Farewell, My Queen (2012) Poster

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8/10
Versailles days
Bob Taylor1 October 2012
I must admit, when I went to see this film I thought: Not another picture about the revolution in France, I must have seen 20 already. I was pleased to find however that Benoit Jacquot has given the period a lot of thought, and has made one of the more effective costume films in recent years. His Sade of 2000 starred Daniel Auteuil and Isild le Besco, treating one of the lesser figures of the period with great insight into his character. Les adieux a la reine is no less engrossing; he takes us into the cramped corridors of the palace, where the small people live in dingy quarters and hope (usually fruitlessly) to be noticed by the royal couple. The night scene with the courtiers fearfully scanning the list of 286 notables who must have their heads chopped off, lit with a brackish yellow candle light is wonderfully effective.

The performances make the film. Diane Kruger, with her slight accent, makes a wonderful Marie Antoinette: sensing doom, yet still able to reach out to those around her. It's easy to see why Sidonie reveres her. Lea Seydoux, whom I hadn't noticed much up to now, shows much promise as an actress, scurrying around the palace trying to gather information about the riots in Paris. Her face is sometimes sullen, sometimes smiling, always interesting. Xavier Beauvois does well as the King. Finally Virginie Ledoyen as Yolande de Polignac--"the indisputably ravishing but dim-witted Yolande" as Simon Schama calls her. Ledoyen is as imperious and shallow as you could wish. You see how the Queen could lose her head (in both senses) over her.
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8/10
Farewell, My Queen...a Few Days at Court
K Gale7 August 2012
Farewell, My Queen is a French film that covers three days in the life of servant Sidonie. She is Marie Antoinette's reader. The three days cover the early days of the French Revolution as seen through her eyes. Be advised, this is not a film about Marie Antoinette. If you are entertained by the series Downton Abbey or Upstairs Downstairs and enjoying stealing a glimpse behind the inner workings of court life this film will not disappoint.

There is no exposition at the beginning of this film. The dialog is French with English subtitles. The original audience would be expected to be familiar with the basic history and players of the French Revolution. If you are not familiar, it's a good idea to review this time period before seeing the film.

