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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Don't bother
richard-17877 February 2013
This is a modern historical drama. Characters are not well-developed, and their motivations are not clear. Why is Sidonie so devoted to the Queen? Why does she suddenly want to have sex with the gondolier? Instead, there is LOTS of atmosphere, which makes for one slow film.

You won't learn much about what actually happened in the week that followed the fall of the Bastille, since the story, to the extent that there is a story, is told through the eyes of one of the Queen's domestics. (It does remind you that, in a day not only before computers and the internet, but even television and radio, you could live 30 miles away from momentous events and have no idea what was going on.) Nor will you learn much about Marie-Antoinette or Louis XVI. The latter is a minor character here. MA comes off as very capricious, which she evidently was. But why? Again, there is no character development.

And then, finally, the movie stops, and you go "Oh, is it over?" As I said, LOTS of atmosphere. If that floats your boat, you might like this movie.

It did nothing for me, and I'm very interested in French history.
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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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Familiar territory
Doha Film15 August 2012
For the next few years, it must be assumed that any film featuring a popular uprising will attract lazy comparisons to the Arab Spring. The wild waters of revolution run swift in Benoit Jacquot's "Farewell, My Queen", set in the days of July, 1789. Over a wet week in France, starving Parisians storm the symbol of state tyranny, the Bastille, seizing guns and ammunition. Protesters issue a list of demands, calling for the beheadings of nearly 300 influential figures. The de facto signs of regime change are everywhere. Dead rats float in the Grand Canal in Versaille; mosquitoes terrorize the members of the Royal household. Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger), the Queen of France, however, has escapism on her mind – she sits in bed, skim-reading the latest fashion pages.

In this task, she is aided by a number of ladies-in-waiting and her reader, Sidonie Laborde (Lea Seydoux). The young woman is called to run to the palace library and return with books and plays she reads aloud to the queen. We learn she is a member of the queen's inner circle and somewhat infatuated with her employer. She performs her duties with a mixture of fear, envy and respect. When the stench of revolution is impossible to ignore, she is told she will be guided to safety. Understandably, she feels more than a little betrayed when the queen orders her to impersonate a fleeing aristocrat, Gabrielle de Polignac, who will accompany her, dressed as a servant. If she is captured, Laborde risks death, while Polignac will abscond to safety.

This could all be familiar territory – Sofia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette" (2006) took a distinctly sweet-toothed approach to the French Revolution, imprisoning Kirsten Dunst behind tiers of artisan cakes. In Coppola's film, the French royals behaved like party-goers on an episode of MTV's "My Super Sweet 16". "Farewell, My Queen", which is based on a novel by Chantal Thomas, isn't confection of the same variety. This dimly lit and low budget film marks the end of the fantasy world of Versailles, its gilded halls, jeweled furniture and costumed courtiers. The Royal staff bow and curtsy at every available opportunity – in their spare time, they trade gossip about the private indiscretions of their employers and idly speculate the future of post-revolutionary France.

Unfortunately, the inner workings of the court of Versailles simply aren't any match for the layered politics that define teenage life on "My Super Sweet 16". While Coppola's film was candy floss masquerading as history, "Farewell, My Queen" succeeds in laboring every aspect of daily life at the Royal court. We are told, time and time again, there lurks intrigue behind every palace wall – most of it remains frustratingly off screen. At one point, I found myself thinking Laborde's chores were no different from the experiences of any gap year student – and considerably less hedonistic.

The end, when it arrives, is all too predictable. As members of the royal household are attacked on the streets of Paris, the occupants of Versaille decide to flee. As the royals leave for the last time, their carriages bursting with furniture and jewels, the staff is told "the King will now check the temperature of the throne room". Ice-cold, I would imagine. Not unlike Jacquot's French revolution.
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A Near-Erotic Historical Drama
Chris_Pandolfi13 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
"Farewell, My Queen," a dramatized account of the relationship between Marie Antoinette and her personal reader in 1789 Paris, so frequently comes within a hair's breadth of being a salacious lesbian melodrama that one wonders why director/co-writer Benoît Jacquot didn't go all out and actually make it that way. Historical accuracy notwithstanding, at least then audiences would know how to respond to it; it would never once feel as if Jacquot was holding back when he should have been pushing the envelope. When it doesn't tease us with longing stares, burning confidences, impassioned tears, and even an instance or two of full-frontal voluptuousness, it drags us, at times kicking and screaming, through a backstage labyrinth of wild rumor, juicy gossip, and dangerous political tidings, the French Revolution inching ever closer to the sheltered world of Versailles.

