REVIEW: Marguerite

25 04 2016

MargueriteThe story of Xavier Giannoli’s “Marguerite” feels like the raw material of a modern Greek myth. A spoiled, sheltered French socialite Marguerite Dumont (Catherine Frot) decides she wants to become an opera singer despite her relative lack of training (which she acknowledges) and complete absence of talent (a fact to which she remains oblivious). Rather than breaking the hard truth to her, the world around her indulges the fantasy by perpetuating the notion that she can become a star. The off-handed remark about her greatness becomes a full-blown ruse involving elaborate trickery.

That the upper classes have the upper hand in defining what art is in our society (and certainly in the film’s 1920s setting) is undeniable. “Marguerite” shows how willingly complicit participants in this arrangement can turn culture into farce.

But what about Marguerite herself? Is she an odious harbinger of decaying aesthetic values? A power-drunk modern Medici? A naive princess trapped in the bubble of her own wealth and privilege?

Giannoli never really takes a stance, and the film is all the worse for it. “Marguerite” does not provide multiple explanations for its protagonist so much as it avoids giving any kind of explanation altogether. Apathy and ambivalence, more than ambiguity, drive the proceedings. This becomes increasingly excruciating as Giannoli whistles a happy tune and looks in the other direction as Marguerite refines her baboon-like shriek on staccato notes. Sure, the presentation is very French in its sensuousness, but the lavish nature of “Marguerite” hardly impresses when all investment in the story and characters has evaporated by the second hour. C2stars

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