Roman Coppola borrowed the keys to daddy’s film company to make this inconsequential but high-spirited paean to late 1960s European genre filmmaking, particularly Roger Vadim’s Barbarella and Mario Bava’s Danger: Diabolik, which it apes lovingly. (Supporting player John Phillip Law was in both of ’em.) Jeremy Davies plays Paul Ballard, an American filmmaker living in Paris. He’s working by day as film editor on a lushly dopey SF flick called Codename: Dragonfly; at night, he’s shooting candid footage of himself, his dingy flat, and his French girlfriend (Élodie Bouchez) for his “personal film.”
Ballard is more a character type than a character; he acts stupid and alienates his girl partly because he’s fully invested in his own pretentious exercises rather than in their relationship, but also because he’s fascinated by the incredibly sexy Valentine (Angela Lindvall), Dragonfly’s frequently naked starlet. Meanwhile, directors get hired and fired and Ballard winds up shouldering responsibility for making the movie work. Given Coppola’s fetishistic recreation of the tropes of old European films, it seems obvious that he’s arguing for the enduring values of the hucksterish but dreamlike Dragonfly over those of Ballard’s ersatz-Godard art flick — which just makes this protagonist even more empty and uninvolving. Who cares if this guy ever finishes his “personal” film, or breaks up with this French chick who’s too good for him anyway?
The good news is that there’s something to admire on screen for the duration—the cinematography by Robert Yeoman is preternaturally crisp, and folks like Gerard Depardieu, Giancarlo Giannini and Jason Schwartzman are the bit players, for Christ’s sake. Also good fun is Coppola’s inside-Hollywood take on filmmaking, with pissed-off auteurs, slick Italian moneymen, and an enfant terrible (Schwartzman) who treads in Austin Powers territory butting heads. A scene showing Ballard falling quietly for Valentine when she shows up to loop some sweet nothings is pretty terrific. But beside the evident love of movies, there are no emotional hooks here. I like Bava as much as the next Web-based movie reviewer, but when you boil it down, CQ is essentially a lesser Euro-trash variation on Ed Wood.