The Marquis of Mezieres (Magnan) is only mildly annoyed that his daughter Marie (Thierry) has fallen for suave warrior Henri (Ulliel), even though she's promised to his brother (Domboy). Then a better offer comes along, and the Marquis offers her to Prince Philippe (Leprince-Ringuet), son of the Duke of Montpensier (Vuillermoz). Leaving Marie with his loyal mentor Chabannes (Wilson), Philippe rejoins battle alongside his old friend Henri in the war between the Catholics and the Huguenots. But Philippe soon becomes jealous of Henri, as well as the flirtatious Duke of Anjou (Personnaz).
Tavernier's earthy style makes the story feel thoroughly contemporary even as period details are impeccably recreated. We vividly sense what it would be like to live in these damp castles or in the gossipy Parisian Court. Horse-riding scenes bristle with energy, as do panicky battles that often descend into muddy fistfights. In other words, Tavernier makes us vividly experience each setting and engage with each character.
Meanwhile, the plot is like a teen TV series, as romantic relationships shift and wobble while people guess who loves whom. The cast play this beautifully, avoiding melodrama to catch dark edges of emotion in a time when marriage was a business proposal rather than a love-match. Thierry is strong, stubborn and sexy; we can see why she causes such a stir. And the men drawn to her are played with gritty honesty by terrific actors who manage to earn our sympathy even though we know it can't end happily for everyone.
Even though the central plot swirls in circles over the long running time, each scene is so packed with tension and intrigue that we fall deeper and deeper into the messy situation. It's absolutely riveting as we recognise the societal limitations and clearly understand which men are honourable and which clearly aren't. And perhaps the film's point is that, in the end, the same fate befalls both.
Run time: 139 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 3rd November 2010
Box Office USA: $0.3M
Box Office Worldwide: $344.2 thousand
Distributed by: IFC
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Fresh: 53 Rotten: 10
IMDB: 6.5 / 10
Director: Bertrand Tavernier
Producer: Frederic Bourboulon, Laurent Brochand, Eric Heumann
Starring: Mélanie Thierry as Marie de Montpensier, Lambert Wilson as François de Chabannes, Gaspard Ulliel as Henri de Guise, Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet as Philippe de Montpensier, Raphaël Personnaz as Le Duc d'Anjou, Michel Vuillermoz as Le Duc de Montpensier, Philippe Magnan as Le Marquis de Mézières, Florence Thomassin as La Marquise de Mézières, Christine Brücher as La Duchesse de Montpensier, Evelina Meghnagi as Catherine de Médicis, Judith Chemla as Catherine de Guise, César Domboy as Mayenne, Jean-Pol Dubois as Le Cardinal de Lorraine, Charles Petit as Nicolas, Joséphine de La Baume as Jeanne, la suivante de Marie, Anatole de Bodinat as Joyeuse, Samuel Theis as La Valette, Eric Rulliat as Quélus, Jean-Yves Roan as Le colporteur, Nathalie Krebs as La duègne de Marie, Alain Sachs as L'aubergiste, Tomasz Bialkowski as Le professeur de polonais, Jean-Claude Calon as Le tailleur du Duc, Olivier Loustau as Le brigand, Deborah Grall as La servante à l'auberge, Mathieu Lourdel as Saint-Mégrin, Frédéric Bourboulon as Un noble au Louvre, Francis Camel as Le chamelier, Frédéric Laforet as Quercy, Romain Vergnaud as Charles, Yann Vaille as Beauvais
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