CQ Review

Directed by Roman Coppola, CQ was released in 2001 and stars Jeremy Davies, as Paul, and Angela Lindvall, as Dragonfly/Valentine. Unfortunately the film is currently only available on DVD in America and although this is a shame, the US DVD is a fantastic package. With a Criterion like release the DVD includes a commentary, featurettes, trailers and lots of other worthwhile extras.

CQ is a film made up of three parts.The main feature is set in 1969 and surrounds Paul (Jeremy Davies), an aspiring film-maker who ends up directing a sci-fi/spy thriller called Dragonfly. Paul lives in Paris with his girlfriend Marlene (Élodie Bouchez) and in his spare time makes a documentary about his life, which he ultimately titles 69/70. The two films within the film are 69/70 and Dragonfly.

Dragonfly is the story of Agent Codename Dragonfly, played by Valentine who is played by Angela Lindvall. Codename Dragonfly is a super spy hired by various governments to steal a weapon from Mr. E (Billy Zane), the Che-esque leader of a group of revolutionaries based on the moon. The film is set in 2001 (the year of CQ’s release) and is being made in 1969. Dragonfly is heavily influenced by a particular kind of 60s genre cinema, crucially Barbarella and Danger: Diabolik.The influence of Danger: Diabolik in particular is huge, with visual homages, the opening shower scene for instance, the soundtrack, which is reminiscent of Morricone’s score for Diabolik and the casting of John Phillip Law. The Dragonfly sequences look beautiful, in particular the external moon shots, and were all shot on lenses from the period and using only optical special effects and matte backgrounds. The results are an authentic feeling film and not simply a pastiche. The acting is also spot on, with Angela Lindvall clearly relishing the role of Codename Dragonfly and Billy Zane brilliantly replicating the acting style that the film homages. The soundtrack by Mellow also fits the film well, with  a particularly catchy theme tune to Dragonfly.

The extras on the MGM DVD include the unfinished version of Dragonfly by the first director to work on the film, Andrezej, played by Gerard Depardieu, and the completed (albeit short) version directed by Paul.

The other film within the film is 69/70 and this is the complete antithesis of Dragonfly. 69/70 is also shot on equipment authentic to the time but this film is entirely shot in black and white and a documentary that focuses on his personal life, his disintegrating relationship with Marlene, and his many neuroses. Also influenced by 60s cinema this film references Jim McBride’s David Holzman’s Diary. In 69/70 Paul is struggling for authenticity and not entertainment, a crisis that bleeds into the making of Dragonfly, a film that is all about entertainment.

CQ focuses on the two films and also the growing relationship between Paul and the captivating Valentine/Dragonfly. A first time actress, and also a successful model, Lindvall does a very good job in the dual roles of Dragonfly and Valentine. For a debut role by an untrained actress this is quite surprising as she very successfully portrays two completely different characters. On one hand she is Dragonfly, the sexy karate-chopping super-spy, and on the other she is Valentine, a sweet down to earth girl caught up in a whirlwind film production. It is interesting to see Paul slowly fall for both of these women, the fictional and the real. Also wonderful in CQ is Jason Schwartzmann who almost steals every scene he is in, as the flamboyant director Felix DeMarco. Especially enjoyable is a scene on the set of his latest film which includes a vampire dance sequence choreographed by Schwartzmann himself. The film is also littered with cameos and small parts played by big actors, including Dean Stockwell as Paul’s dad and even a cameo by Roman Coppola’s sister Sofia.

The film is at the core about connections between people and how we all reach out to people. This applies to cinema as well as Paul, like Roman, is trying to reach out to his audience and make a connection with them. The title derives from the radio call signal which is a short for ‘seek you’. This phrase appears on the controls in Dragonfly’s spaceship. These controls mirror the editing table that Paul uses, with similar controls and screen. There is a constant overlap between the fictional worlds and the real as the film explores how people connect with each other and also the fictional world of film.

CQ is an incredibly enjoyable film which always puts a smile on face and will hopefully not get forgotten just because of its dreadful distribution. The many references to 60s cinema and nods to the Coppola film heritage are really great for film fans but they not essential to enjoying CQ, the story and the characters stand up on their own and CQ is such a fun film from beginning to end.