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Movie Review: 'Farewell, My Queen' -- 3.5 stars

Lea Seydoux, left, and Diane Kruger in "Farewell,

Lea Seydoux, left, and Diane Kruger in "Farewell, My Queen" (Credit: Lea Seydoux, left, and Diane Kruger in "Farewell, My Queen")

Farewell, My Queen
3.5 stars
Directed by Benoit Jacquot
Starring Diane Kruger, Lea Seydoux, Virginie Ledoyen
Rated R
In French with English subtitles

More than two centuries have passed since the French Revolution forced the monarchy out of Versailles, but as a timeless symbol of unvarnished, out-of-touch wealth, the royal estate looms large.

Recently, Sofia Coppola tapped into our enduring fascination with Versailles and its most famous resident in her MTV-ified "Marie Antoinette," and now the veteran filmmaker Benoit Jacquot opts for verisimilitude in a far superior take on the queen and her palace in "Farewell, My Queen."

Jacquot's film, set in July 1789 - mere months before the royal family was forced out of Versailles - and shot mostly on location there, offers a visual feast. There are endless opportunities to take in the sumptuous chateau, with its labrynthine hallways, gold-varnished rooms and breathtaking gardens. With attractive actors and a no-expenses-spared approach, the movie is the closest we'll get to experiencing Versailles alongside the queen.

But the director has more on his mind than a simple travelogue. With the film unfolding amid the storming of the Bastille and its immediate aftermath, Jacquot ramps up the tension. From the perspective of Sidonie Laborde (Léa Seydoux), a trusted and loyal servant to the queen (Diane Kruger), we watch panic set in among the nobles as they are made increasingly aware of the tumultuous, life-threatening events occurring beyond Versailles' gates.

It's riveting, edge-of-your-seat stuff from start to finish, even if you're not a history buff or a Francophile. 

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