Ladies in wait­ing for the fi­nal cur­tain call

Farewell, My Queen (Les Adieux a la Reine) Fast & Furious 6 (Furious 6)

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - David Strat­ton

(M) ★★★ Limited re­lease

National re­lease

F✩

(M) ★★✩✩✩ AREWELL, My Queen fol­lows events that take place across just four days — June 14-17, 1789 — a mo­men­tous pe­riod in which the French monar­chy’s doom was sealed. There have been many films on this sub­ject, in­clud­ing the lav­ish 1938 MGM ver­sion, Marie An­toinette, with Norma Shearer as the queen and Robert Mor­ley giv­ing a re­mark­ably good per­for­mance as Louis XVI, as well as Sofia Cop­pola’s post­mod­ern ef­fort of the same name, made in 2006. French film­mak­ers, un­sur­pris­ingly, have also tack­led the ma­te­rial, most notably with Jean De­lan­noy’s 1956 ver­sion in which Michele Mor­gan por­trayed the doomed monarch. In the new film — not so new, ac­tu­ally, since it opened the Ber­lin fes­ti­val in Fe­bru­ary last year — Diane Kruger plays Marie An­toinette, but the story of her ap­proach­ing down­fall is told from an un­usual per­spec­tive, that of Si­donie Laborde, the young woman hired by the court to read books to the queen.

Si­donie is played by the tal­ented young Lea Sey­doux, so the film marks the re-team­ing of the two ac­tresses from Quentin Tarantino’s In­glou­ri­ous Bas­terds. Si­donie adores the queen, de­spite the lat­ter’s tem­per tantrums and caprices. In­deed, she has what amounts to a crush on her mistress who, how­ever, is far more in­ter­ested, sex­u­ally speak­ing, in her favourite, the Duchess de Polignac, Gabrielle de Po­las­tron (Vir­ginie Le­doyen).

At the be­gin­ning, di­rec­tor Benoit Jac­quot — who has been mak­ing films since the mid1970s but whose work is vir­tu­ally un­known in Aus­tralia — es­tab­lishes a con­fined world of pet­ti­ness and ex­cess, com­pletely iso­lated from events tak­ing place out­side the palace of Ver­sailles, not so very far away in Paris where, on June 14, the Bastille has fallen. When the news reaches the court the fol­low­ing day, ru­mours spread like wild­fire, in­clud­ing the ex­is­tence of a ‘‘ wanted’’ list of 286 courtiers des­tined to be be­headed, among them the Duchess de Polignac.

As the in­ter­nal chaos mounts, Si­donie at­tempts to in­ter­pret what is hap­pen­ing and what is likely to hap­pen, no easy task in th­ese con­fus­ing cir­cum­stances. The queen’s even­tual de­mand of her is chill­ingly self-serv­ing and ruth­less, but Si­donie never hes­i­tates to obey the com­mands of the woman she loves and ad­mires.

Sey­doux is in vir­tu­ally ev­ery scene and con­firms her tal­ent as an ac­tress (tal­ent fur­ther con­firmed in Cannes last month with her re­mark­able por­trayal of a les­bian in the Palme d’Or-win­ning Blue is the Warm­est Colour).

But Farewell, My Queen, adapted from a novel by Chan­tal Thomas, is frus­trat­ing in that it with­holds all in­for­ma­tion about the young

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