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Issue No. 18 - Humanity

Movie Review: Marguerite (2016) Dir. Xavier Giannoli

Movie Review: Marguerite (2016) Dir. Xavier Giannoli

Image Above: © 2016 - Cohen Media Group

The film opens in a lavishly appointed French chateau where elegantly-attired guests are attending a charity benefit for war orphans. There will be a performance by their hostess, Marguerite Dumont (Catherine Frot). It is the 1920’s near Paris and Marguerite is a fabulously wealthy patroness of the opera who also fancies herself a diva. Her wealth and social position guarantee that she will have a captive audience among those in her own circle as well as those with social aspirations who prize her invitations and are willing to support her causes.

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Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 12.43.56 PM
Image Above: © 2016 - Cohen Media Group

The fact that she is absolutely tone deaf and has no talent whatsoever is something of which she is blissfully unaware. Her fantasy is aided and abetted by her husband who has not got the nerve to tell her the truth and her devotion to practicing her singing allows him plenty of time to devote to his mistress. Her chauffer/major domo, Madelbos (Denis Mpunga) is her most active enabler - improbably enough - playing the piano to accompany her practicing as well as photographing her in dramatic poses wearing the costumes of her various operatic personas.

When a cynical journalist writes a tongue in cheek article praising her performance and she receives masses of flowers from anonymous admirers she begins to have grander ideas and dreams of performing before the wider public on a professional stage. A tutor is hired, the down-on-his-luck tenor Pezzini (Michel Fau). Played as an unwilling, campy desperado appalled by what he has to work with but kept in line by the loyal Madelbos - the story moves toward farcical territory. But it never descends into farce due to the luminous, vulnerable performance of Catherine Frot who projects just the right amount of naivete, neediness and passion for opera from inside her bubble of delusion. She is never less than heartbreaking as the only person not in on the truth. Reality will crush this delicate soul.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 12.44.34 PM
Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 12.44.34 PM
Image Above: © 2016 - Cohen Media Group

Needless to say, the performance is a disaster and a tragedy. And I left the film feeling strangely disturbed by the consistent callousness and cynicism in all of the characters, with the possible exception of her husband (André Marcon) who has moments of empathy but does not know how to handle the bursting of the bubble. There was something so bleak about this world which seems devoid of human kindness. It is the same reaction I had to Stephen Frears Dangerous Liasons. And curiously enough he is directing an American version of this same story starring Meryl Streep. His film is a biopic of Florence Foster Jenkins, a wealthy New York socialite who died in 1944 a month after her Carnegie Hall performance. She is the character on which Marguerite is based.

At any rate it is visually gorgeous and ravishing to listen to except when Marguerite is torturing Mozart. It won 4 Cesar Awards - for Catherine Frot, costume, sound and production design. At just over two hours there is a lot to love.

- Belle McIntyre

Book Review: "The Life of Small Things" by Adam Ekberg

Book Review: "The Life of Small Things" by Adam Ekberg

Photo of the Week: Laurie Simmons

Photo of the Week: Laurie Simmons