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Queen Margot Movie Review

film jean charles catherine

1994 – Patrice Chereau –

In this age of restored- and director's-cut editions of films, the assumption seems to be that the more footage that can be put back in a film the better. Queen Margot is a film that found more appreciative audiences, however, when some judicious pruning cut its running time from 167 to 144 minutes. The film debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in 1994 to some mixed reviews and, shortly thereafter, disappointing box-office receipts. The American distributor, Miramax, wanted the producers to re-edit the film before releasing it in the U.S., and the 190 cuts and twenty-three minutes that came out resulted in a version that, surprisingly, was praised by director/co-screenwriter Patrice Chereau, producer Claude Berri, and star Isabelle Adjani. Favorable reviews followed. Jean-Hugues Anglade's Charles is at turns pathetic and sympathetic, and Daniel Auteuil and Adjani are supremely convincing.

The film is based on the 1845 novel by Alexandre Dumas and takes as its centerpiece the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre on August 23, 1572, when thousands of protestant Huguenots who had travelled to Paris for the arranged wedding of Margot (Adjani) to Henri of Navarre (Auteuil) were killed by soldiers of the Catholic French throne. Given the labyrinthine plotting of Dumas and the intricacies of French history, the scenes leading up to the massacre will pose a challenge for most audiences (one reviewer joked that sorting out the characters required an encyclopedia). A character fascinating in her villainy is Catherine of Medici (Virna Lisi), the mother of Margot and King Charles IX (Anglade), who wants to wrest control of her son away from his advisor, the Protestant Coligny (Jean-Claude Brialy). The assassination attempt on Coligny (ordered by Catherine but disguised as an Protestant act) grieves Charles so much that he authorizes the massacre of the Protestants as a measure of retaliation.

The scenes after the massacre are the most memorable. The ruthlessness of the French royal family eventually drives Margot to side with Henri and the Protestants. She also falls in love with La Mole (Vincent Perez), one of the survivors of the slaughter. The personal and political elements mostly center on the intrigue at the French court and La Mole's efforts in Holland to raise troops for a return to France to fight the Catholics. The film's strength is its ability to convincingly personalize the villainy of Catherine and the passion of Margot. The diabolic scheming of Catherine is vividly dramatized in her foiled attempt to poison Henri by coating the pages of a book on falconry with a slow-acting poison. Charles, however, comes upon the book and thumbs his way through it, licking his finger to separate the corners and unknowingly poisoning himself page by page.

The muted but rich colors, impressive sets, and fine performances add to the appeal of this handsomely mounted historical film, rich with occasional blood-letting.

Cast: Isabelle Adjani (Margot), Daniel Auteuil (Henri of Navarre), Jean-Hugues Anglade (Charles IX), Vincent Perez (La Mole), Virna Lisi (Catherine of Medici), Dominique Blanc (Henriette of Nevers), Pascal Greggory (Anjou), Claudio Amendola (Coconnas), Miguel Bose (Guise), Asia Argento (Charlotte of Sauve), Julien Rassam (Alencon), Thomas Kretschmann (Nancay), Jean-Claude Brialy (Coligny), Jean-Phillipe Ecoffey (Conde), Albano Guaetta (Orthon) Screenwriter: Daniele Thompson, Patrice Chereau Cinematographer: Philippe Rousselot Composer: Goran Bregovic Producer: Claude Berri for Renn Productions, France 2 Cinema/D.A. Films (Paris), -NEF Filmproduktion GmbH,/Degeto pour Ard,/Wing (Munich), -R.C.S. Films and Television (Rome), with the participation of the Centre National de la Cinematographie and Canal Plus; released by Miramax Films MPAA Rating: R Running Time: 144 minutes Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards, 1994: Nominations: Costume Design; British Academy Awards, 1995: Nominations: Foreign Film; Cannes Film Festival, 1994: Special Jury Prize, Actress (Virna Lisi); Cesar Awards, 1995: Actress (Isabelle Adjani), Cinematography, Costume Design, Supporting Actor (Jean-Hugues Anglade), Supporting Actress (Virna Lisi); Nominations: Foreign Film; Golden Globe Awards, 1995: Nominations: Foreign Film Box Office: $2M (U.S. gross).

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