Saturday, March 9, 2019

A near-classic comes to Blu-ray: Véra Belmont's crass 'n classy MARQUISE

Among those famous French actresses who, down the decades, barely seem to age, Sophie Marceau runs a very close second to the champion, Isabelle Adjani. You can now view Ms Marceau -- whose grace and beauty has always surmounted her acting skills, though she is certainly a decent enough performer -- in a 1997 comic/historical costume melodrama entitled MARQUISE.

Based (somewhat loosely, I'm sure) on the life of dancer/actress Marquise-Thérèse de Gorla, the movie opens delightfully/naughtily as the theater troupe of a certain M. Molière arrives in a small town, where the female performers desperately need to find a loo. A lovely and innocent-looking young child leads them to the public toilet and makes some good money for her trouble -- in a surprising manner.

As directed and co-written by the French filmmaker Véra Belmont, shown right, with whose work TrustMovies is completely unfamiliar, the movie is an eye-popping delight to view regarding costumes, production design and all else visual, thanks to Ms Belmont and her cinematographer (Jean-Marie Dreujou).

As they wander the town, Molière (brought to fine life and a rather remarkable facial resemblance by Bernard Giraudeau) and one of his best comic actors, Gros-René (the film's standout performance and its emotional center, Patrick Timsit), come upon a very attractive young woman dancing on a platform before a spellbound crowd. When it begins to rain, the crowd disperses, but not our two guys. Tracking down the dancer, they find that her father whores her out for money, and before you can say, "Come to Paris with our little troupe," she is married to Gros-René and is finding her way to fame and fortune.

Along the way, she and we meet the likes of cultural icons from Molière to Racine (Lambert Wilson, below, center), Lully (Remo Girone), and the aging actor Floridor (played by Lambert's dad, Georges) -- all vying for the favor of the ruling monarch Louis XIV (Thierry Lhermitte, below, left) who is, along with everyone else, smitten by our Marquise.

The ups and downs/ins and outs of our dancer-and-soon-to-be actress' rise are both believable (relatively) and entertaining (very), and by the time we get to the poisoned chocolates and some 17th Century All About Eve conniving, you should be properly amused and perhaps even moved.
I certainly was.

Running 116 minutes and released to DVD and Blu-ray by Film Movement Classics, Marquise (a French/Italian/Spanish co-production) hits the street this coming Tuesday, March 12 -- for purchase and (eventually, one hopes) streaming rental.

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