IThe Princess of Montpensier, 16th-century love quadrangle, not rated, in French with subtitles, CCA Cinematheque, 3 chiles Heaving bodices! Knee-breeches! Swashbuckling! Sword fights! This epic film is set during the French Wars of Religion, bloody 16th-century battles between Roman Catholics and Protestant Huguenots, but it isn’t all that concerned about its characters’ religious inclinations or who wins the war. This is more a Renaissance-era battle of the sexes, a lesson about what not to do if you’re a beautiful and willful French noblewoman of marriageable age in the 1560s.
Young Marie de Mézières (Mélanie Thierry) loves the dashing Duc Henri de Guise (Gaspard Ulliel). Her materialistic and politically ambitious father, however, cares more about real estate than his daughter’s hopes for a passionate marriage with a compatible mate. He arranges for her to wed Henri’s friend, Prince Philippe de Montpensier (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet), a young nobleman she has, of course, never met. Ah, the good old days, when men were men and women were property.
Not long after their marriage is consummated, Philippe dashes off to fight alongside Henri; he asks his former mentor, the now-pacifistic scholar Comte de Chabannes (Lambert Wilson, best known stateside as Merovingian in the Matrix sequels), to watch over Marie and educate her in preparation for her eventual presentation at court. Chivalrous though he is, Chabannes soon admits that he also
Raphäel Personnaz, left, and Gaspard Ulliel