Adapted from the novel by Chantal Thomas, the film is told from the point of view of Sidonie Laborde (Léa Seydoux), a Lady in Waiting for Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger), who assigns her to read passages from her favorite stories, mostly plays. Sidonie's unwavering loyalty to her Queen, we gradually see, masks a deeper, somewhat unsettling erotic fixation; she takes full advantage of every opportunity with Marie Antoinette to gain special favor, perhaps even win her love. True enough, the Queen does confide in Sidonie on several occasions, sometimes quite candidly and emotionally. However, it's obvious that her feelings for Sidonie are not romantic. The real object of her affection is the Duchess Gabrielle de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen), who in real life was indeed Marie Antoinette's closest friend and was actually accused of being her lesbian lover. Whether or not this was actually the case, no one really knows. I suspect, however, that the film's treatment of it has more to do with sensationalism than with considering possibilities.

The film effectively shows that two different worlds existed within the walls of Versailles. One is bright and opulent, a gaudy display of bulky gowns, marble floors, hand-carved crown molding, sparkling crystal, and powder-white faces and curly wigs. The other is shadowy and dank, an inhospitable maze of cold stone passageways lit by torches, filthy servants' quarters, crowded dining halls, and curved block staircases. It's in this latter world that Sidonie hears all the murmuring, not just of the Queen's relationship with Gabrielle de Polignac but also of the peasants who are on the verge of revolt. Initially, Sidonie refuses to listen. But then news of the Bastille being taken quickly spreads. Both the nobles and the servants wait anxiously as King Louis XVI (Xavier Beauvois) tries to calm the members of the Third Estate with a political speech, one he gives outside Versailles' supposedly safe gates.

Even with this development, Sidonie is only concerned about her beloved Queen, whose reputation is slowly but surely being tarnished. Gradually, she sees just how deep her love for Gabrielle runs. It comes to a head not long after Louis refuses to leave Versailles, which effectively destroys any hope that he and Marie Antoinette will get out alive; during a tearful moment between them, the Queen begs Gabrielle to leave and never return, all the while secretly hoping that she will refuse and stay by her side until the very end. The decision she ultimately makes is not what matters. What really matters are the consequences of that decision. They matter because they involve Sidonie, albeit without her initially knowing it. The final scene with Marie Antoinette involves Sidonie stripping down to nothing and staring at her Queen with a mixture of desperate longing and tremendous sadness.

The scene immediately following this arguably depicts Sidonie slipping into madness, the Queen's request allowing her to indulge in a fantasy despite the fact that her very life has been put on the line. Was this done against her will? If it were any other queen, the answer would be yes. But because it's Marie Antoinette, it's more a matter of love than of duty. In that moment, brief though it may be, Sidonie is allowed to believe she is the Queen's favorite, and she milks it for all its worth. Only through a voice-over narration do we come to realize just how empty Sidonie is without Marie Antoinette. It isn't so much that she no longer has the Queen to admire; it's more a matter of life's purpose and personal identity, because with the Queen, Sidonie has nothing and truly is nothing.

All of this is handled about as competently as one might expect, and it would be a bald-faced lie to say that the performances aren't good. Nevertheless, considering the scandalous implications of the material, it's a mystery to me why Jacquot couldn't bring himself to just go ahead and make a gay erotica, a genre the plot dances around as if it were a touchy subject. I grant you that this approach would have necessitated an almost total removal of anything even remotely historical, but then again, most audiences don't go to movies for history lessons. Lord knows if I were genuinely interested in the French Revolution, I'd actually bother to read a book on the subject. "Farewell, My Queen" is a valiant effort – a fine cast, superb costumes, intricate sets, and beautiful art direction are among its accomplishments – but it plays like an idea that wasn't given the chance to come to fruition. It should have been so much more than it was allowed to be.

-- Chris Pandolfi (www.atatheaternearyou.net)
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Beautiful, but boring
crsh1976-115 December 2014
I love a good costume drama, but anything that includes Marie-Antoinette is apparently bound to be a repetition of the same old clichés over and over.

