Patrice Chereau directs and co-writes this historical French epic melodrama.
Based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas and set in Paris in 1572, this tells the story of real characters and events during the reign of Charles IX, specifically the powerplay between the Catholics (the monarchy) and the protestants (the Huguenots).
With such a rich history of the monarchy filled with intrigue, drama, betrayal and murder it stands to reason that the French would do justice to the material.
Catherine De Medici played with scheming depth by Virna Lisi marries off her daughter, Margot (the stunning Isabelle Adjani) to the Huguenot, Henri De Navarre (another brilliant performance by Daniel Auteuil) in order to broker a peace deal but when Catherine organises the St Bartholemew Day Massacre, chaos ensues. Margot, who does not love her betrothed, begins an affair with the handsome soldier; La Mole (Vincent Perez) as political intrigue, plotting and power play ensues.
Cyrano De Bergerac came out 4 years earlier and set the bar high for well-made, historical, French films. The cast are all excellent and are let down by the slightly pedestrian way that the story is told. It comes across as melodrama and reminds one of an historical television drama. When I first saw this in 1994, I was enamoured by the world and the intrigue as well as the acting. Seeing it over 20 years later, the holes become more apparent.
Special mention must go to Jean-Hughes Anglade (Betty Blue, Braquo) who plays the weak king, Charles IX. His journey is by far the most interesting which is due to his powerhouse performance.
If you’re a fan of the historical epic, then check this out, it’s markedly better than most of the recent fare.