Farewell, My Queen
Directed by Benoit Jacquot
Starring Diane Kruger, Lea Seydoux, Virginie Ledoyen
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.