A kind way of describing CQ would be to say that it’s a creative spin on the anguished artist’s lament, specifically that of the anguished wannabe filmmaker. An unkind – but perhaps more accurate – description would be that it’s a junior version of Contempt.
The writing-directing debut of Roman Coppola – a junior to that Coppola – CQ has clearly been inspired by Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 movie about the sort of artistic compromise that comes with making a movie. Set in 1969 Paris, CQ stars Jeremy Davies as Paul, an American film editor named who has been laboring on a schlocky sci-fi picture involving a seductive, interstellar spy (Angela Lindvall, lounging on her space bed in a very Bardot manner). In his apartment, where he largely ignores his French girlfriend (Elodie Bouchez), Paul is also working on a more personal project that means to find “what’s real, what’s honest.” Mostly it involves Paul whining to the camera.
CQ at least acknowledges the particularly arty brand of narcissism going on here. The girlfriend, Marlene – by far my favorite character – tells him “just because you film every possible thing in your life doesn’t mean you’ll understand yourself any better.” Nevertheless, the movie continues to indulge, becoming yet another tale of a filmmaker who finds himself via the making of a film (all of which takes place within an actual movie).
Thankfully, Coppola also gives CQ a sense of style and humor that makes the navel-gazing bearable. The costume and production design are both impeccable, while Lindvall – as sexy superspy Dragonfly – and Billy Zane as her lover/nemesis bring real wit to their dual roles. In fact, I would much rather watch Dragonfly, the movie, than Paul’s personal project. (Never mind that in the insecure world of CQ, Paul’s movie wins all the acclaim.)