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Saturday, May 11, 2019

MARQUISE -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

The 17-century French comedy-drama MARQUISE (Film Movement Classics, 1997) looks like it's going to be one of those daunting costume affairs that bore us and then make us feel stupid and unsophisticated for being bored.

But then the first thing it does is to set such concerns at ease by engaging in about ten minutes of crude, delightfully unsophisticated humor--including bathroom humor--in which a group of actresses passing through a bustling French town set off looking for a place to "go" and the playwright Molière (Bernard Giraudeau) and his partner Gros-Rene (Patrick Timsit) meet a gorgeous peasant girl named Marquise (Sophie Marceau) who is both a dancer and a whore. 

Gros-Rene, smitten by love at first sight, barges into her hovel while she's servicing an elderly client and invites her to come to Paris to dance before their plays, and she, an aspiring actress, accepts.  (Later she will accept his proposal of marriage and remain a loving wife to him even despite a succession of affairs.)

Thus beginning as sort of an upper-crust "Porky's", the story reveals other facets as well when we're immersed in a superbly-rendered world of old French theater attended by upper-class sophisticates who are in reality just as crude and lowbrow as the risque' sex farces Molière writes for them.

But while stricken at first by crippling stage fright, it isn't long before the beautiful Marquise becomes the toast of the theater world and sought after by such royal figures as an oddly-eccentric King Louis XIV (Thierry Lhermitte) while captivating the lower classes as well.

All of which is brought to the screen with the most sumptuous of production values (costumes, cinematography, and Italian locations are all stunningly lavish) and a directorial style by Véra Belmont (MALENA, RED KISS, PRISONERS OF MAO) that's effortlessly inviting. 

Performances are uniformly fine and well-suited to the time period. Lambert Wilson (The "Merovingian" from the MATRIX sequels) enters the picture as playwright Racine, who competes with Molière for the King's attentions artistically while ardently pursuing Marquise's affections.

Sophie Marceau, to whom I've always been rather indifferent, soon proves herself an irresistible presence as Marquise as she conveys the character's naivete, ambition, determination, insecurities, desperate desires, and equal amounts of loyalty and duplicity in her dealings with both men and women.    

The story grows deeper and more dramatic as Marquise's social and romantic entanglements become ever more complicated and lead to tragedy.  Deftly combining sophisticated story with an ever-present wry humor (which, as mentioned before, isn't afraid to revel in the lowbrow) and ample opportunities for Sophie Marceau to charm us with her beauty and mystique, MARQUISE is like a rum-soaked confection that's both sweet and intoxicating.

Buy the Blu-ray or DVD from Film Movement Classics

Also available on Fandango, iTunes

New 2K Digital Restoration
1.85:1 Widescreen
2.0 Stereo
French w/ English Subtitles
Bonus: Interview with director Véra Belmont, trailer,
       illustrated booklet with essay by Laurence Marie


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