LONDON - Famous London booksellers Hatchard’s have created an intimate art bookshop at Sotheby’s in New Bond Street – and, of course, we will always share anything from their mother ship store on nearby Piccadilly that will appeal to the discerning devourer of books on art.

Next Tuesday 8th December from 6pm, famed shoe designer Manolo Blahník will be at Hatchard’s at 187 Piccadilly to sign copies of his new book Fleeting Gestures and Obsessions [Rizzoli] – and Sotheby’s have been given an exclusive opportunity to excerpt from the book a dialogue between Blahnik and film director Sophia Coppola about their shared love of Marie Antoinette – and the film about her they collaborated on nearly ten years ago.

Signed copies of Fleeting Gestures and Obsessions will be available from Hatchard’s at Sotheby’s.

Manolo Blahník: You may not know this, but I have been obsessed with Marie Antoinette ever since I was a child. My mother, also a fan, used to read Stefan Zweig’s biography to me and my sister at bedtime, over and over again, though she always stopped with the storming of the Bastille. What attracted you to the story? Was it Lady Antonia Fraser’s book?

Sofia Coppola: Oh, I always loved the idea of her and that period and the decadence and isolation from reality… and I loved Antonia’s book because she looked at her story from her point of view and was sympathetic in understanding what it must have been like for her. I think it’s easy to make her stupid, or a villain, and I liked taking her side. I was living in Los Angeles when I was working on the script and saw a lot of women, bored trophy wives, buying shoes to cheer themselves up. And I could imagine what it must have been like for her.


Manolo Blahník: I adore how you made it modern and relevant to today. It was very clever of you not to make another costume drama.

Sofia Coppola: Oh, thank you. I was really trying to do the opposite of Masterpiece Theatre, and not worry about being perfectly accurate, but more to capture the feeling of what it was like and make the audience feel like they are with them, not looking back at some other time. I wanted the dresses to feel new and lavish, not off a dusty shelf in a museum. And I thought that if she was alive, she would ask you to make her shoes.

Manolo Blahník: Thank you. I’m flattered! And how wonderful that you had access to Versailles, and to be able to shoot where events actually happened.

Sofia Coppola: Yes, it was a privilege to be able to shoot there, and it made it all so much better for us, even on an emotional level.

Manolo Blahník: Your film was actually a kind of culmination of my love for Marie Antoinette. I had pictured it in my head ever since I was young, and there it was on-screen, captured so beautifully, with so much attention to the tiniest detail. Every frame is picture-perfect. How important was it for you to tell the story aesthetically?

Sofia Coppola: Oh, I loved getting into the beauty of her world, which seems to make up so much of their day-to-day life —the rituals and decorating themselves and their spaces. I loved that they changed the curtains with the seasons.


Manolo Blahník: Your casting was genial! Marianne Faithfull as Maria Theresa of Austria; Judy Davis, marvelous as the Comtesse de Noailles; Rip Torn as Louis XV; your cousin Jason Schwartzman; and all those wonderful girls – Natasha Fraser Cavassoni, Victoire de Castellane, Camille Miceli in small cameos.

Sofia Coppola: Thanks, that was really fun to see them in that world and imagine them as real people. I love casting and worked with Fred Roos on this. I loved Judy Davis from Woody Allen’s film Husbands and Wives. I was happy to have Marianne! It was fun to do it in a little bit of a pop way, but I always tried to make them real.

Manolo Blahník: I was beyond excited when I received the call from Milena Canonero – whom I consider to be one of the most important costume designers in film history – asking me to make the shoes for the film. Tell me about working with her.

Sofia Coppola: She’s incredible. I have so much admiration for her and how she works; her attention to detail is so impressive. She cares about a hem that’s miles away and really is involved in every detail and the hair and makeup.

Manolo Blahník: During one of the conversations I had with her, she said to me, “Don’t be academic. Think of Marie Antoinette as a modern woman.”

Sofia Coppola: Oh, that’s great. Milena’s so cool; she really got what I wanted to do and helped create her world. And even though her work is exquisite, she’s not precious about it. I always loved Marisa Berenson in that fur hood in Barry Lyndon that Milena did.


Manolo Blahník: I adore Marisa in Barry Lyndon. In fact, I adore everything about that film. It’s so chic! Did you watch any other Marie Antoinettes in your research? I’m mad for Norma Shearer in W. S. Van Dyke’s 1938 version. It’s unbelievably outrageous, with those costumes by Adrian, Tyrone Power as Fersen, and the most wonderful chandeliers, which I later saw at Debbie Reynolds’s museum in Las Vegas. And Michèle Morgan in Jean Delannoy’s film [1955]. Kirsten Dunst was perfect casting, though; she was exquisite.

Sofia Coppola: Oh, yes, I love the Hollywood version! I wanted to make something as over the top, but that felt real, and show her as a young girl.

Manolo Blahník: I always find the scene when the young Antoinette is handed over to the French on the island near Kehl incredibly poignant. The poor girl, stripped of everything Austrian, to be replaced by French clothing, and to suddenly find herself having to adhere to the rigors of court etiquette. You captured that so beautifully.

Sofia Coppola: Oh, thanks. I couldn’t believe they really did that – took her dog and her underwear. I loved what Antonia wrote about those important details; they said so much to me about her situation.