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April 12, 2011

The Princess of Montpensier

 

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THE_PRINCESS_OF_MONTPENSIER_poster.preview Madame de La Fayette's 1662 short novel of romantic rivalry amid France's ruling classes makes rich cinematic fodder for master filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier. Mélanie Thierry plays Marie de Mézières, a 16th century French heiress in love with childhood crush Henri de Guise (Gaspard Ulliel). De Guise is frequently referred to as "Scarface" for the battle scars he wears with pride. Marie's romantic aspirations are dashed when her father instead compels her to marry Philippe, the Prince of Montpensier (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet), a man she has never met. The Wars of Religion, between Protestant and Catholic factions, draw Philippe into the bloody fray to help defeat the Protestant army just after his marriage to Marie is consummated under royal supervision. Philippe takes care to protect his delicate wife by sending her to live in the relative safety of a remote castle in Champigny under the tutelage of his former mentor the Compte de Chabannes (Lambert Wilson). Chabannes is indebted to Philippe for saving his life from a couple of outlaws. The elder man's charge is to prepare the princess for her impending introduction at the Royal Court in Paris. Latin is on the menu. But there's a turbid side to Marie's charms that makes every man who lays eyes upon her fall hopelessly in love. Even the next heir to the throne, the Duke of Anjou (Raphaël Personnaz), feels obligated to throw his hat in the ring for a married woman who could easily cost him his life. Such is the minefield of misdirected desire that proves just as dangerous as any battlefield. "The Princess of Montpensier" is a lavish, French period drama full of dynamic sword fights and ill-concealed emotions. It is a rare cinematic treat.

Not Rated. 139 mins. (A) (Five Stars)

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