We get it, she was completely disconnected from reality, careless and pampered and bored and tended to for every bit a normal human being does itself. Age-old cliché that Marie-Antoinette was nothing more than a self-absorbed bimbo? Check.

We get it also, the French Revolution was an immense shock to the royalty and aristocracy; not only did they not see it coming, they didn't think it was possible at all to see the end of their reign. Again, the tried-and-true representation of 18th century French aristocrats as clueless morons? Check.

So, after reinstating the same backdrop again (and again), this version puts forth a bigger focus on rumours of a lesbian love affair the queen was accused of having back then, because that would make the movie so unique.. or not. The story was already a snorefest on paper so let's toss in some sexual material to spice it up in spite of one's better judgement? Check.

The list goes on.

The photo direction is beautiful, the costumes and decors are gorgeous, the actors are all excellent, all this movie is missing is an actual story worthy of your attention. A real shame.
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Great movie!
Carrie Capucine19 March 2012
This movie is great and absolutely well-described in this article http://www.frenchcultureguide.com/03/review-farewell-my-queen/ I really loved it because we never saw this period before. It is really interesting to see Marie-Antoinette this way. And the actresses are really great. I discovered Lea Seydoux and already knew Diane Kruger who is beautiful. This movie has absolutely changed the image I had of French movies. I really thought it interesting, touching and not fixed in the past - we can all identify ourselves in many situations of the movie, and understand how much the present is fragile. Even if Farewell My Queen is a historic movie, human feelings, actions and preoccupations are pretty much the same as today. I really has a few knowledge about this period and thanks to this movie and would like to know more and more about the French Revolution - this movie is a kind of French Revolution for me. Nice job Frenchies!
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Farewell, My Queen, or My Week with Marie Antoinette.
Markus Emilio Robinson2 August 2012
If you are expecting a French film chronicling the last days of Marie Antoinette, then you may be in for a slight disappointment. Brilliantly directed by the Benoit Jacquot (who also co-wrote the much less impressive script) and starring Diane Kruger as Marie Antoinette and Lea Seydoux, who plays one of the Queen's readers named Sidonie Laborde, and is also the protagonist of this film (for some reason) "Farewell, My Queen" is advertised as the story of the last days of Marie Antoinette, but it's more like the somewhat muted story of the two months before the "last days" of Marie Antoinette. So, even though "Farewell, My Queen" is a better movie than Sofia Coppola's ill advised, indie rock inspired, "Marie Antoinette", due to the faux-final-days story structure, in conjunction with the fact that "Farewell, My Queen" uses Marie Antoinette as a side character, telling the story from the point of view of Sidonie Laborde (a nobody) this is a film which may have many audiences scratching their heads as to why the need to show this particular moment in the life of Marie Antoinette.

As I alluded to above, "Farewell My Queen" chronicles a miniscule portion in time during the last months of Marie Antoinette's reign. However, audiences are not treated to "the good part", or the part they undoubtedly came to see. What I mean by this is there are almost no visuals of the actual Revolution, plus (and more importantly) we don't actually get to witness the final days of Marie Antoinette's life simply because "Farewell, My Queen" curiously plays out through the eyes of one of her ladies-in-waiting. Instead, audiences are forced to sit through a pseudo-love story that focuses not on the very interesting end of Marie Antoinette's reign, but on the minutiae right before it! This film is the equivalent of sitting through the love story of Jack and Rose, with the movie ending just before the Titanic strikes the iceberg. Yes, I am aware that this is a script which was adapted from a critically acclaimed novel by Chantal Thomas, BUT it still doesn't make the story's focus any less misguided. I mean, there are some scenes which do attempt to create a somewhat intriguing love story, an aspect which must be fully accredited to some fantastic mood setting by Jacquot, but in the same vein, this film never rises above said simplistic love story.

Side Note: Another issue many audiences will likely come across is how frivolously "Farewell, My Queen" throws its viewers right into the deep end of this story, with little exposition. In fact, the greatest individual flaw which hinders "Farewell, My Queen" will be seen in the audiences immediate realization that neither Jacquot's visuals or the engaging performances (which I will speak about later) are going to give those not formally versed in the players of the French Revolution and the fall of Versailles, the background information they may desperately desire, as this film half-introduces more and more characters of seeming importance. So, do yourself a favor, if you are going to see "Farewell, My Queen" (at the very least) peruse the Marie Antoinette Wiki page before going to see this film.