A sense of mystery is evoked by a combination of narrative reveals and soundtrack. It's a handsome film that duly contrasts the masters and servants via costumes, sets and cinematography. The performances are particularly effective as Diane Kruger and Lea Seydoux are well cast and empathetic in their roles.
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9/10
Farewell, My Queen
cultfilmfan18 October 2012
Before going in to see Farewell, My Queen, I really did not know too much about it and now I am glad that I knew little to nothing about the film before I saw it. I knew it was about Marie Antoinette, but that was about it. I haven't seen too many films about Marie Antoinette, other than Sofia Coppola's 2006 film which I liked quite a bit. Both films offer a different look and perspective on her, one of the things I really liked about this film as well. Lea Seydoux does a terrific job playing Sidonie Laborde, who is Marie Antoinette's reader. Seydoux allows her character to have a very curious side to her and at times she is really determined to stand up for what she believes in and can be forceful all at the same time as having an innocence to her as most young women do. It's a great performance and one that I hope leads to a successful career for her. Diane Kruger, who plays Marie Antoinette does a good job as well, but at times I did find her performance a tad melodramatic and so sometimes it felt a bit forced, or over the top. However, both Seydoux and Kruger both do show infatuation and they show it well. I can not go into any more detail than that, or I would ruin the film, but Kruger is especially good at showing Marie Antoinette's more softer and human side. A side that recognizes her fear, her flaws and truths about her own personality. Seydoux's character Sidonie is so loyal to the queen that she almost loves her, but as the film goes on, we are not really sure why. The queen can be very vicious and uncaring to Sidonie, but yet this young woman cares deeply about the queen and what is in the queen's best interest is most important for Sidonie putting the queen's needs even ahead of her own. As, I got thinking about the film, I think this part of it really had an impact on me and touched me and made me think in several ways. Here is a young woman who is more, or less an orphan and goes about her life serving and thinking of ways to keep the queen happy even though she herself lives in squalor and does not have the material wealth, possessions, or honour that the queen has. The queen seems to have everything and yet seems only to think about herself, whereas Sidonie was born with nothing and lives with nothing, but feels in her heart and soul that it is her job to serve the queen and she will do so no matter what, even if there could be consequences to her decisions. My only other complaint about the film was that at times it did feel a bit rushed and maybe moved from one event to another quite quickly, but that did not stop my enjoyment of the film, I think it just asks us as viewers to be a little more patient and do some of the character analysis, or study on our own, or even after the film is over. Even though the film does move by fast we are especially treated to a very good character study of Sidonie, who I think is the most interesting character in the film and probably the one we can relate to and even care about the most. She seems the most human whereas everyone else really does seem to be looking out for themselves and not really caring about what happens to the person next to them. The film does a credible job of showing the majestic costumes and lavish clothes and settings where Marie Antoinette lives, but at the same time it shows the dark and dingy place where Sidonie eats and sleeps and basically calls home. There is an element here showing a class struggle between these two characters and the more you think of it, the more evident it becomes. Farewell, My Queen is a good looking film with a terrific performance by Lea Seydoux, good character study and a film that gives us much to think about and even more to appreciate after the film is over and we have thought it over for awhile. As, I have said before, this is the quality of a great film.
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8/10
Life at Versailles
Books New York5 March 2012
Farewell My Queen screened recently at the Rendezvous with French Cinema festival in New York. A different take on the oft-told story of Marie Antoinette and the storming of the Bastille, this French film focuses on the difficult behind-the-scenes life at Versailles. An "Upstairs Downstairs" at the grandest palace of all, the protagonist is not the queen but rather her "lectrice" - a lady in waiting whose job is to read books to the bored Marie Antoinette. The film is best at depicting the petty backstabbing, gossiping and ambitions of the hangers-on at court. The crowded and dirty "back stairs" rooms are vividly contrasted to the opulence of the grand state halls. A well acted, nicely paced historical drama.
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8/10
More about seduction, loyalty, and betrayal than social upheaval
Howard Schumann17 September 2012
Written and directed by Benoît Jacquot and based on the novel by Chantal Thomas, Farewell, My Queen explores the death throes of the French monarchy over a period of three days in July, 1789. Set in the Palace of Versailles at the beginning of the French Revolution, Sidonie (Lea Seydoux), known as the reader for Queen Marie-Antoinette (Diane Kruger), is responsible for selecting books and reading them aloud to the queen. Because of her closeness to the monarch, she is able to act as a spy, securing information about events taking place inside and outside the palace, pressing selected servants for information, and eavesdropping on conversations to gather the most up-to-date gossip to pass along to Marie.

The film is seen from Sidonie's point of view, a vantage point that illuminates the sharp social divisions inside the palace with the servants living in crowded rat-infested quarters, and the royals dwelling in opulent accommodations. Lea Seydoux delivers a powerful performance as the devoted servant of the queen, conveying an air of mystery about who she really is in a way that adds to her allure. Kruger portrays Marie-Antoinette as sensual and hedonistic and there is a hint of more than Platonism in the way she interacts with both Sidonie and the Duchess de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen), a relationship that tests Sidonie's loyalty.

On the morning of July 15th, news spreads rapidly that the king had been awakened at two in the morning. No one knows the reason, but fear spreads throughout the court. If the king is ill, who will protect those totally dependent on the nobles who control their lives? It is soon revealed, however, that the king is not ill, but that a mob has stormed the Bastille and a revolt has begun against the aristocracy. Little information is available. Rumors abound based only on conversations whispered in the hallways and the servant's quarters. When the King travels to Paris and the Queen decides against an escape to Metz, an aura of inevitably descends on the Palace and the nobles begin to abandon ship, competing for places on the coaches seeking a safe haven.

Antoinette makes every effort to continue with business as usual, looking at magazines to admire new styles and colors for the coming season, paying scant attention to the fact that her name is number one in a list of 300 targets for the guillotine. Fearful of losing her only connection to the world, Sidonie is willing to risk the ultimate sacrifice if it is in the queen's best interest. Even though Farewell, My Queen is historically questionable and may hold us at arms length emotionally, it provides a fresh view of events that we know about only from history books or stuffy costume dramas.

