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Bertrand Tavernier is in top form with this gripping, superbly mounted drama set against the savage Catholic/Protestant wars that ripped France apart in the 16th century. Based on a novella by the celebrated Madame de Lafayette, the action centers on the love of Marie de Mezières for her dashing cousin Henri de Guise, thwarted when her father's political ambitions force her into marriage with the well-connected Philippe de Montpensier, who she has never met. When Philippe is called away to fight, she is left in the care of Count Chabannes, an aging nobleman with a disdain for warfare, and soon becomes exposed to the sexual and political intrigues of court. Written by
Palm Springs Internation Film Festival
The character called Duc d'Anjou in this movie, later succeeded his brother Charles IX as King of France. He is known to history as Le Roi Henri III. Other big budget movies depicting him include Queen Margot (1994) and Elizabeth (1998). See more »
An Impassioned Eamination of 16th Century France: Passion in All Its Forms
Basing a long film on a short story is usually a risk; the story often runs thin before the long film is complete. This is most assuredly NOT the case in Bertrand Tavernier's decision to adapt (with François-Olivier Rousseau) the short story 'La Princesse de Montpensier' written by Marie de LaFayette (1634 - 1693) and published anonymously in 1662. Of note, La Fayette's most famous novel was 'La Princesse de Clèves' (1678), first published anonymously in March 1678. An immense success, the work is often taken to be the first true French novel and a prototype of the early psychological novel. This film is one that both entertains in the manner of the great epics of the screen, but also teaches us about the religious differences between the Catholic and the Huguenots (Prostestants) during the 16th century while at the same time addressing from a near feminist point of view the manners of courtly versus passionate love in that fascinating period.
Very briefly, Princesse Marie de Montpensier (Mélanie Thierry) is married to Prince Philippe de Montpensier (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet) in a marriage of convenience arranged by Marie's father: the rare beauty of Marie attracts the attention of all men, a fact that drives Philippe to rages of unfounded jealousy. France is in the midst of religious war and Philippe is off at war with his tutor Comte de Chabannes (Lambert Wilson): after a particularly grueling battle in which Comte de Chabannes kills a pregnant woman and a child he informs Philippe that he can no longer stomach war and asks to return to the palace where he will continue being the tutor of Marie in Philippe's absence. Marie and Chabannes become close as he teaches her to read and write - during which time Chabannes secretly falls in love with Marie. But there are other men who would woo her: Duc d'Anjou (Raphaël Personnaz)- the youngest son of Henry II of France and Catherine de' Medici (Christine Brücher), the man history books have described as gay and who courted England's Elizabeth I unsuccessfully, and Marie's childhood friend, the handsome but battle-scarred Henri de Guise (Gaspard Ulliel). The story successfully eaves the course of the war between the religious factions and the drives and promises and desires of the four men to win the affection of Marie. Court intrigues, duels, secret meetings and the power of nobility push the story to a surprising but well designed end; passion of the heart can be destructive.
Mélanie Thierry is brilliant as Princess Marie de Montpensier and is supported by equally fine performances by Wilson, Ulliel, Personnaz, Leprince-Ringuetand a very strong supporting cast. The period costumes and customs are perfectly realized, the cinematography by Bruno deKeyser and the musical score by Philippe Sarde enhance the rich tapestry of this Tavernier masterpiece. In French with English subtitles.
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