Sunday, March 2, 2014
Chéreau’s highest-profile film was also his biggest departure: a lavish, blood-spattered, gold-spangled costume drama starring a trio of French superstars (Isabelle Adjani, Daniel Auteuil, and Vincent Perez). In the heat of the 17th-century Wars of Religion, the ruthless French queen Catherine de Medici (Virna Lisi) gives up her daughter Margot (Adjani) in marriage to the prominent Huguenot Henri of Navarre (Auteuil) as a peace offering —while secretly arranging for the mass slaughter of thousands of Protestants. Margot soon falls for a dashing Protestant soldier (Perez); bodice-ripping love scenes, court intrigue, poisonings and beheadings ensue. Chéreau captures it all with gleeful, operatic bravado, setting the movie at a pitch delirious enough to elevate it far beyond traditional period-piece territory. This is a “restored and enriched” version of the film, which debuted last year at Cannes in the festival’s Classics section, though the few changes made by Chereau have not altered its original running time.