Jacquot captures the authenticity of time and place and also the human side of the power struggle. Unfortunately, the film pays little attention to the issues that led to the revolt, never mentioning the abuse of power by the monarchy. Indeed, the Revolution serves only as a backdrop for the story which is more about seduction, loyalty, and betrayal than social upheaval. Rather than making a statement that is relevant for our times, the intricacies of sexual intrigue and love triangles dominate the film, titillating rather than persuading, and making the goings on difficult to care about.
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9/10
Like a Moth to a Flame
aharmas27 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This film is a wonderful study of what the last days of the French royalty in Versailles, particularly of the way, Marie Antoinette behaved and delivered her commands. It is all seen through the eyes of her reader, a very interesting character. She is the queen's personal reader, someone who has been bewitched by the Queen's strong charm. There are rumours in the palace, and very few people can validate them. Whether it is from loyalty, admiration, or fear, secrets are guarded and some dubious qualities admired, maybe misunderstood. It is hard to believe Sidoine can't see the true nature of the queen. Maybe it is because she might be infatuated with her, or maybe because the way Antoinette is played by Diane Kruger, there is very little choice but to be in awe of her.

Kruger is a beautiful woman, and she can play mystical characters very well. One could believe kingdoms were fighting for her Helen in "Troy", and in "Farewell", it is likely she probably wielded and manipulated her court more effectively than her husband did. There is still room in her performance to show that she still felt limited and bound by some conventions, but it was clear she was a powerful woman.

Her scenes with Sidoine are full of tension, making us wonder what is going behind each woman's facade. We never really know because all we see is very controlled reactions, emotions, furtive glances, light brushes, hints at deeper and more forbidden forces.

Sidoine knows how to find information, and she struggles because it might not be a good idea to know too much. It haunts you. She is in the most inner circle of the palace, and she might see and know too much, but she fails to make good use of what she knows. In fact, like Antoinette, she might be restricted by her social place and gender, and it's that inability to overstep her boundaries that might surprise people in the final scenes of the movie, as we are floored by Antoninette's request and Sidoine's reaction.

The film is gorgeously produced, scored, and photographed. There is something about the way that period in French history looked like. It complements the decadence of the upper classes. We know such opulence is not cheap, and we can see in the disdain shown to the lower classes, that there will be consequences for all involved. It is an elegant and intelligent film, full of layers that are shown are effectively displayed. Much is done with the presentation of a costume, a reference to a special dish, how culture is appreciated and used as a weapon here. Antoinette knows her place, and she uses it grandly, as we can see by Kruger's performance. Power is intoxicating and binding, and it can lead to very dangerous resolutions, but this will not beat the power of the human heart, and that's the essence of this queen's maneuvers.
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8/10
Unconventionally wonderful period film.
Happy_Evil_Dude13 July 2012
A marvelous film. Very rarely does a film based on fact, especially a story as infamous as this one, succeed at creating such tension despite the fact that everyone knows pretty much what is going on and what will happen (United 93 springs to mind). As it is director Benoît Jacquot and his team have done a incredible job in capturing the confusion, uncertainty and pure dread that those living at Versailles in the final days of the Monarchy must have felt. Seriously, anyone who's ever dismissed period dramas and films based on true stories as "stuffy", slow and boring should give this one a shot. The cast is also exceptionally strong, led by a group of immensely talented female performers. The only downside is really the ending, unfortunately, slightly anticlimactic and a bit of a let down.
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7/10
The Last Days of Royalty
SnoopyStyle31 August 2013
It's July, 1789, and French citizenry is starting to revolt. Queen Marie Antoninette (Diane Kruger) is hold up at Château de Versailles with her court and her book reader (Léa Seydoux). When the news of the storming of the Bastille reaches them, panic sets in and the King's entourage start slipping away.

It's fascinating to see the various reaction as rumors start to spread. Léa Seydoux is great as the doe-eyed true believer. It is disconcerting to know her true naivety even though she has no idea. It's the source of the tension, but it's also infuriating. Diane Kruger is fine, but I thought that it wasn't quite big enough. However, the climax was just right.
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7/10
Visual Appeal Can't Mask Content Void
Tim Meade14 November 2013
Farewell, My Queen is a sumptuous visual treat and faux-historical romp from French writer and director Benoit Jacquot.

Set mainly in Versailles over three days as the Bastille is stormed and the French Revolution gains unstoppable momentum, this is a lavish production with superb costume design and sets.