With that said, the visuals (the set design in conjunction with the director) are somewhat breathtaking at times, due to Jacquot making some very brave directorial choices, including tons of long takes which trail behind characters as they weave in and out of crowds, giving audiences an intimate feeling of the atmosphere of late 1700's France, and a few beautifully constructed shots of the landscapes. And I guess it doesn't hurt that the two female leads, Seydoux and Kruger, both give engaging performances. But even if Kruger's interpretation of Antoinette is one of the best I've ever seen and Seydoux is so captivating to watch as she effortlessly takes control of the movie every time she is on screen, there is simply not enough in the story or the writing to give reasoning to the eccentric behavior or motives behind the actions of Marie Antoinette or (more importantly) give a reason as to why Sidonie is so infatuated with her. So, even though, in the latter half of the film (more than an hour in) Jacquot does create an atmosphere which allows these characters to somewhat blossom, many will find it hard to care about a Marie Antoinette story that contains no beheadings.

Final Thought: Based on a "last days" plot which attempts to imitate a much better film like "Downfall", even with some spectacular direction and two engaging female performances, "Farewell, My Queen" is nothing more than this year's "My Week With Marilyn", telling a story which focuses on characters nobody really cares about, rather than simply creating a storyline around the life/last days of (in this case) Marie Antoinette. So, even if you are a Marie Antoinette fan, with the overall structure the way it is, "Farewell, My Queen" is nothing more than DVD worthy at best.

Follow me on Twitter @moviesmarkus Find more review at: movieswithmarkusonline.blogspot.com
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Armand30 January 2013
I like it. it is not impressive, great or memorable. but it has inspired cast, nice costumes and a fragile story. and this is enough. sure, it is not a portrait. only an adaptation or, if the novel is not known, a drawing about beginning of strong storm. but it may be a real delight, or lemon tea for a fan of French court of Louis XVI. or good point for search informations about this fundamental event. sure, not accuracy is virtue of this film. but more important is its flavor. the fall of a world. the need of change. the news about events out of golden circle, the references and, sure, the way of a young woman - part of sophisticated system. that is all. a film without heroes - if ignore the performance of Michel Robin and small slices of Xavier Beauvois presence.
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Expressions Tell You The Story
ferrarifighters16 November 2015
One of the most amazing movies portraying what went on amongst the nobility during the French Revolution. The acting by Léa Seydoux is amazing in her role as Sidonie and Diane Kruger befits the role of the Queen. Sidonie's longing for the Queen's attention, and the Queen's desire to be with Gabrielle de Polignac makes for a very emotional experience. We also see the reaction of various people in terms of how their face their impending death. Even the portrayal of a handful of days in 1789 is enough for the viewer to understand the undivided devotion of Sidonie towards the Queen. The scenes of Versailles in themselves are breathtaking, and if you do love some 1700's French fashion then the movie is a treat for the viewer.
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A very odd but good movie!
Irishmoviereviewer10 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
In this movie, it's mostly based on during the French revolution year with Léa Seydoux as the Queen Marie Antoinette's reader. It's very odd in some ways, yet you would really like to know what's going on or better, what happens next.

It really seemed to me that the Queen had a few women lovers. I wonder is this actually true or is it really the film giving it a storyline? Either way, I think it's well done to be honest. You wouldn't actually think this film would be boring to watch. Actually there's so much action going on that you wouldn't have time to think it's boring or not. That's what I really like about these films. I would wish all films can make you feel distracted more then trying to find the streaming button to skip the scenes. Gladly I didn't need to do it with this film, I'm happy that I did see the movie without any disappointments! Although it's not my favorite film but it is entertaining!
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very good, but not "perfect" ...
Isabella MI9 October 2014
I did see this movie not long ago and in my personal opinion, it is not boring at all. In fact I see it as quite exciting because it is one of the few films that comes very close to the historical Marie-Antoinette and her real nature as a human being. I also did see the other film of Coppola and did not agree with it at all cause I thought it to be way too superficial and only showing one side of a very complex historical personality. In fact I was very annoyed and mad about it because it is inexcusable to see such a careless handling of such an interesting and disrupted character like the last French Queen.

