film so kooky.
So when rising filmmaker Paul (Jeremy Davies), who’s participated in the editing process throughout filming, is thrust into the director’s chair just as everything appears to be headed in a direction of doom, his potential for success is just as decent as the potential for his current relationship to make way for destruction. Since he’s falling in love with his heroine and because he’s so involved with finding the perfection within this bad little movie, a new chapter might be unfolding in his life, though it might be one that begins with a notable sense of loss.
I’ve perhaps made CQ sound more serious than it is — really, it is much more proud of its sending up of the aforementioned Barbarella and Danger: Diabolik, using an apparently substantial plot as a way to give its flourishes of self-pleasingness some sort of weight. But because its ways of tribute are distinctly more dulcet than its central plotline (which is too weirdly angsty for my taste), we come to resent CQ when it attempts to mean something. This is a movie that’s meant to work as an exercise in chintzy nostalgia, not observational, real-life woes. Its moments of commendation are fantastic — Lindvall is a hoot — so it’s a shame about the faux deep domestic struggles Paul faces. We’d rather not think about everyday mundanities when a sizzling superspy lusts after adventure right in front of us.
Written and directed by Roman Coppola, the brother of Sofia and the son of Francis, CQ obviously has a swagger that can only be associated with the celluloid savvy family. It’s a forgettable bender, sure, but I’m more than willing to spend eighty-seven minutes in the presence of laudable style. Good thing I happen to love Danger: Diabolik and love to hate Barbarella. B-