Sunday, July 15, 2012

Review: FAREWELL, MY QUEEN







Cast

Léa Seydoux as Sidonie Laborde
Diane Kruger as Marie-Antoinette, Queen of France
Virginie Ledoyen as Gabrielle de Polastron, duchesse de Polignac
Xavier Beauvois as Louis XVI
Grégory Gadebois as Louis, comte de Provence
Francis Leplay as Charles, comte d'Artois
Noémie Lvovsky as Jeanne-Louise-Henriette Campan
Vladimir Consigny as Paolo
Julie-Marie Parmentier as Honorine
Michel Robin as Nicolas Moreau
Lolita Chammah as Louison
Marthe Caufman as Alice
Jacques Boudet as Monsieur de la Tour du Pin
Martine Chevallier as Madame de la Tour du Pin
Grégory Gadebois as Comte de Provence
Jacques Nolot as Monsieur de Jolivet
Serge Renko as Marquis de la Chesnaye
Anne Benoît as Rose Bertin
Dominique Reymond as Madame
Jean-Chrétien Sibertin-Blanc as Monsieur de Polignac
Jacques Herlin as Marquis de Vaucouleurs

Synopsis:  1789, at the eve of the Revolution, Versailles' occupants still live happily, unconcerned by the increasing turmoil in Paris. When news about the storming of the Bastille reaches the Court, aristocrats and servants desert the Palace, leaving the Royal Family alone. But Sidonie Laborde, a young servant who reads to the Queen, refuses to flee. She feels secure as she is under protection of the Queen of France. She does not yet know these are the last three days she would spend by her side.

My thoughts:  Since yesterday was Bastille Day, I thought it highly appropriate to see the new film FAREWELL MY QUEEN, starring Diane Kruger as Marie Antoinette and Lea Seydoux as Sidonie Laborde, the young reader to the Queen, a minor office but one that gives her a certain prestige amongst the other servants and access to areas of Versaille that others do not have.  The highlight of this film for me was seeing Kathleen  Turner standing on the line to see the movie.  I knew going in that I probably was going to be disappointed but I had no idea how much.

This film was BORING, vapid, and uninspiring, did I mention it was also BORING? The running time is about 90 minutes, but it felt like it took four hours to get through this film, there were moments when I was nodding off in my seat, it was that dull. The French Revolution took less time and was more interesting than this film. Despite the fact that the movie was filmed at Versaille, it looked like the budget was about 50,000 Euros.  I'm also no expert on 18th century costume, so I can't accurately state whether or not the clothing in this film is historically correct for 1789, but I welcome comments to that effect.  The film also seemed to be edited funny, scenes would end with almost a cliffhanger but then the next scene had nothing to do with the previous scene, it was as if scenes had been cut out in the diting process.

The movie is based on a novel by Chantal Thomas, who also co-wrote the screenplay.  Thomas also also written a well-regarded work of non-fiction detailing how Marie Antoinette was demonized by the pamphleteers of the time. The director claims that he was inspired by Thomas's feminist take on the story of Marie Antoinette.  That probably explains the lingering shots of nudity of both Madame de Polignac and Sidonie in the film.  I found it particularly shocking that Thomas, who did so much to disprove the lies about Marie Antoinette, particularly the rumors that she was a lesbian, would be part of a film that does nothing but perpertrate those same lies.  Seriously, WTF?

Lea Seydoux, who plays Sidonie, spends most of the film looking either sullen or petulant when she's not eavesdropping on private conversations.  The audience keeps being told how devoted Sidonie is to Marie Antoinette but we never learn why or really see it.  Most of the time, she looks put upon. The film also intimates that Sidonie's feelings for Marie are of the sapphic variety.  Can someone tell me when did feminist and lesbian become the same thing? Diane Kruger, ironically, actually impressed me as Marie Antoinette, although physically she doesn't resemble the Queen at all. I've never been a huge fan of Diane Kruger, apart from the National Treasure films, for the most part I think the roles that she's played have required her to do nothing more than look pretty (see Troy). To me she's been just another model turned actress, one who shows up at premieres looking fabulous but that's about it. However in this film, there was actual acting going on.  I felt for her when she was telling Sidonie about her feelings for Madame de Polignac, and her good-bye scene with her love, even though inwardly I cringed.

One thing the film does well is to give the audience a glimpse into what it was like backstairs at Versailles compared to the aristocracy.  We witness the servants in their small rooms upstairs in the attics of the palace to their downstairs lives in the dining rooms and corridors in the lower levels of the palace.  We see the intrigues, the romances and hear the gossip about those who live above stairs. Sidonie and Madame de Campan apparently each have only one dress which they wear daily, Sidonie has to contend with mosquito bites and the poor sewage at the Palace.  We also see the rooms of the minor nobility compared to the luxurious apartment of Marie Antoinette.  However, unlike the synopsis of the film on Wikipedia, we don't really see aristocrats and servants deserting the palace.  We do however hear a lot of talk about what is going in Paris with the fall of the Bastille.  In the end though it didn't matter, because for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what the point of the film was.

After the movie, I walked over to Cafe Boulud to have a nice glass of rose and a chocolate eclair to help wipe away the memory. I think the final word on this film can be summed up by what I overheard another audience member say on the line in the ladie's room, "What a waste!"

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