Shown mainly from the point of view of the servants to the royals and aristocrats, the film makes good use of France's palatial architecture and neatly shows the difference in the opulence of the super rich compared to the squalid conditions of their largely loyal and deferential lackeys. The film is beautifully shot, both inside and out, and allows the audience to feel they are being given a personal guided tour of one of France's greatest museums loaded with fine art and antiques.

The story focuses on seduction and loyalty between protagonists within the palace and their reaction to the unfolding history which is mainly off-screen. Regrettably, however, the film, which is strongly female orientated in cast and storyline, titillated with lesbian longing and did so in a salacious and voyeuristic manner. It could have amounted to so much more.

This is a film that will appeal to all those who mourn the passing of Downton Abbey.
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5/10
A fine account of a fictional Marie Antoinette servant rather than a gripping account of the queen herself
chaz-2827 July 2012
The French Revolution kicked off in 1789, not too long after America's ended. Fortunately for King George III, he lived in London and not Philadelphia or Boston. King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette were not so lucky; their revolution sprouted on their doorstep. The four days which Farewell, My Queen covers, 14-17 July 1789, were dark days indeed for the French monarchy and their noble hangers-on. Nobody leaves Versailles because it is too dangerous, the Bastille is stormed, and there are pamphlets floating around Paris of 286 named individuals whose heads the revolutionaries wish to chop off. The number one name on that pamphlet is Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger).

Unlike Sophia Coppola's 2006 version of this story, Marie is not as young as she once was. She misses her youth but appears to have found company with the Duchess Gabrielle de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen). Scandalous rumors circulate not only throughout the palace of the extent of their liaisons, but also through the rest of France. Many believe the Duchess is just as responsible for the people's miserable state of affairs as are the King and Queen. In fact, her name is number three on the guillotine wishlist. However, both of these ladies are merely supporting characters in Benoit Jacqot's version; their story is told through the eyes and ears of the queen's loyal reader, Sidonie Laborde (Lea Seydoux).

Sidonie is at the queen's beck and call whenever she feels in the mood for a play or a novel to be read to her. She does not have a more devoted subject; Sidonie absolutely worships the queen is all she does or could do. The queen recognizes the true adoration in Sidonie's eyes and so employs her as a sort of sounding board and confidant; not to the extent of Duchess de Polignac's level of intimacy, but nonetheless, Sidonie is one of the closest servants to the queen. The other palace servants take note of this and Sidonie appears to be among the more higher-ranking servants. Even downstairs in the servant's quarters there is a caste system of hierarchy and rank. Because Sidonie is extremely well read and discreet on top of it, she is quite the capable spy who can ferret out closely held information when events start to pick up the pace outside the palace walls. Sidonie knows which servants to press for info, whose palms need greasing, and in which particular dark corner of the room to stand to eavesdrop on conversations to acquire the most up to date gossip on how the queen is feeling, who woke the King up in the middle of the night, and how close the revolutionaries are getting to the outside walls.

Unfortunately, what sounds like deep palace intrigue and an interesting history lesson in the French Revolution mostly lands with a thud on screen. Marie Antoinette is seen a few times and the Duchess hardly at all. A movie which spends a lot of time discussing the truth and falsehoods of their relationship only puts them in the same room together once. Sidonie holds your interest as she scurries back and forth trying to please the queen but her limited view of the action also limits the audience's view. As the situation becomes more pressing and hectic, the camera almost latches on to the back of Sidonie's neck as she runs down the long, slick hallways of Versailles. Towards the end, the camera work was becoming a bit distracting. One should not notice the camera's movements too much but after another jerky movement to the right and back left or another awkward close-up, I wished they would just place the camera on a tripod and let it be. What the cinematographer may have thought was innovative and eye- catching was more irritating and a case of needless showboating.

The art and costume directors must have had a field day though. Any film set in 1789 Versailles probably has these types of creative personnel lined up down the block raising their hands to get a shot at it. While Farewell, My Queen works on an aesthetic level to produce a great looking period piece (minus the camera), this film is only for the Francophile. Those who relish any story of Marie Antoinette will probably love this movie no matter what. There is a lot of name dropping and whoever remembers their pre-Napoleon French history class from college may smile and nod as name after name is casually mentioned in conversation. For those who are a bit more discerning in their historical fiction though, you will not take very much away from this film you do not already know. Go enjoy some French wine instead or pick up a copy of A Tale of Two Cities to quench your French Revolution itch.
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