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Monday, August 5, 2013

LA PRINCESSE DE MONTPENSIER / THE PRINCESS OF MONTPENSIER (2010)

Vet French helmer Bertrand Tavernier brings an unearned note of serious consideration to what is basically a swoony bodice ripper with footnote-worthy historical trappings. Promised to one noble brother, but playing nooky with his smoldering sibling, our eponymous, irresistible Princess gives them both up when she’s bartered off by her father to a land-rich Prince. But their wedding night has hardly ended when war calls the jealous groom away, leaving her to the wise & tender mercies of the young husband’s lordly mentor, a Protestant sympathizer grown sick of battle. He too quickly succumbs, if only in spirit!, to her flirtatious manner, but she’s not done yet! A fifth suitor, the King’s metrosexual brother is equally smitten with Mélanie Thierry’s kittenish princess. And who could blame him from yearning for those kissable lips and a manner that dials all the way up from merely coy to deeply pleasant, never quite making it to the necessary purple passion. Set to climax at the infamous Huguenot massacre of 1565, the four principals work hard to avoid the usual baggage of period costume manners so they’re easy to relate to, but largely out of touch with their strait-jacketed society. Tavernier gets his best perf out of Lambert Wilson as the calm, reasonable, sadder-but-wiser Protestant who has renounced war and lives in a sort of perpetual spiritual, political & sexual no-man’s land. Just the man we don’t need extra help understanding. It’s everybody else who could use some sympathy & attention. And while the pace, color & rhythm pick up with the romantic & religious intrigues of the last act, none of the three survivors measure up to the emotional investment asked of us. Not necessarily a bad thing in a film, just not the one Tavernier was aiming for.

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