Heat in the Bedroom and on the Battlefield in the Superb Princess of Montpensier
The finest Western youll see this year is set in aristocratic 16th-century France, in the heat of Counter-Reformation. Mélanie Thierrys father barters her for the titular title, marrying her off to Grégoire Leprince-Ringuets shy, pained princeinstead of her hearts first choice, Gaspard Ulliels Duke de Guise. De Guise keeps keeps chasing after the wedded princess, along withfor reasons requiring no explanation to anyone whos ever seen Thierrythe Duke dAnjou (Raphaël Personnaz) and the films calm center, the philosopher-warrior Count de Chabannes (Lambert Wilson), who has retired from an active role in the world after a campaigning tragedy. The Wars of Religion provide this boudoir-and-battlefield films other front: Director Bertrand Tavernier applies athletic Steadicam to filthy melees and crossed dueling swords, conveying the heft of steel and crush of close combat in takes of endurance and harsh verisimilitude. The action is remarkable also for its revelation of character and moral dimensionqualities learned from American horse operas by Tavernier, who vigorously jounces painterly posing out of this period material. The setting always serves the performers rather than vice versathough the film is also greatly enhanced by the costuming, the rugged French countryside photographed in outdoor-adventure CinemaScope, and Philippe Sardes baroque-tribal score, its martial and romantic poles matching a tale of love (corrupted) and war (pointless).
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