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Marie-Antoinette in Film

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Marie-Antoinette in Film

Post  May on Thu Nov 10, 2011 10:17 pm

A review of Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, by Elena Maria Vidal. She did not care for the film...Neither do I.

http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2007/05/review-of-marie-antoinette-2006.html
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Re: Marie-Antoinette in Film

Post  Mata Hari on Sun Nov 13, 2011 9:04 pm

Thanks for posting! This is a great idea for a thread! Very Happy

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Re: Marie-Antoinette in Film

Post  Mata Hari on Sun Nov 13, 2011 9:08 pm

Here is Elena's review:

I saw Sofia Coppola's Marie-Antoinette two months ago, accompanied by a friend and some good wine and cheese. It was the only way to make it through a film which was nearly unwatchable for me. My friend, who lived in France for ten years, shared my opinion that it had no plot and no screenplay. I was ready to be annoyed by the historical inaccuracies (which were legion) but on the whole was expecting an edgy, irreverent, slightly burlesque version of Marie-Antoinette's life. However, the Coppola film was not clever enough to generate any reaction but laughter at the depths of banality into which it hastily plunged.

Let me interrupt myself to say to those who did enjoy the movie that I understand why you liked it. In spite of the sometimes bizarre cinematography, Versailles, the gardens, the Petit Trianon were captured in all their splendor. The star of the film was really the Sun King, Louis XIV, the one responsible for such grandeur. The birds singing in the background were a lovely touch as well. Also, the growing tenderness between Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, although it could have been developed more, was sweetly endearing. The last scene, when they are being carted off to their doom and Louis (Jason Schwartzman) looks at Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst) and she bravely smiles at him in return, was worth the price of the DVD.

I think that what made the film compelling for many was the snippets taken from actual letters and conversations, for the real life of Marie-Antoinette is the stuff of legend; there is magic in her very name. The places where she lived are imbued with a mystery of sorrow and enchantment, which even the most crass of filmmakers cannot erase.

I found myself feeling embarrassed for Ms. Coppola. I found myself pitying the distinguished biographers who were consulted in the making of this tedious film, especially Antonia Fraser, whose work "inspired" it. I would be mortified to have my name plastered all over what was basically a forty million dollar high school play.

There was no dialogue. Now I am someone who revels in a lively discussion. I enjoy writing the conversations in my novels; eventually the characters take on a life of their own, if they have been researched carefully enough. It is exciting to see historical persons come to life in the pages of a manuscript. Why didn't Ms. Coppola get someone to write some dialogue for her? (I would have been happy to have sold her the dialogue from Trianon.) Conversation was an art at the royal court; Marie-Antoinette surrounded herself with witty, charming friends. The Coppola film has the charm of a frat party.

Anyone who does a historical piece, be it a novel or film, knows that what makes it authentic is the consistent attention to details. It is the little historical fine points that bring the past to life. Otherwise, why bother with history? Why go to so much work over period costumes and then have people do and say things that are totally out of character for the era? Sometimes people would bow and curtsy as the princess walked by, and other times they would not. The impression I got was of sloppy direction and sheer indifference to the atmosphere of eighteenth century France.

The scenes of the Fersen affair were a bizarre intrusion into what little story line existed. It did not make sense to show Antoinette having sex with Fersen when she was finally happy with her husband and baby. The affair had no passion, no sensuality, no romance. It was reducing the relationship of a man and a woman, even an illicit one, to mere copulation, as in a brothel. The scene of Kirsten wearing nothing but stockings and fan is extremely degrading and insulting to the memory of Queen Marie-Antoinette. It was an enfleshment of one of the revolutionary pamphlets. The persons responsible for this further smearing of la reine-martyr should be profoundly ashamed of themselves.

What offended me almost as much was the portrayal of Madame de Polignac. Gabrielle was raised by nuns and was a very refined lady, not a loud, vulgar slut. She also had her own family and was an attentive mother to her children, as well as being governess to the queen's children. Not that she was a saint but she was a person of discretion and charm, who loved simplicity and country life. She was completely misrepresented in the film.

Why was Antoinette always shown lolling around? The queen was a busy lady. Even in her leisure she would be occupied with needlework. She embroidered much of the upholstery in her rooms. It almost made me fall asleep to see her prone on the grass all the time.

