This is a newly released “Director’s Cut” of an award-winning 1994 film by Patrice Chéreau, based on a historical novel by Alexandre Dumas Pere. The centerpiece is the St. Bartholomew Day Massacre of 1572 in which thousands of high-ranking French Protestants were lured to Paris and then brutally murdered.
The title character, “Margot” (Isabelle Adjani) is married off to Protestant “King Henri de Navarre” (Daniel Auteuil) thru the machinations of her Catholic mother Catherine de Medici (Verna Lisi). Catherine, the widow of French king Henry II, is obsessed with ensuring the continuation of the Valois Dynasy. Well, what’s a mother to do when her three spoiled sons are such weaklings?
Despite being forced into the marriage, Margot has some sympathy for Henri, and does her best to protect him after the massacre. But the great love of her life is La Mole (Vincent Perez), the well-born son of one of Henri’s key supporters.
The huge cast of guys running hither and yon confused my husband Richard, but I kept my eyes on Adjani and Lisi (both of whom give intense and vivid performances).
Sure, lots of men are slaughtering each other — often to gory excess — as men in movies typically do when they want to prove themselves as “warriors” in a Man’s World. But I didn’t care about them as “individuals” as much as Richard did. Whoever was killing whom in any given scene, I was more moved by the women. Amid the chaos, mother and daughter both did their best to negotiate within their tiny spheres of influence, and I found that fascinating.
And of course Isabelle Adjani and Vincent Perez were at the peak of physical beauty in 1994, making their sensuous coupling something to behold. “Pas de bouche!” Yowza!
Kudos to director Patrice Chéreau and his co-writer Daniele Thompson for creating this gorgeous epic, with cinematographer Philippe Rousselot as first among equals in the outstanding crew who served behind-the-scenes. Queen Margot definitely stands the test of time. (JLH: 4.5/5)
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Top Photo: “Margot” (Isabelle Adjani) watches the goings-on at her wedding reception with “Henriette” (Dominique Blanc) her Lady-in-Waiting. Altho she is sometimes seen to be ruthless herself, Henriette is generally loyal to Margot, and helps to get Margot safely to Henri at the end of the film.
Middle Photo: Henriette proves her worth by helping Margot arrange private moments with “La Mole” (Vincent Perez). Full Frontal Male Nudity Alert! Vive La France!
Bottom Photo: Queen Margot received twelve Cesar nominations in 1995 and won five including Best Actress (Adjani), Best Supporting Actress (Lisi), and Best Costumes (Moidele Bickel).
Bickel was also nominated for an Oscar, but it went to the designers of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and really, who could quarrel with that 😉
Photo Credits: Luc Roux
In addition to “talking about men,” Margot and Henriette gossip and scheme.
Catherine also schemes with “Charlotte” (Asia Argento), the beautiful young noblewoman she has hand-selected to distract Henri. OK, so Catherine may appear to be “talking about Henri” with Charlotte, but what she is really doing is keeping tabs on him. Of course this puts Charlotte in grave danger, but Catherine could care less.
All this said, however, most of the runtime (144 minutes in the 1994 release and 159 minutes in the 2014 “Director’s Cut”) is men talking to men, and sometimes women talking to men. When women talk to women, they are definitely at the edge of the drama.
And even tho I have seen Queen Margot twice in the past month (!), I don’t remember any scenes of Margot alone with Catherine… Catherine is totally devoted to her sons. Once she marries Henri, Margot ceases to be a Valois and becomes the potential mother of a Bourbon Dynasty. So after the wedding, Catherine not only has no further use for her daughter, she actively hates her. But Margot doesn’t seem to mind too much. This daughter seems to know from the beginning not to expect too much from Mom.