THE PRINCESS OF MONTPENSIER (Bertrand Tavernier, 2010)
MoMA Film, Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Friday, April 10, 7:30 (Roy and Niuta Titus Theater 1), and Tuesday, April 14, 6:30 (Education and Research Building)
Series runs through April 14
Tickets: $12, in person only, may be applied to museum admission within thirty days, same-day screenings free with museum admission, available at Film and Media Desk beginning at 9:30 am
In Bertrand Tavernier’s sweeping romantic epic, young and beautiful Marie de Mézières (Mélanie Thierry) has a big problem: It seems that every man she meets falls in love with her. Already in a passionate relationship with the heroic Henri de Guise (Gaspard Ulliel), a leader of the Catholics against the Protestant Huguenots in the French Wars of Religion of the 1560s, Marie is suddenly part of a shady deal between her father (Philippe Magnan) and the Duke de Montpensier (Michel Vuillermoz), marrying her off to the rather uninspiring though steadfast Prince Philippe de Montpensier (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet), who warms to his bride much quicker than she to him. Returning to the battlefield, Philippe asks his mentor, the older and wiser Count de Chabannes (Lambert Wilson), to teach Marie in the ways of the court to prepare her for meeting Catherine de Medici, but even such a solid, moralistic man as Chabannes — who deserted from the army after killing a peasant family, supposedly in the name of his lord and saviour — cannot prevent himself from succumbing to the many charms of his unaware charge. And when she meets the wild and unpredictable Duke d’Anjou (Raphaël Personnaz), the king’s brother is smitten as well. But through it all, Marie, a modern woman who wants to learn to write and make her own choices, remains fiercely drawn to Henri, a forbidden love that threatens dire consequences.
Based on the 1662 novella by Madame de La Fayette, The Princess of Montpensier is a thrilling tale of love and war, of honor and betrayal. Master filmmaker Tavernier (The Clockmaker of Saint-Paul, A Sunday in the Country), who cowrote the daring script with longtime collaborator Jean Cosmos and François-Oliver Rousseau, focuses on character and story rather than pomp and circumstance, creating an intoxicating intimacy often missing from the genre. Thierry is alluring as Marie, who can be seen as an early feminist in a time when women were little more than possessions. Even at two hours and twenty minutes, the film flies by; you’ll feel sorry you can’t spend more time with the many wonderfully drawn characters who help make The Princess of Montpensier such a marvelous treat. The film is screening April 10 and 14 as part of MoMA’s presentation of its latest film acquisitions; among the other recently acquired works being shown are Aktan Arym Kubat’s Svet-Ake (The Light Thief), Bruno Barretto’s Bossa Nova, Xavier Dolan’s Les Amours imaginaires (Heartbeats), and Bong Joon-hoo’s Barking Dogs Never Bite.