Actually I honestly am quite surprised as to how few movies actually give justice to the real historical personality and how few details of her biography are told. Reality is never that simple and never as one-sided, and it would be wrong to only show the Queen as someone who loved luxury and ruthlessly spent all the taxmoney of the people, uncaring if they were hungry or not. Coppola completely leaves out the element that luxury often only is a way to evade and to distract oneself of the real problems and important matters of life. One of the important issues in these cases to have a son and to make the dynasty live on, which was the Queen's first "official" task - and this task caused her unhappiness for quite a long time cause her husband did have a phimosis. The other important issue was loneliness, and yes I firmly do believe that she must have been terribly lonely in such a place like Versailles in which there were not many good and decent people to have as friends. She probably would have needed someone like Sidonie, sadly she did not exist.

All of this was never mentioned in the Coppola adaptation. "Les Adieux à la Reine" comes closer to reality because it shows Versailles the way it supposedly was back then. It also shows the queen as a real disrupted human being with real emotions like regret and abandonment, and someone who was able to love and being loved in return (not like a lot of "fake" people nowadays). I missed that a lot in the other one which in my opinion gives a totally wrong image of the Queen as the human being she was. Also Coppola did not show the heavy change she went through in the last days of the revolution when she woke up to reality and became considerate, dutiful and thoughtful as well (too late as historians would probably say and it didn't save her from being killed).

I give this film 8 of 10 stars because I actually think that the ending sucks somewhat because Sidonie leaves and never comes back. I know the ending wanted to add to the subtility overall but in my eyes that simply didn't work very well.

8 of 10 because I thought the acting to be very impressive and the characters well-described, and plus I think there is a lot of tactfulness to the character development and historical correctness. I think it definitely has the necessary requirements to become a classic overall.
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The winds of change
Heinz Mannberger5 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Despite having a great interest in the late 18th century, I have not found many films that strike my particular chords. 'Les adieux à la reine' is one of them, and it does so mainly for two reasons: first, because it nicely shows us the dark underbelly of the lavish gold-plated upper rooms of the French royal palace at Versailles, exposing the system that contradicted the later observation by that inveterate revolutionary Thomas Jefferson, who was the American minister to France from 1785 to 1789, that: 'the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.' Second, because it shows us that for all their faults, the royals and their noble entourage where people too. People who did not voluntarily run for office, who loved their children and friends as much as anyone else would, and whose fears of what might be done to their loved ones and themselves drove them to nightmares and tears. Even if it was true that 'Louis must die that the country may live', as that great butcherer of men, Maximilien Robespierre, later remarked, the violent character of the French Revolution must surely have done great damage to their proclaimed ideals as well.

Some have criticized the two main actresses for appearing stiff and lacking spontaneity; and I can certainly see where that is coming from, but rather than seeing this as a negative, I think it works to illustrate the strict protocols and the ever present divides of class and status that permeate life at Versailles. With one notable exception, the personal opinions and whims of Sidonie Laborde (Léa Seydoux) are simply not tolerated by anyone other than her fellow servants. A seeming relaxed and smiling social better instantly turns on her the moment she does anything deemed unacceptable, and when she finally does 'win the love' of Queen Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger) it is for reasons completely out of line with what Sidonie might have wished for, but should probably have come to expect.

Because if there is one thing about the character of Sidonie that I would criticize, it is exactly that: for someone seemingly so inquisitive, so observant of social protocol, and yet so willing to force her will through at certain times, she appears completely unable to assert herself around Queen Marie Antoinette - even when the rats are leaving the sinking ship, to use a Dutch expression. But perhaps this is unfair: perhaps she really did feel unconditional love towards the Queen.

Speaking of love, who can fault Queen Marie Antoinette for being completely swept off her feet by Yolande Martine Gabrielle de Polastron, 'la duchesse de Polignac' (Virginie Ledoyen). The movie seems to portray her as a somewhat more recent and distant presence at the court than she was in reality, but regardless, it gives the viewers a peak into the upper layers of society at Versailles. If the adage 'play or be played' is too modern a description, something more contemporary would surely have conveyed the same idea.

