View this film to see a peacock groomed, literally and figuratively. View this film to see how the French view the moneyed class a century after Balzac’s “Pere Goriot”.(1831). View Director Xavier Giannoli’s sixth film to see a mature woman crying for attention while surrounded by self-serving hypocrisy.
“Marguerite” is a tragicomedy that will assault your ears and delight your eyes. A lovely period piece with its pre-1920’s flapper silk, feather and pearl images flowing through flowered parlors and red-flocked opium dens. All reminding us what it must have been like to have twenty-five servants at your beck and call leaving one time to endulge one’s passion, even when one’s only talent is in indulging.
Based loosely on the American socialite Florence Foster Jenkins (1868-1944) , the French-subtitled feature film highlights romantic delusion more comically than Truffaut’s “Adelle H”, still a favorite of mine with the same theme of “passion gone astray.”
Marguerite’s passion is classical music. She listens to Mozart, Bizet, Handel, Verdi et.al. five hours a day. Catherine Frot plays the “tableau vivant” whose costumes, coy poses, and eccentric baroness airs will seem brave for some viewers and delusional for others. I tend to fall in the second camp.
What is wrong with Madame Marguerite Durmont’s vision of herself ? Well, it leads to too much drama, too many users, and a heartful of loneliness. The wealthy can be as mad as they wish, but they will pay for their madness.
There are no really likeable characters in the entire film. Hazel (Christa Theret) ,the young engenue, is talented and knowing, yet chooses to play along with others more interested in fleecing Marguerite’s than in exorcizing her demons. Georges ( Andre Macron), Marguerite’s husband, prefers her to “lie-in or go shopping” to humiliating them all with her caterwauling. When Georges explains the beaded silk stole as a ” farewell gift” to his mistress, we laugh cynically. Michel Fau as Marguerite’s voice instructor, Alos Pezzini, delights in many scenes, but one of the most interesting characters is Madelbros. ( Denis M’Punga) , the pianist butler, photographer and fiancée to the bearded-woman Tarot reader. It is his persistent photo developing that captures the attention-seeking off-key sadness of Marguerite. She tells us that the truth is that ” I love suffering !”
This romantic fantasy or life of deceit (depending on your view) has its moments. Marguerite, who only eats white food because of its brilliance, will touch some. The old saw: ” Delusional if you are a bag lady, eccentric if you are a baroness” leads to some flashes of perception for Marguerite , but she quickly moves on to play acting or suffering. Madness and death, the paths of least resistance, follow.
Best lines are “Cancel the plan” and “Money doesn’t matter, what matters is having it”, and “I have doubts about my high notes”, ” I tried to make you proud, but you took me to the mad house.” ,and finally, ” You crave adulation like a child”.