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A POWERFUL AND SEDUCTIVE WORK OF HISTORICAL FICTION...
on 3 July 2004
Based upon a romantic work of historical fiction by Alexandre Dumas, "Marguerite De Valois", this is yet another triumphant period piece by Miramax Films. Critically acclaimed, the film is the winner of five Cesar Awards, as well as the prestigious Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize.
The film is set in medieval Catholic France during the reign of Charles IX. There has been unrest between the Catholic majority and the Protestant (Huguenot) minority. It is August 24, 1572, a day that will live in infamy. The day begins auspiciously enough, as it is the wedding day for Margot, the sister of Charles IX. It is an arranged marriage between Catholic Margot and Protestant Henri de Bourbon, the King of Navarre, a province in France. It is a marriage that is supposed to quell the unrest between these two warring religions. As such, many Protestants travel to Paris to see the union between these two royal personages.
After the wedding, the evil and power hungry Dowager Queen, Catherine de Medici, mother to Charles IX and his two younger brothers, Anjou and Alencon, as well as Margot, sets in motion a series of intrigues and plots and reveals what her true motives were in arranging this marriage, motives that the King of Navarre already suspects. Far from being a merger to unite Catholics and Protestants, it is a call to arms against the Protestants, resulting in the infamous St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, in which over six thousand unsuspecting Protestant men, women, and children were brutally slain.
Margot, who initially dislikes her husband and is known for her wantonness, does make a pact with him to be his ally. When the carnage begins she is appalled but is soon drawn into her family's plots and intrigues. She realizes, however, that her survival, as well as that of her husband, depends upon her new lover, La Mole, son of Coligny, the King's slain advisor. Thereafter, Catherine de Medici continues to plot against the King of Navarre, seeking his death. Margot spends most of the film trying to keep her mother and brothers in check and her husband safe, while satisfying herself with La Mole.
Isabelle Adjani is stunning in the role of Margot. Luminous and looking ethereally beautiful, she is simply magnificent. Daniel Auteuil is terrific as the beleaguered King of Navarre. He infuses the role with a warmth and humanity that makes the viewer instinctively root for him. Jean-Hugues Anglade is excellent as Charles IX, a weak king dominated by his ruthless, grasping mother who would rather see her favorite son, Anjou, on the throne. Anglade makes the role three dimensional as he adds a certain sensitivity to the role. Pascal Greggory, who plays Anjou, adds a certain delicious creepiness to the role of the envious younger brother who longs for his brother's death so that he can wear the crown. Virna Lisi is a commanding presence as the evil Catherine de Medici, who would willingly sacrifice her children for power and see so many of her plans go awry. Last but not least, Vincent Perez is excellent as handsome and loyal La Mole.
Potential viewers of this French language film should be aware that it is an extremely violent film, due to the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. It is also sexually explicit, with frontal nudity scenes. Moreover, while the DVD provides wide screen format, excellent audio and visuals, as well as scene selections and subtitles, it does not offer any extras. Notwithstanding this, the film is one that all those who enjoy period films or historical fiction will, undoubtedly, enjoy.