It is a shame. There were many accomplished actors involved in the production, if only they had been given a screenplay. If only they had had some direction, and a diction coach to mainstream the accents. The varying accents, as well as the rock music, were among the most jarring and distracting elements of the film. The music alone was enough to make me want to turn it off, as well as the constant gorging on sweets. I have never seen such an obscene display of pastries. I will not eat a French pastry again for a long time.

If you watch this film, watch it with a friend, or watch it at a party. The only reason I persevered through the DVD until the bitter end is that the conversation we were having about the film was more interesting than the film. And this is another bright spot of the Coppola film; it has sparked discussion about the real Marie-Antoinette, Louis XVI and the French Revolution. Hopefully, people will read up on her, and not be content with the gross distortions of the movie.

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Re: Marie-Antoinette in Film

Post  Sophie on Sat Nov 26, 2011 2:20 pm

The only thing I like in this film that some people made fan videos for Youtube, and these are much better than the film itself Very Happy Some pictures are really lovely in the film, but every other things including the primitive dialouges and the historical misrepresentations make sure that only these pictures didn't worth that 40 million dollars. But fan videos are OK.

Nice videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DuQjOs3P7Vo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veCTmmARm2E

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luL8shLRan0
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Re: Marie-Antoinette in Film

Post  Elena on Sat Nov 26, 2011 4:54 pm

I agree, Sophie, I really like some of the fan videos. They are edited much better than the film was. Razz

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Re: Marie-Antoinette in Film

Post  Sophie on Sun Nov 27, 2011 7:13 pm

And, to react to your accurate critic: I can't remember so much details of the film, but the most annoying moments were for me that

- Coppola ignored the normal portrayal of the royal children! She made a big thing about the royal couple's sex life and then the whole topic went away from her attention. The children remained 2-4 years old by 1789, Louis-Joseph suddenly turned into Louis-Charles, or Louis-Charles turned Madame Sophie when he "died"... absolute chaotic. And the point is, that with this ignorance they failed to portray Antoinette as a mother;

- as you write, the filmmakers say that it isn't a real historical film, but the question is, why are the costumes and the places historical? I have the feeling that after a little time they found the research boring, and created that ideology to hide it. 30% is from research, then they lost their interest and created 70% from their fantasies, but this is a bad constellation and that's why the film says and shows nothing. The "Versailles was the Hollywood of its age"-analogue is artificial. Hollywood stars want to be Hollywood stars, and use mass media to promote themselves, while Louis and Antoinette had to accept their position by fate, and the (pornographic) media wasn't a friend of theirs;

- so, according to them, in the Petit Trianon the historical characters had 21th century parties, the ladies smoked (!), talked about sex in front of the men (!), and had orgies like many people might do today (or I hope not Rolling Eyes ). Coppola wanted to bring Antoinette closer to the publicity, but her superficial research couldn't make clear in her mind that the real royal family LOST its respect because people had read such pamphlets about orgies and parties. And the film shows something like that Antoinette left Trianon behind when the archetipical lover guy ("Fersen") went away (or not?). It is a shame to deepen that "she went to Trianon to have orgies"-myth with every single method.

Anyway, you don't like the pastries and the walking-in-the-grass scenes, but I do. Antoinette loved the nature, I can imagine that she sometimes walked in her gardens, so it's not as incorrect as, for instance, the orgy scene. And the pastries look nice if I forget their "let them eat cake"-analogue and their context in the film. This film has much greater problems... Laughing
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Re: Marie-Antoinette in Film

Post  Elena on Sun Nov 27, 2011 7:38 pm

Those are superb points, Sophie! Very Happy I didn't mind the walking in the grass scenes or the gathering eggs at Trianon, etc. She just always seemed to be lying around, which seemed odd to me at the time. Rolling Eyes

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Re: Marie-Antoinette in Film

Post  Sophie on Sun Nov 27, 2011 8:08 pm

Now I understand Wink That showes too that Coppola ignored research. A queen's life is full with obligatories and watching eyes, but she struggled with showing her as a rockstar. It's a primitive and unworthy point of view. Some reviewers tried to find some logic in the film and wrote that Coppola wanted to portray intellectual and spiritual bleakness. But WHY, please, if the age was full with enlightenment, new sciences and arts amused people, and most of the Court was religious? I suppose the film didn't show bleakness, it was bleakness. And Coppola might think it's deep and intellectual.

