Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Princess of Montpensier (Brockway)

The Princess of Montpensier
Zounds! I see melodrama in velvet. No I'm not still writing about an 80s Neo -punk band, from "Blank City", but rather a new period piece that owes a debt to Jane Eyre. "The Princess of Montpensier", is a romance that gives a pastoral painterly feel to the incarnadine religious wars of the 16th century, between the Catholics and Huguenots. Although the film addresses some hysteria of this bloody conflict, complete with plenty of scarlet eviscerations that bloom like violets on emerald fields, the film is more a dreamy teen romance of star crossed love than a study of war.

The film stars Melanie Thierry as Marie. Marie is red haired, haunting and vivacious. Thierry fills the screen with all the otherworldly charisma of a pre-Raphaelite model. Marie is enamored with the Duke de Guise, (Gaspard Ulliel) who bears a striking resemblance to Salvador Dali but she is of course pressured by her family to marry a clean cut dullard of a Prince. (Gregoire Leprince Ringuet).

There is the usual swordplay here as we have come to expect accompanied by scores of brocaded parries and perfumed effronteries. But just when you thought this film was all Alexandre Dumas, men plunge more swords through the heart than any Hammer vampire production. And when the Musketeers lovers embrace, its no accident that you might think of a "Twilight" film. Goodness knows there is enough eyeliner.

A lot of back and forth occurs with much pensive, pining expressions from virtually everyone. There is a moment of humor regarding a not so private bedroom scene in which the put upon Marie utters "one mousey squeak". Alas, the prince is no lover. He has all the magnetic allure of a Pee-wee Herman clothed in the Restoration.

Although period piece devotees will find themselves well pleased, Melanie Thierry is the solo surprise for her inner smoldering and frigid intent. The character becomes a libertarian Lafayette and she remains the glue that holds the film together. One look at Marie ripping the leg off of a freshly slaughtered pig and you'll be hooked and hung out to dry. Never has love seemed so carnivorous and desire so nil.

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