Some reviews of Farewell my Queen, which just premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, have arrived! For the most part, they’re fairly positive although the positive reviews do note a sense of distance in the film. (Which, IMO, fits the tone of the book perfectly but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.)
A distanced but extraordinarily atmospheric costumer set in the heady
(in the sense of pre-guillotined) final days of Versailles amid the
commotion of the dawning French Revolution, Farewell, My Queen is a visual joy to watch, even while its tale of a lower class girl at
court infatuated with the Queen of France labors to say something
relevant. Though director Benoit Jacquot opts for the grand European style of Girl with a Pearl Earring rather than a modernist re-reading à la Sofia Coppola’s post-punk vision Marie Antoinette, the film has its own charm, a matter-of-fact treatment of lesbianism and magnifique costumes and settings guaranteed to please Upper East Side patrons, all of which suggests a wide art-house release for this lavish French-Spanish coprod.
The panic that engulfed Versailles in the early days of the French Revolution is captured from a murky side angle in “Farewell, My Queen,” a well-observed but emotionally muted costume drama that might well have been titled “My Week With Marie Antoinette.” Pivoting on the queen’s relationship with one of her most devoted courtiers, Benoit Jacquot’s venom-tipped account of palatial intrigue and royal oblivion scrupulously maintains a servant’s-eye view but winds up holding the viewer at an unrewarding distance. Cast names should lend the picture some Euro arthouse traction, though Stateside biz won’t far exceed that of Jacquot’s recent work.
Benoît Jacquot takes on this historical upheaval, already explored by Scola, Wajda, or even Rohmer, from royalty’s perspective, or more specifically from that of queen Marie-Antoinette, who was presented in a completely different way by Sofia Coppola in 2006. He offers up an esthetic synthesis of several of his stylistic characteristics: his love of literary adaptations (Farewell, My Queen is the tenth out of 20 films), his attraction for costume dramas (after Sade, False Servant, Tosca and Adolphe), and his fascination for portraits of actresses. The film’s main actresses, Léa Seydoux and Diane Kruger, here join the ranks of the filmmaker’s muses, that have included Huppert, Le Besco, Deneuve, Adjani, Kiberlain and Virginie Ledoyen, who also features in Farewell, My Queen.