Roman Coppola, son of Francis Ford Coppola, shows potential in “CQ,” his writing/directing debut about a man who wants to be a filmmaker.
Coppola ably and smartly corrals his crew of cinematographers, production designers and music supervisors to create a believably kitschy version of Paris in 1969, as well as a futuristic version of 2001, as seen through the eyes of ’60s filmmakers.
What he doesn’t do, however, is create a compelling film. “CQ” is interesting to look at, and certainly has some entertaining moments and agreeable performances. But it adds up to very little, coming across like someone’s important film that one fails to see the importance of, a term paper where the student forgot to include the thesis.
Ironically, the main character is someone who is in the midst of creating just that sort of film. His name is Paul (Jeremy Davies), and he’s an American lad working in Paris as the editor on a sci-fi spy flick called “Codename: Dragonfly.” That’s his day job, anyway. At night, he works on his own movie, a personal narrative that includes, so far, shots of his coffee mug and lots of monologues addressed to the camera. His French girlfriend, Marlene (Elodie Bouchez), does not understand why his passion for film outmeasures his passion for her.
Meanwhile, the director of “Codename: Dragonfly” (Gerard Depardieu) is fired by the Italian producer (Giancarlo Giannini) because his ending for the movie is more contemplative than whiz-bang. An allegedly brilliant young auteur named Felix de Marco (Jason Schwartzman), whose first name the producer pronounces “phallics,” is called in to finish up but is injured in a car accident. Somehow, Paul himself winds up with the task of completing this film in a way that will be artistically satisfying as well as commercially viable. And at night, he longs for a connection with other human beings. (“CQ” is the Morse code signal for “seek you.”)
Coppola clearly loves the sort of movie that “Codename: Dragonfly” is, one of those goofy, sexy spy romps produced by Italians and filmed in France or England in the ’60s. Angela Lindvall and Billy Zane have attitudes that are appropriately self-serious as the lead actors in the film, and the scenes on the moon — where it snows, inexplicably — are innocently silly.
But love alone does not make a film watchable, no matter how much of it there is. Davies and company are up to the task, but the material is weak. Coppola has a lot of ideas; he just needs to find a more coherent, entertaining way of expressing them. “CQ” is only a start.
C (1 hr., 32 min.; )