CQ (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Another director in the family. This movie was directed by Francis Ford's son, Roman Coppola. (Family ties produce some mighty weird credits on his resumé. He is listed as the associate producer on Rumblefish - when he was 17. What did his duties consist of, besides not staying up past his bedtime?)


Elodie Bouchez is photographed lying in bed stark naked, full frontal.

The premise of CQ:

The year is 1969, and a French auteur is making an exploitation sci-fi film which combines New Left radicalism with New Freedom sexiness, tapping into all the faucets of the zeitgeist, like a hybrid between Blow-Up and Barbarella. (Barbarella's beautiful 6'4" angel, John Philip Law, also appears in CQ, with an extra 33 years worth of lines in his face.) Unfortunately, the putative French action film-within-a-film has no action. It doesn't have an ending either, so the producers fire the pretentious French director (Gerard Depardieu), who says he only wanted to "subvert the audience's expectations" about a nudie sci-fi action film. Eventually, lacking any alternatives, the producers give control of the picture to the inexperienced young Anerican editor (Jeremy Davies), who has no idea how to make a movie or even how to end the one he's handed. His concept of moviemaking is to film snippets of his own life in B&W with a hand-held camera - "personal filmmaking".

The scenes from the deliberately bad film-within-a-film can be very entertaining. Unfortunately, the bad sci-fi scenes always seemed to outstay their welcome. It was clearly a case where less would have been more. We see excerpts in which an evil Guevara-like revolutionary (Billy Zane - the only really funny thing in the movie) is using his base on the dark side of the moon to train men to overthrow world capitalism. The world corporations call upon the double top secret sexy agent Dragonfly to use her own unique methods to infiltrate the camp and defeat the anti-profitarians. Of course, it eventually turns out that Dragonfly has been deceived by the corporations, and that the revolutionaries are groovy and right on, brother.

Movie critic James Berardinelli summed up his case on CQ as follows: "Pretentious and self-indulgent - those two words come to mind when considering CQ, the feature debut of director Roman Coppola. For precisely that reason, a certain percentage of viewers are going to love this film. Personally, I found it to be a mess - a jumble of half-formed thoughts and ideas that amount to very little. The movie has highlights, but it is never consistently engrossing. I could have walked out on CQ at any time and not given a second thought to what happened to the characters - a sure sign that a narrative film is not accomplishing what it is expected to do."

Most critics disagreed, perhaps swayed more by some of the fine "highlights" and less concerned with a need for a cohesive whole.

I liked it much more than Mr. Berardinelli seemed to, but I agreed with his point, in the sense that I felt the film had some great moments, but was thrown off by bad pacing, artistic pretensions, and some weak characterizations. (I am again exempting Billy Zane, who did exactly what the filmmaker hoped to accomplish with that character. If only the other actors "got it" as well as Zane). I guess I was sort of satisfied with the moments of pleasure the film gave me, while James Berardinelli focused in more on what they should have done and failed to do with the rich premise.

DVD info from Amazon.

it is a two-sided DVD. One side is nothing but features.

  • you can watch the widescreen anamorphic (1.85) or full-screen format

  • five personal documentaries on the making of the film

  • stills galleries

  • featurettes

  • the film-within-a-film - two versions

The irony of the film is that the producers of this movie should have done exactly what the producers did with the faux movie in the story. They should have told the director that a heartfelt narrative film should be heartfelt with a coherent narrative, and should also have characters the audience can relate to.

The concept was good, and there were times when it seemed to reach its potential, but the overall execution was lifeless and often self-indulgent, as if there were no need to entertain a prospective audience, and no need to worry about commercial success. Desson Howe of the Washington Post had an excellent point: "It's the kind of movie every kid in film school wanted to make but didn't have the father to produce."

The DVD is filled with extra features, one entire side of the DVD is nothing but bonus material, and the disc includes two versions of the film (widescreen and full-screen). See the notes to the left.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two stars. filmcritic.com 3/5, Berardinelli 2/4


The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars: it was a commercial non-entity. Domestic gross was $400,000.


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C. It seems to have a truly devoted audience of critics (68% positive reviews) and IMDb reviewers who like it, but it wasn't even close to having mainstream appeal. I thought it was capable in many ways, but never involving. I did think Billy Zane was hilarious.

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