Director Benoit Jacquot's take on the last days of Marie Antoinette, Farewell, My Queen, is based on a book by Chantal Thomas, which looks at history from the perspective of a servant with a talent for embroidery. I don't know another filmmaker who studies the behavior of women with quite the care and consideration of this director. Introducing a special screening at MoMA in time for Bastille Day, Jacquot said, "I hope you like French films, because this film is very French."
At a time when viewers are obsessed with Downton Abbey, this film offers an upstairs downstairs French Revolution era glimpse complete with dying rats, gossipy crones, lotharios in gondolas, and the very beautiful queen (Diane Kruger) distracted from her duties by her love for the chilly Gabrielle de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen). She commands her devoted servant-in-waiting Sidonie (a marvelous Lea Seydoux) to perform an act of complete sacrifice.
A Peggy Siegal Company event for the Cohen Media Group, the after party at the French Consulate had its own decadence. Veuve Cliquot flowed as guests such as Nina Arianda and Waris Ahluwalla nibbled on crab cakes and smoked fish on potato pancakes. Costume designer Donna Zakowska spoke glowingly of this fine film's attention to period dress.
When Farewell, My Queen was featured at this year's Rendez-vous with French Cinema in March, Jacquot explained his casting of Diane Kruger as the ill-fated queen. Kruger "snatched" the role, insisting upon her similarities to Marie Antoinette: "I am Austrian, my mother is named Marie Therese. I was born on July 14. I am the same age as Marie Antoinette when she was guillotined."
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.
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