CQ is the third and final film in this Cult Classics Retrospective we’re doing. We’ve already looked at Barbarella and Danger: Diabolik. CQ is a 2001 film Roman Coppola made that is an obvious homage to at least those two films, and probably others from 1968-1969. This one is slightly different from the other two. The viewer is required to think quite a bit more this time. We’re not just watching a super-spy complete their mission. We’re also watching the people making the film of the super-spy try to complete their project. Confused? Believe me, it’s a lot more confusing when you’re actually watching it.
The story follows Paul, played by Jeremy Davies, a young film editor on a sci-fi, spy film being filmed in Paris in 1969. The film is called Codename: Dragonfly, and it tells of the super-spy Dragonfly, who lives in a space ship on top of the Eifel Tower, and undertakes missions for the World Council. Both Dragonfly and the actress who plays her, Valentine, are actually played by Angela Lindvall. After a series of accidents and problems, Paul is promoted to be the director. He’s already having issues with his live-in girlfriend Marlene (Élodie Bouchez), but once he’s on set he starts to fall in love with Dragonfly. Not the actress Valentine, the character in the film. He begins to hallucinate that they are meeting places and she’s giving him advice on how to finish the movie. From there on out, we watch Paul try to finish the movie and figure out what is real.
The supporting actors in CQ are probably it’s biggest strength. Jeremy Davies and Angela Lindvall are pretty good. But the people backing them up are great. I’ve already mentioned Élodie Bouchez, who plays Paul’s girlfriend Marlene. She is amazing. Her character was constantly annoying me, but she broke my heart. That’s hard to do. In addition to her, we have people like Gérard Depardieu as the original director, thrown off the movie for not being able to come up with an ending. Jason Schwartzman is his original replacement, a typical 1960’s arrogant and bizarre film director. Billy Zane plays the rebel leader in Codename: Dragonfly, a rebel more concerned with helping the world make love than anything else. Enzo, the power mad producer, is played by Giancarlo Giannini. He is basically a photocopy of Dino de Laurentiis, the producer of Barbarella and Danger: Diabolik. We also get John Phillip Law, who was Diabolik and Pygar the angel, as the leader of the World Council. These people are all fantastic. They’re funny and believable. Schwartzman and Zane are both only in the film for a couple scenes, but they stand out. That’s how everyone in this film is.
The story itself is something else entirely. It’s really interesting, but parts of it are very hard to follow. I kept losing track of whether I was watching Paul direct the film, or if I was watching Paul hallucinate. Maybe that’s point, making the viewer as confused as Paul is. But I think I would have liked it more if I could have followed the plot a little easier. As it is, when it got to the end and we were supposed to see where all of this had ended up taking Paul in his life, what he learned through all of this, I was just confused how he got there.
I don’t want this to sound like I didn’t like the movie. I did like it. I liked it a lot. I was just confused by some of it. As a homage to the other movies we’ve looked at in this series, it was a total success. There are scenes that are taken directly from the other movies. We see Dragonfly rolling around on her bed only covered up by money, in an almost exact copy of a scene from Danger: Diabolik. Dragonfly’s multiple costume changes, each one covering less of her body than the one before, recalls Barbarella. Not only do we see this in the Codename: Dragonfly part of the film, but the making of the movie within the movie recalls everything I’ve heard of the other two’s productions.
I’ll end by simply saying this: If you liked Barbarella and Danger: Diabolik you will probably like CQ. You’ll at least find it interesting. But I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I imagine you will too.