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The Independent Critic

STARRING
Lea Seydoux, Diane Kruger, Virginie Ledoyen
DIRECTED BY
Benoit Jacquot
SCREENPLAY
Benoit Jacquot, Chantal Thomas, Gilles Taurand
MPAA RATING
Rated R
RUNNING TIME
100 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
Cohen Media Group
DVD/BLU-RAY EXTRAS
  • Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 2:34)

  • Benoit Jacquot and Kent Jones Discuss Farewell, My Queen (1080p; 20:28).

  • Interviews (480i; 22:26)
 "Farewell, My Queen" a Unique Spin on a Familiar Tale 
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Farewell, My Queen opens in 1789 France and, for those familiar with French history, it is apparent that the end of the reign of King Louis XVI is approaching. The film opens with a servant, Sidonie Laborde (Lea Seydoux), who is anxiously approaching Marie Antoinette with a mixture of trepidation and reverence. There is both an opulence and a sense of nervousness that invade this scene, a scene that continues to unfold with the news that the Bastille has been stormed and the growing crowd is coming for the queen.

As co-written and directed by French director Benoit Jacquot, Farewell, My Queen is a lush and vibrant film that is mesmerizingly beautiful even when it is invaded with an ominous sense of gloom and despair. At one point in the film, a list appears within the palace of 286 people whom the revolutionaries intend to behead. While we are certainly aware that this is the fate that is destined for Marie Antoinette, by the time we arrive at this list we've become so familiar with the servants and, in particular, Laborde that this scene takes on a pretty remarkable power.

As Marie Antoinette, Diane Kruger gives her best performance in quite some time. Kruger portrays Antoinette has a royal whose impulsive and frivolous nature can't mask her humanity, a humanity that grows increasingly volatile and vulnerable as she contemplates both her potential fate and, perhaps, an attempt to flee. The film also captures a sensuousness, a perhaps unusual take on the story based upon a book by Chantal Thomas, but a take that gives the film a tremendous power and resonance.

Seydoux is generally a good match here, though at times her performance comes off with a tad too much strength that threatens to weaken the queen. That said, there's a strength in Seydoux's performance that fits very nicely with a servant who somehow finds the strength within her to maintain a sense of loyalty and purpose even as her world is potentially caving in.

Production values in Farewell, My Queen are simply stellar, with Romain Winding's camera work weaving realism into Katie Wyszkop's excellent production design. Christian Gasc's costumes, at least to this non-fashion designer eye, exude period appropriateness and a sense of both the regal and the real. Bruno Coulais's original score keeps pace with the many moods of the film, moods that become increasingly dramatic as the film winds down.

Farewell, My Queen works both for its intelligent spin on a familiar story and for its exceptional production values that turn even the most ominous scene into a beautiful scene to behold. I'd dare say that one could watch the film silent and both understand the story and be completely awestruck by the visual imagery that unfolds.

Farewell, My Queen is currently in the midst of a limited arthouse run in the U.S. with distributor Cohen Media Group and opens in Indianapolis on August 24th. Fans of French and historical cinema will most likely be enchanted by the film, and Diane Kruger fans, in particular, should consider this a must see film.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic  
    The Official Rating Guideline
    • A+ to A: 4 Stars                
    • A- to B+: 3.5 Stars            
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    • B- to C+: 2.5 Stars           
    • C: 2 Stars
    • C- to D+: 1.5 Stars
    • D: 1 Star
    • D-: .5 Star
    • F: Zero Stars

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