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is a handsomely produced drama about the rise and fall of a beauteous
actress. As cheerfully portrayed by Sophie Marceau, the eponymous heroine
is an engagingly ribald, but perhaps rather too modern, character. She
rises from an impoverished background to become a favourite of the Sun
King, Louis XIV, and the mistress of the celebrated Racine, who wrote roles
especially for her; but her fate, in the end, is a tragic one.
This period romp about artistic clashes between playwrights Moliere and Racine at the court of Louis XIV races along as though its life depended on it. The result is a muddled, decidedly soapified, but not unintelligent yarn about suffering in the name of art, with Marceau as the tantrum-throwing dancer-turned-diva torn between Moliere's integrity and Racine's love.
Marquise is first seen dancing in the streets, a wild, sensual performance that not even heavy rain can dampen. She catches the eye of Moliere (Bernard Giraudeau) and one of his leading actors, Gros-Rene (Patrick Timsit). Gros-Rene is so smitten that he promptly proposes to the ravishing young woman who is, at that moment, being ravished by a grumbling oaf who has paid her father for the privilege of having his daughter. "I think you should act," Gros-Rene tells her over the shoulder of her unwelcome client. "What do you think I'm doing?" she responds, peevishly, thrusting away the unrequited customer.
a short time she marries the noted actor Gros-Rene, who frees her from
servitude and promises her the opportunity of appearing on stage in Paris.
Her first stage appearance is a disaster when she succumbs to a dire case
of stage fright, but she improves. She also catches the eye of the king
(Thierry Lhermitte) – not hard to do when she performs a cartwheel
for him despite not wearing underwear. All
the journey to success and fame is pockmarked with plenty
of failures, back stage politics, betrayals, sexual encounters and tragedy.
Although she still admires and loves her husband, Marquise is free with
her sexual favours amongst the elite of Parisian society. In Paris, she
attracts the attentions of rival playwright Racine (Lambert Wilson), who
agrees to privately teach her the art of acting. Following Racine's coaching
she became a good and sensual actress. Racine also writes the demanding
tragedy Andromaque for her, although the play eventually takes its toll.
She is leading lady of Racine's theatre on the end of her life. Dying young,
Marquise is a tragic heroine in the classic
sense of the word.
The film's main thesis is the fragility of fame and Belmont opts for a bawdy naturalistic sense of period, never questioning the loose morals and murderous machinations of her characters. The toilet manners of the French court are given regular exposure - the king greeting visitors on a commode, for example, his flunkies then dipping into the pot with their fingers.
|CAST & STAFF|
|Marquise Du Parque (SOPHIE MARCEAU)|
Briskly paced throughout, Marquise is an exquisite
looking film with lavish production values, superb costumes (set
design by StefanoPaltrinieri)
, some robust performances from a solid cast, and an eye for authenticity.
Veteran producer turned director Vera
Belmont (Farinelli, etc) attempts to add some much needed spice to
Marquise with generous injections of bawdy sex and a few contemporary touches.
Belmont seems to have been inspired by Patrice Leconte's
Ridicule (a superior film), insisting on depicting the most intimate
details of her characters. Even if the material itself is not all that
interesting the delightfully entertaining script, from Belmont and co-writer
bristles with wit and humour .
The film spends a fair amount of time jokingly comparing the styles of the two great writers featured. The king complains to Moliere: "With you, we never know whether to laugh or cry"; while Racine, on being asked if his new play is a tragedy, remarks: "Is that a question or a rebuke?" French audiences, presumably well-educated in their nation's literary past, will be more easily able to appreciate the subtleties of these exchanges.
Marquise offers the audience fascinating insights into the world of French theatre in the latter half of the 17th century and the fabulous pomp and circumstance of Louis XIV's court. From among:
The film opens with a scene in which four of Moliere's actresses, taken short, are guided to a primitive toilet by a little girl who charges them for her services and then takes money from a bunch of voyeurs who observe them through holes in the wooden wall (see picture above - the second one). Later, King Louis defecates into a kind of bedpan while holding court and his doctors unselfconsciously examine the results in full view of the assembled company. It was, Belmont avers, a world without much privacy.
"The playfulness of the film spills out into the sexual liaisons, with a scandal erupting in almost every sequence. The phenomenon serves to remind us that people in high places were catting around long before Bill Clinton," said renomed critic from Toronto Sun Bruce Kirkland about Belmont's intime details painting.
The release of Marquise (August 1997), was marred by a bitter row between Sophie and the director, Véra Belmont. In the magazine VSD, she described Belmont as "incompetent" and "malicious". Belmont responded: "She hates me... but I got what I wanted from her."
Sophie cancelled her promotional engagements for the 60 million franc film and refuses to talk about it in interviews.
In Marquise, costume drama conventions are blown up big and beautiful while scenes in the gutter suggest the horrid smells, disease and dirt of the times. By presenting it as farce, Belmont actually makes the era seem more real than in the cleaner, slicker Hollywood version of France in The Man In The Iron Mask.
is performed in French with English subtitles.
Marquise is rich in detail but rather thin in narrative and Marceau doesn't really succeed in making her character sympathetic.