What could have been a beguiling buff’s delight never gets off the ground in “CQ.” An intended valentine to the heady days of the late ’60s when passion for the cinema reigned supreme, Roman Coppola’s first film has sympathetic aims but is distressingly lacking in flair, style, wit or fun. Without engaging characters or a point of entry for viewer interest, this MGM release is headed nowhere commercially.
By rights, the colorful milieu of Euro filmmaking 30 years ago and the settings of Paris and Rome should have provided an enormous supply of incident and inspiration for a story centered on a youthful American filmmaker attracted by both the commercial cinema and highly personal work as repped by the likes of “David Holzman’s Diary.” But there’s no spark here to light interest in the eventful but affectless career of a taciturn Yank who’s amazingly low on energy, opinions and perhaps talent as well.
Action, such as it is, spins around “Dragonfly,” a troubled “Barbarella”-like sci-fier directed by auteur Andrezej (Gerard Depardieu). Andrezej, who, in the spirit of the times, wants to make his silly, tacky romp a “revolutionary” work, is fired when he can’t produce the exciting climax demanded by Italo producer Enzo (Giancarlo Giannini). After briefly replacing Andrezej with a flamboyantly modish Yank horror film wiz (Jason Schwartzman, done up to look remarkably like the William Friedkin of the period), editor Paul (Jeremy Davies) unaccountably gets the job of finishing the outer space opus.
Usually dressed like an accountant in white shirt and suit, Paul is happy to take up the offer, but remains mostly obsessed with his personal venture, a 16mm black-and-white account of his daily life. Ostensibly dedicated to the “truth,” ongoing project is mainly filled with shots of coffee cups, candid glimpses of Paul’s girlfriend Marlene (Elodie Bouchez) in various states of undress and emotional discontent, and Paul himself sitting on the toilet delivering mopey and boring monologues.
As drear as this stuff is, it should be a relief to get back to the vicissitudes of “Dragonfly,” but they become yawn-inducing as well, as Paul unsurprisingly starts falling for the rangy leading lady (American model Angela Lindvall), takes his time coming up with story solutions and even has to chase down Andrezej when he returns to steal some of the footage.
There’s enough here to suggest that a nifty film could easily have emerged from such a premise, but it clearly it would have taken someone with either a wealth of personal experience or a vibrant imagination to draw upon to give it the proper antic spin. Biggest problem among many is the conception of the leading character, who is so blah one wonders why attractive women or a powerful film producer would even consider having anything to do with him. Good on previous occasions, Davies seems to sleepwalk through the performance.
In the end, all the film has going for it is its cinema-awareness. Clearly enamored of the period and inspired by such pix as “Danger: Diabolik,” “The 10th Victim” and “Modesty Blaise,” Coppola and production designer Dean Tavoularis create immaculate but strangely unfunny reproductions of plastic futuristic-style sets and B-level space backdrops. For what it’s worth, the “Diary” material is stylistically right-on as well, with “Holzman” writer-star L.M. Kit Carson putting in a supportive cameo appearance. Coppola’s sister Sofia is also seen fleetingly as Enzo’s mistress.
Obscure title refers to the Morse code signal for “seek you,” as in attempting to establish contact.