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Farewell, My Queen(2012)
No synopsis for Farewell, My Queen.
For more about Farewell, My Queen and the Farewell, My Queen Blu-ray release, see Farewell, My Queen Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on January 12, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Diane Kruger, Léa Seydoux, Virginie Ledoyen, Xavier Beauvois, Noémie Lvovsky
Director: Benoît Jacquot
» See full cast & crew
Farewell, My Queen Blu-ray Review
Queen of Lesbos?
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, January 12, 2013
In the world of film, "historical" and "epic" used to be near inseparable terms. From the earliest days of cinema, directors like D.W. Griffith in Intolerance (a title evidently soon to be released on Blu-ray by Cohen Media Group) spared no expense in recreating ancient cultures, filling the screen with immense sets and lavish costume design. That tendency continued unabated in the intervening decades, probably reaching its zenith in the fifties, when widescreen formats only added to the allure and audiences were dazzled by sometimes turgid drama that nonetheless offered plenty to look at in films as varied as The Robe, The Egyptian and Désirée (to cite three that are available on Blu-ray). But things started to change as the sixties unfolded, with such so-called "epics" as David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia offering a much more intimate portrait of its subject, albeit within the whirling tumult of huge historical events. Lean's strangely derided (and in my not so humble opinion vastly underappreciated) Ryan's Daughter is probably the best example of this trend, at least in Lean's own oeuvre, a film that touches on all sorts of roiling political content while basically focusing on a dysfunctional love triangle. The decades since the sixties have seen various efforts, including some by Lean himself (A Passage to India), as well as those who attempted to follow in Lean's rather large footsteps, as with Richard Attenborough and Gandhi, but true historical epics have become subsumed under a more generalist trend to recast historical events with various post modernist viewpoints and, some at least would argue, gimmicks.
The whole panoply of changing approaches to creating a film out of historical events and personages can be rather artfully traced by looking at various treatments of the life of Marie Antoinette. 1934's Madame Du Barry actually focused on a courtesan of King Louis XV's, but Anita Louise was on hand portraying Marie Antoinette in an elegant, if patently "Hollywoodized", interpretation. Four years later, Marie Antoinette came along, one of the most expensive films ever made up to that point, a huge production that was glamorous and ridiculous in almost equal measure, albeit granted a major saving grace with a relatively nuanced performance by Norma Shearer. The ill fated queen had a couple of international films to "her" credit in the intervening decades, but suddenly with the advent of the 21st century, Marie Antoinette was a hot property again. 2001's The Affair of the Necklace once again relegated Marie Antoinette to supporting character status, but while the film was not very well received, it provides an object lesson in how filmmakers had changed their approach to vaunted historical subjects. Here we're given an up close and personal view of various palace intrigues courtesy of a character who would ironically be relegated to supporting status in any piece focusing on Marie Antoinette. The film also didn't shirk from the grittier aspects of both court life as well as the generally unkempt world of that era, a portrayal certainly miles away from the typical Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer glitz of the 1930s, for example. An even more radical reworking of Marie Antoinette appeared in 2006 under the direction of Sofia Coppola, a film which posited these historical characters in a very modern feeling (and at times, looking) film that seemed to confuse a lot of viewers with its mash up of content and style. And so we finally come to 2012's French – Spanish co-production, Farewell, My Queen.
In a way Farewell, My Queen adopts a similar tack to both The Affair of the Necklace and Sofia Coppola's Marie Antionette. As with The Affair of the Necklace, we're introduced to the queen through an apparently "minor" character, only in this case she's the real focus of the film. Sidonie (Léa Seydoux) is a so-called lectrice, a girl who has been chosen to be a "reader" to the queen as she lolls about her elegant bedroom. But like Coppola's film, there's an au courant tone to the film, especially with its rather libertine sensibilities, an approach that is fairly explicit in exploring a supposed lesbian tendency on the part of Marie Antoinette.
The lesbianism may be more overt in the film version of Farewell, My Queen, but it was part an parcel of Chantal Thomas' original novel, a novel which won the Prix Feminina when it was published. Thomas perhaps is making the point that while women weren't entirely in control of their destinies during this era, even if they were queens, they could still dictate with whom they slept. That idea is carried over into the film in such seemingly trivial moments as when one of Sidonie's fellow palace workers teases her by trying to get her to guess who the worker bedded down with the night before.
