Farewell, My Queen has been one of the more buzzed-about films of 2012. Based on Chantal Harris’ novel , the story is an inside-out look at the beginning of the French Revolution and the end of Louis XVI’s (Xavier Beauvois) reign as seen through the eyes of Marie Antoinette’s (Diane Kruger) young, devoted reader Sidonie (Léa Seydoux). It’s a perspective that has less to do with Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette and more in common with, say, Bob Fosse’s Cabaret in its portrayal of how decay, ignorance and self-absorption led to social upheaval and personal heartbreak.
Such storytelling is a perfect fit for esteemed director Benoît Jacquot (who co-adapted with Gilles Taurand), whose history of period pieces like Sade, Seventh Heaven, Deep in the Woods provide plenty of commentary on modern themes. He stresses that telling stories about the past is the cinematic equivalent of shining a mirror on contemporary matters. “Paradoxically, it is the best way to talk about the present for me,” Jacquot explains. “I find it more difficult to film in a contemporary setting than in a different one. I need the detour of going through the past first.
“By definition, the present is something burning,” Jacquot continued. “I approached this story with extreme care and caution. Approaching the past is the way show things that are going on in the world.” Citing an example, Jacquot mentions that after principal filming on Farewell had completed, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ejected from power in Tunisia. “They even referred to Madame Ben Ali as Marie Antoinette,” Jacquot added.
Farewell doesn’t feature King Louis prominently, instead focusing on a triangle, of sorts, between Marie, Sidonie, and Gabrielle de Polastron, duchesse de Polignac (Virginia Ledoyen). As the turmoil surrounding Versailles rises, so, too, do the stakes between these three women, eventually leading Marie to make an odd, and oddly heartbreaking, request of Sidonie. How was it working with these actresses? “It is the ideal situation if you love good actresses and beautiful women – which I do!” Jacquot joked, adding “it was a very delicious moment.”
But he isn’t the only one who views Farewell as a tasty morsel – the film has opened the Minneapolis and San Francisco Film Festivals, as well as the highly reputable Berlin Film Festivals. While not one to crave making the rounds at such public events, the director admits that he’s happy to do so if “it brings as broad an audience as possible.”
Expect many others to gobble up this meal as well.
Farewell, My Queen opens in New York tomorrow. More information can be found at www.cohenmediagroup.com.
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