All in all, I consider this to be a fine film indeed. Diane Kruger gives us one of the more believable portrayals of Queen Marie Antoinette in recent times. If nothing else, acknowledgement of the fact that she was a mother in her mid-30s, and not a frivolous 20 year old, is a good start. But the film goes further, probably in line with the recent trend among historians to view Queen Marie Antoinette in a more positive light.

One final note about the supposed pornographic nature of some scenes, pointed out in the reviews of others (mostly Americans); there is nudity, a kiss, and some longing stares. But this is nothing out of the ordinary in French, and indeed most European, films. Don't miss out on this film for fear of seeing a naked torso!
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SConIrish9 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
In film alone there have been eight representations depicting the life and times of Marie Antoinette. Benoit Jacquot's latest interpretation comes from a screenplay that he and Gilles Taurant adapted from Chantal Thomas's novel. Filmed largely at Versailles it looks closely at the class divide between monarch and servant and how blind love can distort your view. It's told from the point of view of a servant blindly committed to her Queen. Visually sumptuous with a compelling narrative it skilfully avoids the dullness of many period dramas.

The story takes place during the last four days leading up to the French Revolution. Culminating in the overthrow of the monarchy and the execution of the King and Queen of France. A young woman Sidonie (Lea Seydoux) is the official reader to the Queen. She is Marie Antoinette's (Diane Kruger) number one fan. Scratching away at mosquito bites and grimacing at the site of a giant rat lurking in the servant's quarters she chooses to ignore all the rumblings and gossip of rebellion and dissent emerging around her. She is an unapologetic servant of the beautiful seductive Queen. Having shared a coffee she observes "It's all going wonderfully well." Marie Antoinette spends most of her time draped in fine clothes and surrounded by gold in her private chambers. She vaguely peruses the latest fashion magazine. She requests embroidery and books, self-absorbed, vain and removed from the realities of poverty and deprivation outside her Palace walls. Running and stumbling and always late Sidonie serves at the behest of her Queen. "So young and already so blind" comments the wise old historian Morcau (Michael Robin). As the days pass the hallways and corridors become crowded with panicked servants and gentry alike. A list of names to be beheaded emerges causing terror amongst the Bourgeoisie. The final hours of a corrupt monarchy reveal a Queen who will sacrifice anyone for the love of her dearest Mme de Polinac (Virgine Ledoyen).

Throughout the proceeding Jacquot gives the film a contemporary feel, using a constantly moving camera that follows Sidonie wherever she goes. No conventional traditional set-ups, the fluidity of the camera-work gives the film a sense of urgency. Benoit loves a tracking shot. The Production Design by Katla Wyszkop (Potiche) is worth the price of admission contrasting the emptiness of the maid's quarters, against the opulence of Marie Antoinette's private quarters. Cinematography and lighting by Romain Winding is exquisite. It's as if he's lighting by candle for much of the picture. The performers are all excellent, Kruger captures the seductiveness of the Queen, but it's Seydoux in almost every seen who transfixes with her sublime performance.
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Before the collapse
gradyharp2 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Les adieux à la reine (Farewell, My Queen) is a luxurious, visually stunning film about the moments before the citizens of France stormed the Bastille and headed for Versailles. Without a rather thorough understanding of that period of French history the film may leave some viewers confused as to the story line. This film is more about the manner in which Marie Antoinette functioned as a queen and as a woman with needs than it is about a precise description of what was occurring outside the palace walls.

In July 1789, the French Revolution is forming and gaining momentum. Seemingly oblivious to the people of France, at the Château de Versailles, King Louis XVI (Xavier Beauvois), Queen Marie-Antoinette (Diane Kruger) and their courtiers keep on living their usual carefree lives. The comparison to Upstairs Downstairs is evident - carried to the extreme. The matter of note is the window into the personality of Marie Antoinette who has been having a lesbian affair with the Duchess Gabrielle de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen). To pass her time away when the Duchess is not available for assignations, Marie fills her hours looking at materials, fashion books, and she has a lady in waiting reader - Sidonie Laborde (Léa Seydoux) - read stories to her. The two become confidants and Sidonie is utterly devoted to Marie, knowing that Marie and Gabrielle are in a relationship. But when the news of the storming of the Bastille reaches them, panic sets in and most of the aristocrats and their servants desert the sinking ship, leaving the Royal Family practically alone. Sidonie remains at Marie's side and as preparations for the evacuation of the palace are made, Marie asks Sidonie to disguise herself as Gabrielle and to escape to Switzerland with Gabrielle and her husband dressed in disguise: should the French stop their carriage it would be Sidonie that would be beheaded, saving Gabrielle to return to Marie when the 'nasty business outside Versailles is over'. Sidonie does as she is asked out of her devotion to Marie and the film ends with only with words of the results of the historical events (the beheading of Marie in 1793 etc) - a quite subtle and fitting ending to a moment of recreated history.

