The Curator of Schlock #383 by Jeff Shuster


Roman Coppola’s love letter to cinema.

“Unhand me,” I said as two hooligans grabbed my arms and forced me to my knees. “I’m the curator of this museum.”

The punk with the mohawk leaped down off the severed concrete head of Charles Bronson, the centerpiece of the once grand Museum of Schlock. He swayed over to me like this was his domain as his goons murmured under their breath. He raised a dirty index finger to his lips, sushing me. The punk then smiled with a silver grill and said, “I’m the curator.”

This week’s movie is 2001’s CQ from director Roman Coppola. This is one of those movies within a movie within a movie movies. We start with a young, aspiring filmmaker named Paul Ballard (Jeremy Davies) living in Paris in 1969. He’s making a documentary about his daily life. The movie is shot in black and white and resembles David Holzman’s Diary, a staple for anyone who took a history of documentary film class in college. Paul lives with his French girlfriend, Marlene (Elodie Bouchez), and his constant obsession over his daily life documentary annoys her to no end.

Paul also has a day job editing a futuristic spy movie named Codename: Dragonfly, a kind of Barbarella-meets-Modesty Blaise vehicle. The movie stars the stunningly beautiful Valentine (Angela Lindvall) as Dragonfly. Gérard Depardieu plays Andrezej, the director of Code Name: Dragonfly who spotted Valentine at a political rally and became obsessed with making the movie about revolution. Andrezej talks about subverting audience expectations and how this movie’s ending is really a beginning.

Andrezej’s creative excesses infuriate producer Enzo (Giancarlo Giannini), a caricature of Dino De Laurentiis. Enzo screams that Andrezej has made an action picture with no action and no ending. He fires Andrezej on the spot. This is not well received as Andrezej calls Enzo a fascist and tries to break the door down to get back into the screening room. Enzo shuts down the production down and fires the staff only to restart the picture and rehire some of the staff including Paul as editor.

Enzo’s new replacement director is Felix DeMarco (Jason Schwartzman), an American director of gothic horror movies, currently directing a vampire picture which I think is titled Blood from Satan’s Tomb. He’s all on board with the project and Enzo wants him to fix the ending. Felix employs Paul to make a trailer for Code Name: Dragonfly and Valentine stops by the studio for an ADR session. Paul becomes infatuated with Valentine after meeting her in person for the first time.

Paul’s continued work on his documentary along with his new responsibilities on Code Name: Dragonfly puts a strain on his relationship with Marlene. This pressure increases after Felix bows out of the project and Enzo selects Paul as the new director. Paul needs to come up with that new ending and I think he’s torn between a crowd pleaser or something more faithful to Andrezej’s original vision. CQ is a love letter to the European escapist cinema of the late 1960s. It’s a shame Roman Coppola hasn’t directed more feature films. This one is a gem.

Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131episode 284episode 441episode 442episode 443, episode 444episode 450, episode 477, episode 491, episode 492, episode 493, episode 495, and episode 496) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.