I swear that I rather watch "The Affair Of The Necklace". It's a falsification of history, too, but Joely Richardson is a better choice for Antoinette and she has some great moments, instead of Kirsten Dunst.
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Re: Marie-Antoinette in Film

Post  Elena on Sun Nov 27, 2011 8:12 pm

I totally agree, Sophie, with all you say. Smile I thought Joely Richardson's performance was superb. cheers

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Re: Marie-Antoinette in Film

Post  princess garnet on Mon Nov 28, 2011 10:01 pm

I remember reading Sofia Coppola saying she didn't want to do a drama piece. Here's the website:
www.sonypictures.com/movies/marieantoinette/site/
Click on "Production Notes" for an explanation.

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Re: Marie-Antoinette in Film

Post  May on Fri Dec 09, 2011 11:16 pm

Sophie, I really enjoy your comments!

Here is a totally different kind of film about the Queen:
http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2009/11/lautrichienne-1990.html
Although I have not yet seen L'Autrichienne in its entirety, I have it on good authority that it is perhaps the best film about Marie-Antoinette. German actress Ute Lemper gives a magnificent performance as the Queen in her last days at the Conciergerie, during her grueling trial and preparations for death. Marie-Antoinette's agony, her serenity in the face of many indignities, and her ability to move hearts, are captured with authenticity and stark realism. The screenplay, written by André Castelot, was taken directly from the court transcripts and the accounts of eye-witnesses. Although it is almost impossible to find L'Autrichienne in America on DVD, it can be watched on YouTube. (Thanks to "lemraq" for this find.) Sadly, there are no subtitles but the poignancy of Ute Lemper's performance supersedes language.
I have seen this film all the way through and LOVED it!!
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Coppola Film

Post  Mata Hari on Thu Dec 15, 2011 10:41 pm

I just read a book which I hear is based upon the Coppola film. It is "Becoming Marie Antoinette" by Juliet Grey. Very interesting, if you like confections! Has anyone else heard that?

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Re: Marie-Antoinette in Film

Post  Elena on Fri Dec 16, 2011 1:49 pm

Oh, I don't think that is true at all, although the girl on the cover does rather look like Kirsten Dunst. But that's just marketing.....

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Re: Marie-Antoinette in Film

Post  Sophie on Fri Dec 16, 2011 8:02 pm

Thank you! Very Happy I tried to search for the most famous films about Marie-Antoinette, and this "L'Autrichienne" seems to be the best. As I think, showing the Queen's life in film is originally a trap in itself. Filmmakers should decide if they focus on the inaccurate and irrelevant moments of her life and try to sell the film with blood-sex-and so on, or they quote the original documents and make a rather "boring" film (like the 2006 film with Karine Vanasse, for example). The docu-drama has no chance among the blood-sex-etc films, publicity somehow won't take them. It's another interesting fact that films focus on the 3-4 popular biographies. Where are the others? Aren't they as valuable as the populars just because they don't feed the people's appetite? Rolling Eyes

(EDIT: This is the problem with the fictional novels about her, too, but I'm maybe too naive and can't believe that a book follows a movie and not historical documents and analyses...)
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Farewell, My Queen

Post  Julygirl on Fri Jan 27, 2012 10:10 pm

More pictures from the new film.
http://vivelareine.tumblr.com/post/16437612414




I think the acting looks good. The Queen looks genuinely anguished.
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Re: Marie-Antoinette in Film

Post  Elena on Sat Jan 28, 2012 11:53 am

Mata Hari wrote:I just read a book which I hear is based upon the Coppola film. It is "Becoming Marie Antoinette" by Juliet Grey. Very interesting, if you like confections! Has anyone else heard that?

The author wrote to me and wishes it to be known that her book is not in ANY way affiliated with or inspired by the Coppola film. Miss Grey has repeatedly expressed her dislike of the Coppola film. Her novel, the first of a trilogy, is of her own original inspiration based upon her research into the life of the Queen. It is very well-written and a good novel for those who want to enjoy a detailed description of Marie-Antoinette's childhood and family life. I was quite impressed by the descriptions of Versailles and the French Royal family and of how the young Dauphine was transformed into the Queen of France. The scenes of M-A being groomed by the actors is quite delightful, as are many other scenes from her life, not portrayed before in any other novel or film. Highly recommended, especially for those new to M-A's life.

