Young Queen Margot finds herself trapped in an arranged marriage amidst a religious war between Catholics and Protestants. She hopes to escape with a new lover, but finds herself imprisoned by her powerful and ruthless family.
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The night of August 24, 1572, is known as the Massacre of St. Bartholomew. In France a religious war is raging. In order to impose peace a forced wedding is arranged between Margot de Valois, sister of the immature Catholic King Charles IX, and the Hugenot King Henri of Navarre. Catherine of Medici maintains her behind-the-scenes power by ordering assaults, poisonings, and instigations to incest. Written by
Oliver 'Asana' Duex <firstname.lastname@example.org>
French dynastic history in the late 16th century does not seem a promising subject for a film, but Patrice Chereau, a prominent French stage director, has teased out some personal drama out of the larger historical picture, and provided a vivid and absorbing tale. The story itself is adapted from Alexandre Dumas' novel, which is a pretty highly colored piece to begin with. Chereau theatrically plasters the set with blood and gore, and we are left in no doubt that an atrocity has occurred (the St Bartholomew's day massacre of the Hugenots.) The mendacious Queen Mother, Catherine di Medici, and her weak-minded son, Charles IX, seem to have set it off to deal with the protestant problem without realizing how bad it might get.
In all this horror is the rather cute tale of the relationship between two disparate personalities thrown together in marriage, Catherine's daughter Margo and Henry of Navarre (later Henry IV of France, and one of its better kings). Margo is repulsed at first sight by Henry `the peasant' while Henry rightly regards her as about as loving as a trapped tiger. Yet they reach an accommodation and finish up friends. Both have other lovers (and both respect that) but neither can prevent the lovers from coming to sticky ends.
It's always a bit hard to assess the acting when you are relying on sub-titles (if only the French didn't speak so fast) but Isabella Adjani at the age of 40 pulled off a remarkable job and had me convinced she really was a spoilt, willful little nymphomaniac in her early 20's. She looked as young as she did in the `Story of Adele H' 20 years earlier. Daniel Auteuil was also excellent as the unprepossessing but very intense and quick-thinking Henry. Virna Lisi, a sex symbol in her earlier film career, made a good villainess as Catherine. Most of the other principals seem to have been chosen for their looks by rent-an-ego casting though Jean-Huges Anglade was suitably pathetic as the doomed King Charles.
The rather claustrophobic sets brought home the medieval lack of privacy, even (perhaps especially) in royal palaces the old Louvre was about as spacious as the loo. The film fades a bit in the second half, but it's still not a bad story, if at times a bit difficult to follow. I have to say I found `Elizabeth' more interesting and a lot less bloody. Anyway, `Margo' is very French, and not to be judged by Hollywood standards (whatever they are).
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