Director Benoit Jacquot doesn't just get up close and personal with Sidonie and Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger), he seemingly is attached to them for large swaths of the film. His camera follows Sidonie around as if it's part of the train of her dress, shadowing her every move and giving the viewer a "point of view" perspective on the dissolution of the French aristocracy. Jacquot also doesn't flinch from either the unhygienic side of the era (rats are a recurrent element) or the moral turpitude that was part of palace life. The film is rather interesting in how quietly it details a coming revolution, as if these characters are all sleepwalking through their own private reverie which is about to be quite rudely interrupted by the teeming masses gathering outside.
Perhaps because of the time period, or in fact because of the characters themselves, there's a certain remote quality to the film that prevents the viewer from ever really being emotionally invested in what's going on. We get glimmers of interest in Sidonie's story, especially her kind of star-crossed infatuation with Marie Antoinette, but the setting seems so (intentionally) artificial that actual human emotion is kind of a foreign currency. The film is incredibly opulent, but also rather gritty at times, an interesting dialectic that helps establish some intellectual interest in place of matters of the heart.
Farewell, My Queen Blu-ray, Video Quality
Farewell, My Queen is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Entertainment One and Cohen Media Group with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.34:1. Director Benoit Jacquot favors natural lighting schemes throughout this production, including ambient light from such sources as candles and fireplaces, and while that might seem to deprive the image of shadow detail and fine object detail, in fact it rarely if ever does. Contrast remains strong throughout the often quite subtle changes in light, and Jacquot's reliance on close-ups help keep fine detail at excellent levels almost all of the time. Colors here are not overly bright or bold, and in fact the palette here tends to favor beiges, creams and occasional dashes of gold. The entire film has an appropriately painterly appearance. It's a subtle look, one that doesn't jump off the screen or offer eye popping candy colored scenes, but it's beautifully rendered on this Blu-ray, with a naturally filmic appearance and no compression artifacts to speak of.
Farewell, My Queen Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Farewell, My Queen features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track in the original French language. This isn't a very showy track in terms of overwhelming surround activity, but there is some nice spatial dimension to the surround mix that really nicely captures the immensity of Versailles in its waning days. Some nice depth of aural field is granted in several scenes, as in one where Sidonie runs through a seemingly endless hallway toward the camera. Dialogue is anchored front and center but ambient environmental sounds often dot the surrounds. Fidelity is excellent, though dynamic range is quite narrow.
Farewell, My Queen Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Farewell, My Queen Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Farewell, My Queen is intentionally more than a bit provocative at times, but it's also a strangely cold and kind of passionless film at its core, one that never really digs into the depths of either Sidonie or Marie Antoinette. The film is gorgeous to behold, the performances are all excellent, and the basic plot is compelling. But as with so many historical films, no matter what their approach or style, there's no getting past the fact that we're dealing with remote, larger than life figures (at least in the case of Marie Antoinette, if not Sidonie), and that in and of itself tends to put at least a little distance between the viewer and the subjects of the film. The film retains a nicely naturalistic flair that helps it to overcome the major bugaboo that has haunted historical films since time immemorial, namely the kind of patently fake and pretentious air that was part and parcel of many Hollywood offerings purporting to recreate epochs of yore. There's probably enough here to interest those who tend to like this type of film, and there's no denying that this Blu-ray looks and sounds just fine. With caveats noted, Farewell, My Queen comes Recommended.
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Farewell, My Queen Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Exclusive Giveaway: Farewell, My Queen - January 12, 2013
Blu-ray.com and Cohen Media Group are offering ten members a chance to win a copy of Farewell, My Queen. This sumptuous historical drama looks at four tumultuous days in the reign of Marie Antoinette as seen by one of her palace staff. Farewell, My Queen ...
• Farewell, My Queen Blu-ray - October 29, 2012
Cohen Media Group have revealed that they are planning to release on Blu-ray acclaimed director Benoît Jacquot's Les adieux à la reine a.k.a Farewell, My Queen (2012), starring Diane Kruger, Léa Seydoux and Virginie Ledoyen. The release will be available for purchase ...
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