The Princess of Montpensier15 ¦ DVD, Bluray
Bertrand Tavernier is the French director that fans of world cinema will probably remember for his 1986 jazzplosion that was 'Round Midnight. Since then, he's made over ten films that haven't made quite the same impact. If this film is anything to go by, it's easy to see why.
France, 1562 and the country is in a right old religious mess. The Catholics and the Protestants aren't exactly seeing eye to eye. Many of the Catholic families are attempting to marry off their offspring, but only to the wealthiest of families, in a bid to secure their own social standing.
It has been decided by her father that Marie de Mézierès (Melanie Thierry) shall marry the Prince de Montpensier (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet), even though they've never actually met before. Although Marie is in love with another, the Duc de Guise (Gaspard Ulliel), she consents to the marriage.
Not long after they are wed, the prince is summoned by the king to help out with the war effort. Not wanting to leave his new bride alone, he leaves her in the capable hands of the Comte de Chabannes (Lambert Wilson), who not only taught the prince everything he knows, but is also a trusted friend.
Despite their longstanding friendship, The Comte de Chabannes can't help but fall in love with Marie. And he's not the only one. Marie soon finds that the Duk d'Anjou (Raphaël Personnaz) has also got a bit of a thing for her. At this point it might actually be easier to find someone in France who hasn't fallen head over in heels with her.
As you would expect, the prince is none too happy about the attention his new wife is getting. What makes it worse is that she doesn't appear to be that fond of him. With a war raging, and emotions running high, there's most certainly trouble ahead.
Visually speaking, Tavernier has still got a great eye for detail. This film has the kind of grandeur and scale normally reserved for a British period piece. And let's face it, the French knew a thing or two about fashion back then, as well as how to throw a party.
It's ironic though that its central theme of love is its very undoing.
As pretty as Thierry is, she just isn't given any real emotional ammunition to play with. Even with the one person her character is supposed to be in love with, she very rarely gives anything away. In one sense it's nice to see the majority of the male cast lose their senses over a woman, but her aloofness to everyone sadly dilutes the brewing passions. She's not even that aristocratic, so there's no real reason for her chilled responses to all advances made towards her.
What the film truly lacks are fireworks of passion; it can't even manage the odd spark. This disappointment is compounded by the film's two hour plus duration; the longer it goes on, the more of a mockery it makes of the notion that the French are the great seducers of this world.
Considering the amount of detail that's gone into this film, it's surprising how an old pro like Tavernier could have left such a huge heart-shaped hole go unfilled .