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Film Review: The Princess of Montpensier

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The Princess of Montpensier (2010)
French title: La Princesse de Montpensier)

I went to see this film directed by Bertrand Tavernier during the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival in Melbourne in March. The film is in French (with English subtitles) and is primarily a Historical Drama.

The first thing I will say is that the acting, costumes and set design are superb (the film won a 2011 Cesar Award for Best Costume Design). Also notable were the battle scenes-they were very well done, realistic but understated, and the whole film was skilfully captured through the camera. On the downside, the characters themselves were debatably quite irritating in more than a few instances throughout the movie, and this was directly related to the script and plot. Which were not bad, don't get me wrong, but more to do with the frustration the audience feels with the character's situations and the choices they make.

Based on the French novel of the same name by Madame de la Fayette, the film is set in France during 16th century (1592) where a war between Catholics and Protestants is taking place. Marie de Mezières (Melanie Thierry) and her handsome childhood friend and the kingdom's hero, Henri de Guise (Gaspard Ulliel) are in love and hope to marry. This future is dashed when Marie's father, out of ambition, decides to break her betrothal to Guise and have her marry Phillippe de Monpensier (Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet), a man she has never met, instead. Marie initially refuses, but is forced by her father to comply.

While Phillippe is fighting in the war, she remains at the castle with Phillppe's tutor, the Count of Chabannes (Lambert Wilson), who educates Marie, teaching her to read and write.
On the way back from a battle, Henri de Guise and the Duke d'Anjou (Raphaël Personnaz), the heir to the throne, arrive at the chateau where Marie now lives, and as the tension rises, Marie and Henri realise they are still in love.

Marie becomes the object of four men's love, affection, jealousy and at times, obsession, while Marie herself struggles between duty, love and the social propriety of the court.

Overall, for most part I did like this film, despite a rather ridiculously dramatic plot. When it did get quite unbearable to watch, it was worth sitting through just to see French heartthrobs (particularly Gaspard Ulliel) on the screen. If you are expecting a happy fairy tale ending where she manages to choose the right man before it's too late, and live happily ever after, you will be disappointed. You could say that poor Marie played the game for a bit too long and her long-term indecision does more harm than good to all involved.

I thought this film was well worth the watch, but the ending left me a bit unsatisfied. However, there were several other themes and notable scenes/plots, (particularly those that didn't focus on the big love, um, pentagon) that gave some very interesting insight into life in medieval France. The Princess of Montpensier is a noteworthy contribution to French cinema.

For parents, please note that it is rated MA, due to adult themes, sexual references (including some sex scenes and brief nudity), and some battle violence.
My Overall rating: 8/10

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French heart-throbs and exquisite costumes... give me that and I don't think I'll mind (or notice) what the actual story is about! That said, Madame de la Fayette holds some intrigue for me, as to most female writers from eras past, but this lady especially since she was circa sixteen-hundred-and-something. Nice review.
By Michaelie Clark - senior reviewer
Thursday, 21st of July @ 09:35 am
Agreed. Up until last week, this film was being screened regularly at Cinema Nova in Carlton. Perhaps it is possible to watch it online or buy the DVD (perhaps through Amazon). I'll have a look.
By Anonymous
Thursday, 21st of July @ 11:12 pm
Hi everyone,
I just found out yesterday that the DVD had been released in Australia! Yay! Probably th best place to get it is JB HI FI, where you can buy it in the shop or order it online.
By Alexandra McKenzie - reader
Wednesday, 14th of September @ 01:22 am
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