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Re: Marie-Antoinette in Film

Post  Mata Hari on Mon Jan 30, 2012 9:21 pm

Very well. Smile

Vive la Reine has the cover of the next installment in the series, which is based on the Vogue picture of Kirsten and Jason as Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.





http://vivelareine.tumblr.com/post/16610363797

Now I'm really confused. scratch

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Re: Marie-Antoinette in Film

Post  Elena on Mon Jan 30, 2012 10:04 pm

Mata Hari wrote:Very well. Smile

Vive la Reine has the cover of the next installment in the series, which is based on the Vogue picture of Kirsten and Jason as Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.





http://vivelareine.tumblr.com/post/16610363797

Now I'm really confused. scratch

Don't be. It is a fact that authors have little or no say in the art work for their book covers. It's a lovely cover, even if it is kind of /sort of based on the Coppola film. But I know for a fact that the new trilogy is in no way affiliated with any film but is an original work.

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Re: Marie-Antoinette in Film

Post  princess garnet on Wed Feb 01, 2012 11:32 pm

It's a lovely inspiration!
Elena, I agree about book cover choices. Or the cover doesn't reflect the subject matter of the book. For example, some of the covers on Jean Plaidy's reissued novels have ladies wearing gowns from an earlier time when it was about one of the Stuarts!

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Re: Marie-Antoinette in Film

Post  Mata Hari on Sun Feb 12, 2012 12:17 am

Here are several reviews of the new film, Farewell My Queen.

http://www.filmschoolrejects.com/reviews/berlin-film-festival-review-farewell-my-queen-turns-the-french-period-drama-and-marie-antoinette-on-their-heads.php

http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117947035/

http://outcomemag.com/ent/2012/02/10/for-a-royal-film-shoot-book-versailles-where-else/

http://www.bangkokpost.com/blogs/index.php/2012/02/11/berlin-and-the-bolsheviks?blog=69
Almost the entire film takes place in the hollow chambers of the Versailles, an ignorantly tranquil world whose calm surface is about to tremble with the revolutuinary force. The whispers of the Bastille incident arrive, along with the "decapitation list", and Laborde, whose love for Marie Antoinette suspiciously borders on the erotic territory, grows more anxious by the minute. For a costume drama, the film feels light of touch, a quality that works for and aginst this kind of material. Diane Kruger plays Antoinette, a majestic babydoll who seems to live on another plain of reality, and Virginie Ledoyen, beautiful like a painting, is Duchess Polignac, another peacock in this glittering, mournful zoo.

http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2012/02/10/berlin-film-festival-kicks-off-with-farewell-my-queen/?mod=google_news_blog

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Re: Marie-Antoinette in Film

Post  Elena on Sun Feb 12, 2012 1:13 am

Thanks, Mata. I have been following the reviews very closely and saw the trailer and I really want to see the film. It looks very well-acted. I think Diane Kruger makes a good Marie-Antoinette and I love how Madame Campan is portrayed. The costumes are lovely. I don't like the way Madame de Polignac is portrayed, though, with such a haughty walk. No It's so vulgar. Gabrielle had her faults but she was known for her grace and simplicity of manner. She was a charming lady, not a slattern. Mad

It looks as if I will have the same disagreements with the film as I had with the novel, which showed MA obsessed with Gabrielle, totally infatuated with her. At that time, MA was consumed with grief over her son's death. And even before the Dauphin's death, she had begun to pull back from Gabrielle and the Polignacs, although they were still good friends. But the initial enchantment had long worn off. The main thing is her little boy had just died and she was in deep mourning, which everyone seems to forget. Also, I hate the way Louis is on the sidelines, hardly in it at all Rolling Eyes It was that was way in the book, too. Oh, well, I guess we have to choose between having MA obsessed with Gabrielle and having her obsessed with Fersen. Honestly. Rolling Eyes

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Re: Marie-Antoinette in Film

Post  Julygirl on Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:07 pm

Here's the trailer:

http://vivelareine.tumblr.com/post/17403980820
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Re: Marie-Antoinette in Film

Post  Sophie on Wed Feb 15, 2012 7:12 pm

I don't know what to think. I'm a passionate reader but not so film-loving, and this has been the first (and so far the last) novel that I've read about the Queen. I like it, although I feel the relationships somewhat discredited -- SPOILER: in the novel Antoinette and Gabrielle behave in a way that you can feel they hardly know each other, Gabrielle tells sentimental childhood stories. But they have been friends for 15 or more years! This stories must come up earlier in a true friendship... Anyway, I didn't have problem with Louis' marginal portrayal, because the storyteller was Antoinette's reader, she might not have been involved with the King's own household. SPOILER again: but the thoughts about Louis and Antoinette staying spiritually away from each other... OK, a reader at the Court could have had this opinion, but as I imagine, this was really the time they behaved like a true married couple, loving and supporting each other in the harder and harder times. So I don't know if the film corrects this points or simply destroys my images in my head about the novel. Ah, I'm totally confused if I wanted to watch this film or not. It rarely happens that a based-on-a-novel-film doesn't destroy the experience of the novel... Neutral
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Re: Marie-Antoinette in Film

