Cannes mob jeers Coppola's vision of Marie Antoinette

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The Independent Culture

With a soundtrack by Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Aphex Twins, Sofia Coppola had hoped to bring the tale of Marie Antoinette up to date in her latest film. But the movie, starring Kirsten Dunst as the infamous French queen, was roundly booed at its debut screening at the Cannes Film Festival yesterday.

Coppola admitted she was "disappointed" by the poor reception for her first film since the Oscar-winning Lost In Translation. The daughter of The Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola launched her directorial career with The Virgin Suicides, also starring Dunst.

Her latest outing, based on Antonia Fraser's biography of Marie Antoinette, also stars Marianne Faithfull as the Austrian-born monarch's mother, Empress Marie Theresa, and Steve Coogan as the Ambassadeur Mercy.

As well as a modern soundtrack, the film includes anachronistic touches - characters drink champagne, which historians insist was not popular in France at the time, and smoke pipes like joints.

It ends four years before Antoinette met her end on the guillotine in 1793.

Coppola, who wrote as well as directed the £21m film, said: "I don't know about the boos. It's news to me." But she added: "Well that's disappointing to hear."

Comparisons have been drawn with Coppola's rendition of Antoinette's story and the life of Princess Diana, who also married and died at an early age.

The film also captures the legendary extravagance of the queen, who is reputed to have commented of peasants starved of bread, "Let them eat cake." Coppola said: "There were so many myths about her so I thought she was an interesting subject for a film. "To me, before I worked on the story, she was a symbol of decadence and frivolity, but it was very interesting to learn more about the experience of this young girl who went to Versailles when she was 14 and how she developed in the court of Versailles."

Marie Antoinette was married at the age of 18 to Louis XVI, played in the movie by Jason Schwartzman, but the marriage was not consummated for another three years. Coogan defended Coppola's decision to modernise the story instead of producing a period piece.

He said: "It was clear from talking to Sofia... she just didn't want it to be some sort of historical document.

"It was about making it have some contemporary resonance. As an actor, you often see in period dramas people fall into a certain style of acting, inherited from previous period dramas.

"It's important to break out from that and concentrate on the truth of the characters..."

Dunst also spoke out in support of Coppola. "Sofia is the only one telling stories about intimate women, what they go through in their personal lives.

"There are plenty of 'mopey-man' movies, but there's no things about girls being introspective, their struggles in the world, their relationships."

It is the second film to be greeted with a negative reception at Cannes, following The Da Vinci Code, which opened the festival.

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