I am not overly familiar with director Bertrand Tavernier, except for a wonderful crime drama entitled “The Clockmaker” (1974) so I didn’t know what to expect from this French period film “The Princess of Montpensier”, inspired by the eponymous short story by .
What I got was a beautifully shot period drama set against the savage Catholic/Protestant wars that ripped France apart in the 16th century. In brief, the film centers around the love of Marie de Mezières for her dashing cousin Henri de Guise whom she expects to marry. Her father's political ambitions force her into a loveless marriage with the well-connected Philippe de Montpensier, who she has never met and is unwilling to try to love. When Philippe is called away to fight, she is left in the care of Count Chabannes, an aging nobleman that is hated by both sides of the war. Her beauty captivates many important people but she remains true to her love of Guise that is not in the stars.
One pleasant aspect of the films is the realistic recreation of the middle ages with stunning exteriors, interiors and costumes that never distracts from the story and avoids the many clichés that some period pieces tend to overdo. The film is well acted though I never warmed to the fate of the husband Montpensier (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet) whose slights are the main impetus of the film. I enjoyed the rest of the cast though the love story seemed to be almost dragging the film down. I would have rather been told the story of Count de Chabannes (Lambert Wilson) and his path from noble crusader to undesirable count or the fighting heroics of Henri de Guise (Gaspard Ulliel) in the wars (maybe there is a chance to revisit this era for the director).
Despite the inherent weakness of the love triangle (pentagon), the movie does have enough to sustain in into a worthwhile film though maybe a trimming of its 139 minutes could be managed. It is a film that truly allows us to disappear into this era and enjoy what is happening.
My grade for this film is a B.
This film opens today at Maple Art Theatre.