The film is based on Chantal Thomas' novel and written for the screen by Gilles Taurand and director Benoît Jacquot. The costumes and settings are magnificent and the other members of the large cast (especially Noémie Lvovsky as Madame Campan and Michel Robin as Moreau) are uniformly excellent. It is an interesting look at the characters of French history and though the film in many ways lacks substance it still merits seeing for the period piece that it is.

Grady Harp
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Backstairs at Versailles with Marie Antoinette and her reader
richwgriffin-227-17663521 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This is a beautiful film, exceptionally well directed, written, acted, edited, costumed and designed. What struck me is that I was completely absorbed in the story from the very first scene to the last one. I enjoyed a different take from a different perspective of the beginning of the French Revolution. Historical figures can be seen from so many different vantage points and I thought a lesbian Marie Antoinette was quite an interesting possibility.

This film for me was mostly about the extraordinary actresses: Lea Seydoux, perhaps not a showy performance but one that kept me interested in her throughout; Virginie Leyoden, a mysterious woman, the object of desire; Noemie Lvovsky, so different here than I have ever seen her in many of her other roles; Julie-Marie Parmentier, still giving interesting performances 12 years after "Murderous Maids"; and especially Diane Kruger, as a young adult Marie Antoinette, spoiled but intelligent, indulgent, she simply doesn't know better, and very much in love with the duchess. I hope Diane Kruger gets a Supporting Actress Cesar nomination this coming Friday.

Marie's impulsive decision to have Sibonie dress and pretend to be the Duchess Poulignac fascinates me. The psychology of being kow-towed to, and the the psychology of doing the kow-towing (british people still bow & scrape for the queen, and all that stupidity).

The design elements of this film need special mention: the superb camera work, editing, score, sets, and especially the costumes, which add so much to the enjoyment of this film.

I hope this film gets 9 Cesar nominations this coming Friday, but particularly for Diane Kruger's performance, which is quite superb!
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Farewell, My Queen is relaying on Diane Kruger to make the film good
dalydj-918-25517525 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
"Farewell, My Queen another story about Marie-Antoinette this time with a great performance by Diane Kruger as the women herself"

Marie-Antoinette is one of the most hated women in all history and once again she appears on the screen. This film tells the story of Sidonie Laborde (Léa Seydoux) a book reader to the queen of France Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger), over the course of three days we see into the running of the palace and how the royals hold complete power until the Bastillle is hit by the rebellion of the time. During these days we see love, loss and trying to please those who are above you by doing anything you can even sacrificing your life for your queen.

Benoît Jacquot is the director behind this film and his direction is well suited to this almost claustrophobic area that is the kingdom of France in 1789 as these royals were hated by the people of France. The story at first seems very simple but as we get to know Sidonie more and see that she does not want to say anything offensive causing her to do things for the queen no normal women in her job would have to do. The costumes and sets are very well suited to the time period and they way they move also is great to see that the crew behind the film took to time and effort that goes into a period piece like this.

Léa Seydoux plays the main women of this tale and she gives a fine performance but she is not allowed to emote which is what the character had to do because she was a lower class worker and that is why even though she is in almost every scene she does not get to stand out as others, also she mostly comforts people feeling pain. Diane Kruger in her short screen time for her entrance to departure owns the screen in part due to the role she plays because it is Marie-Antoinette. There is one scene when she gets to finally show her emotions when they all boil up when she says goodbye to her lover for good. In her final scene we see the true villainies of Marie as she sacrifices her book reader in order to save her lover which is something a normal nice women would do but an evil one would do it.

The film overall as some great production displayed mainly in it'costume but the fact the main character is not interesting is a major problem with the film but it is made better every time Diane is one the screen making the film the better to watch.

MOVIE GRADE: C (MVP: Diane Kruger)
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