Farewell My Queen/Les adieux à la reine (2012) - Jacquot
It's not the first time Benoit Jacquot took liberties with depicting the life of a controversial historical figure. In Sade, the infamous Marquis is neither a cross-dressing sexual fiend nor over-the-top lunatic he is normally portrayed as. His strength is in portraying these larger-than-life figures in more of a relatable human level. Indeed, in Farewell My Queen, Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger), never utter the infamous line, "Let them eat cake." She is not an airhead teenager, but a reticent, lonely queen in her last days.
Seen from the queen's high strung personal reader Sidonie Laborde (Léa Seydoux)'s point of view, the film tells queen's infatuation with a beautiful and enigmatic Mme. Gabrielle de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen) and her increasing isolation as the revolution approaches. As a servant, then confidant, Sidonie lends her sympathetic ears to the queen. Her feelings toward the queen is a mixture of pity, envy and adoration. She is ready to do anything Her Majesty asks of her. But would she sacrifice herself for her queen's love for another?
Farewell My Queen sizzles with sexual tension among the three principle actresses. I like Jacquot's straightforward approach to lesbianism. Virginie Ledoyen owns whenever she appears on the screen with her flirtatious gaze and her diamond sharp feature. In one scene, Gabrielle's naked sleeping body even stops jealous Sidonie on her track with admiration. Diane Kruger proves that she is not only a pretty face with her portrayal of complex and charismatic Marie Antoinette. At once naive and untouchable, she wears the role of tragic beauty with ease. But the film belongs to Léa Seydoux. Sidonie's journey from an observer looking in, to an unwitting pawn of the game with her heart on a string, she is the most tragic figure in the story. It's Seydoux's forlorn forever baby face and brooding intensity that convey Sidonie's desire and yearning perfectly.
Let me state that I am not the biggest fan of period pieces. But with lavish set design, costumes and radiant actresses, I have to admit, Farewell My Queen is a total eyecandy and delicious intrigue that is great fun to watch.
Farewell My Queen was shown in this year's Berlinale, made an appearance in Rendez-vous with French Cinema and has a limited release in the US on 7/13.