Post  Elena on Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:33 pm

I know what you mean, Sophie. Here is a review which makes me not want to see it.

http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/berlinale-2012-review-farewell-my-queen-introduces-lesbianism-into-the-marie-antoinette-story-to-no-great-effect

In the land of the costume drama, truly, films about Marie Antoinette are Queen, promising lavish sets, romantic intrigue and shocking decadence -- but they don't always deliver. Director Benoît Jacquot's uninspiring take on the period opened the Berlin Film Festival days ago, but something about the film's lack of urgency must be contagious, and we're only getting around to reviewing it now. While "Farewell, My Queen" does boast admirable elements (more on those below) overall, despite some showy trappings it is a frustratingly empty experience, built around a character whose blankness is supposed to be a virtue, but ends up costing the film dearly in terms of identification and interest.

The empty hole where the heart and soul of the picture should be is Sidonie LaBorde, a young woman of the household whose job is to recommend books from the library and read aloud to the Queen. Sidonie is obsessively in love with her Queen -- just one of two central female-on-female loves the film features -- devotedly loyal and entirely blind to her faults until Her Majesty's final monstrous betrayal strips the veil from her eyes. In the role, Léa Seydoux is more watchable than her character deserves, but even her sulky, sometimes sly pout, and wary watchfulness cannot compensate for the vaccuum where a personality should be. That she only truly comes alive in the presence of her adored Queen, and has an almost stalker level of focus on the object of her affection we understand, but we are also asked to care for her, and without any sense of why she totally subsumes herself and defines herself through another, that becomes increasingly difficult.

That this absence is a deliberate choice and not an accident of underwriting is clear. When Sidonie is called on it by her chatty maidservant friend ("We don't know anything about you...who are you? Do you even have parents?"), Sidonie's reply is typical: she says nothing. And later, when an ill-judged voiceover suddenly lets us into Sidonie's head for a moment, it is just to let is know that she is "no one." At a certain point, this mysteriousness stops being enigmatic and starts to frustrate, as our imagination is given too few footholds, too few pieces of the Sidonie puzzle to stay interested.

This is a pity, because there are some unusual elements here which, better developed and arranged around a more interesting character, could have elevated the film into the upper ranks of the royalty costume drama (to the level of, say, "Elizabeth" or "La Reine Margot"). Chief among them is Diane Kruger's performance as the titular Queen. Comparisons with Kirsten Dunst's version of the same role are inevitable, but it is to her credit that Kruger, an actress this writer has found lacklustre in the past, does as much with her few scenes as Dunst did with a whole film in terms of creating a believable portrait. Her Marie Antoinette is selfish, vain and capricious, to be sure, but here she is also capable of a sweetness and consideration that, while it ultimately serves her manipulative ends, helps us understand how Sidonie could fall so hard.

Unusual, too, is the depiction of court life. An interesting upstairs/downstairs dynamic emerges, in which less time is spent in sparkly chandeliered halls than in grimy passageways, spartan quarters, and on unadorned staircases. Rats appear often; Sidonie scratches at her mosquito bites; and it's always fun to see people in big long skirts fall over, and as a factor of her youth and lack of sophistication, Sidonie does that a lot. This willingness to show ugliness and gracelessness certainly sets it apart from the pop-candy-confectionary of Sofia Coppola's version.

But really, this film is destined for a life as "that Marie Antoinette lesbian movie," because that's pretty much the sum total of what it contributes to the canon. It is set during the tumultuous days immediately following the storming of the Bastille, and some have been quick to try and draw topical parallels between "Farewell, My Queen" and current political upheaval, but, you know what? It takes place during a revolution, and there are revolutions happening now -- that is pretty much the length and breadth of that comparison. If topicality exists it is more in the area of celebrity worship, with Sidonie the fan and Marie Antoinette the, who knows, Kim Kardashian figure. But here too the film is trumped; cult of celebrity is what the Coppola movie was pretty much entirely about.

