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Frédéric van den Driessche,
A wide-ranging, energetic period piece tracing the rise of the Protestant Henry of Navarre as he goes from battlefield warrior to France's beloved King Henri IV. Director Jo Baier's epic is a classically entertaining adventure, albeit one with more than a little bloodshed and frequent bawdy sexual interludes. In late 16th-century France, Catholics and Protestant Huguenots were at war. Seemingly seeking peace, the French dowager queen, Catherine de Medici summons Henry to her court to have him marry her daughter, uniting the two warring factions. However, the Catholics slaughter the Protestant wedding guests in what became known as the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre and Henry-now married-must use all his guile to both stay alive and maneuver for the throne Written by
Palm Springs Internation Film Festival
The non negotiable condition from the French producers was that Henri IV be portrayed by a French actor. Director Jo Baier spent time in Paris to audition candidates with producer Christian Charret. See more »
A German made film (originally released as a miniseries) about the life of the 16th century's Henri (or Henry) IV of France, one of the crucial kings in the French Wars of religion (by one count, Henry changed religions four times during his life between Catholicism and Protestantism). Solid and interesting, just a bit overlong at two hours and a half, it has both French actors and Germans actors dubbed in French (I didn't care much about this, though perhaps some French native speakers would). Medieval and early Modern history can be very complicated (the personal gets involved with the political, as the main political leaders tend to be relatives as well) but if you pay attention the various political plots are reasonably well explained in the film. On the minus side, the movie could have benefited from a more charismatic lead than Julien Boisselier as Henry. And Ulrich Noethen (who played Himmler in Downfall) outrageously overacts as Charles IX, one of Henry's predecessors. But the beautiful Chloe Stefani is lovely as Henry's mistress, Gabrielle d'Estrées (none more so when she appears nude, as she does frequently here). And Hannelore Hoger is suitably evil as queen Catharina de Medicis, a major plotter against Henry.
The production values are reasonably good, though as in many other historical films, battles are not very credible when it seems to involve the fight of dozens of people, instead of thousands (films like these should consider using computer generated imagery to give modern audiences the feel of a large battle).
The same subject matter was covered in La Reine Margot, a French film released in the 1990s, starring Isabelle Adjani as Marguerite de Valois (in Henri, Margot is played as a semi hysterical woman by Armelle Deutsch). I saw La Reine Margot at the time it was released, but I really don't remember a lot about it, except that it was a much stylized affair; Henri is a much more down to earth film.
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