And so the hook of this film is the girl-on-girl "action," equating to a lot of longing looks, passionate speeches and one full-length lingering shot of Virginie Ledoyen's (absolutely rocking) naked body (contrasted with the Sidonie's humiliating, but no less rocking, nakedness later). The Queen here is not just the subject of same-sex love, but is also involved in a Sapphic affair of her own, with Ledoyen's Gabrielle de Pontignac. The brief moments when the three lead females are all present do fizz with surprising energy, the crisscrossing of class barriers, rivalry, jealousy and admiration pointing the way to what could have been a much more interesting film. But Gabrielle, too, is sadly underdeveloped and underused, and the end, "Farewell, My Queen," splashy logline aside, manages to be both overwrought and strangely lacking in drama, staggering under the deadening weight of an uninvolving central character. It is a shame, because many of the elements were in place for something much more compelling.

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Re: Marie-Antoinette in Film

Post  Mata Hari on Thu Feb 16, 2012 6:58 pm

Here's a review that you'll like, Elena. Smile

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/farewell-my-queen-290854


Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, Artois, Provence
Set in the heady (in the sense of pre-guillotined) final days of Versailles amid the commotion of the dawning French Revolution, Farewell, My Queen is a visual joy, even while its tale of a lower-class girl at court infatuated with the queen of France labors to say something relevant. Although director Benoit Jacquot opts for the grand European style of Girl With a Pearl Earring rather than a modernist rereading a la Sofia Coppola's post-punk vision Marie Antoinette, the film has its own charm, a matter-of-fact treatment of lesbianism and magnifique costumes and settings guaranteed to please Upper East Side patrons, all of which suggests a wide art house release for this lavish French-Spanish co-production.

Based on a novel by Chantal Thomas, the concise screenplay traces the routing of France's 18th century aristocracy from both the perspective of the decadent bluebloods themselves and the point of view of their downstairs maids, who are smartly individualized and believable. Maybe the film's biggest intuition is casting the brooding, modern face of Lea Seydoux (Inglourious Basterds, Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol) in the role of Sidonie Laborde, the haughty young reader to Marie Antoinette who becomes embroiled in the queen's love affair with Mme. de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen).

Living in the forlorn poverty of the servants' quarters, the girl is thrilled to be called into the presence of the beautiful, glamorous Marie, played with teary-eyed passion and more than a touch of laughable frivolity by a charismatic Diane Kruger. When the queen massages rosewater into the itching mosquito bites on Sidonie's arm, the young girl is sensually captivated. But the relationship is not what she hopes for. "So young and already so blind," comments the delightful M. Moreau (Michel Robin), a wise old gent living at court, foreshadowing the film's cruel-as-ice conclusion.

Locked in their fantasy world at Versailles, in whose mirrored and gilded halls much of the film was shot, the wiggy nobles go about business as usual: adultery, food, clothes, jewels and embroidery. Jacquot sets the scene in less than 20 minutes before the enjoyably idyllic tone changes to one of red alert. Word that things are seriously amiss reaches the court with news that the Bastille has fallen, and the rebelling populace is demanding not just bread but power. In Paris, a list has been drawn up of 286 aristocrat heads set to roll. And people on the street not only have stopped showing respect for the king, many are waving pitchforks and torches in his direction. It's July 14, 1789, and within days their world will be turned upside down.

While Coppola ruminated on the role of pleasure in life, Jacquot shifts the focus to the relationship between the wildly divergent classes of French society and the way they spy on, fantasize about and interact with each other. The two truly noble souls to emerge are, first, the courageous and resourceful Sidonie, whose misplaced loyalty and conscious self-sacrifice distinguish her from a stereotypical romantic heroine; and Louis XVI (Xavier Beauvois in little more than a walk-on role), whose surprising choice to return to Paris on his own and face down the insurrection puts him way above the cowardly fugitives in his court.

Lavish, Vermeer-influenced lighting by cinematographer Romain Winding stands in interesting formal contrast to the relaxed, constantly moving camerawork that follows Sidonie as she runs and falls awkwardly in her cumbersome gown on breathless errands. The eye-catching production design by Katia Wyszkop and unique period costumes by Christian Gasc and Valerie Ranchoux will be remembered during next awards season.

The urgent pace is underscored by a nearly continuous musical comment by Bruno Coulais, which assumes the weight of a ballet score as the dancers, or in this case the cast, rush to their doom.

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