Sunday, October 22, 2006


Historical drama

Since the 14th century, the future king of France has been given the title of le Dauphin until such time as he ascends to the throne. His wife is known as la Dauphine.

1643 Louis XIV becomes King of France (nicknamed the Sun King)
1682 completion of the Château de Versailles (Palace of Versailles)
1715 death of Louis XIV; Louis XV becomes King of France (nicknamed the Beloved)
1729 birth of Louis XV’s first son, Louis-Ferdinand, heir apparent of France
1754 birth of Louis-Ferdinand’s first son, Louis-Auguste
 birth of Maria Antonia at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna as Archduchess of Austria
 she was the fifteenth child and the youngest daughter of Francis I of Austria and Empress Maria Theresa
 later she became known to history as Marie Antoinette, the French version of her given names
1756 Austria and France became allies in the Seven Years’ War
1765 death of Louis-Ferdinand from tuberculosis; Louis-Auguste becomes heir apparent
1769 in an effort to preserve the fragile Austria/France alliance, it was proposed that Louis XV’s grandson Louis-Auguste marry one of Empress Maria Theresa's daughters
1770 the marriage of Marie Antoinette and Louis-Auguste
1774 death of Louis XV; Louis-Auguste becomes King Louis XVI
1775 –1783 The American Revolutionary War
1787 - 1793 The French Revolution

Kirstin Dunst: 14-year old Austrian princess Marie Antoinette
Judy Davis: Comtesse de Noailles, Marie’s chief attendant
Rip Torn: King Louis XV
Jason Schwartzman: his grandson, 15-year old dauphin Louis Auguste
Steve Coogan: the Austrian ambassador to France
Asia Argento: Louis XV’s second mistress, Madame du Barry

As the opening credits appeared a contemporary song accompanied them. My first reaction was “Oops, I’m in the wrong theatre” since I expected classical music from the period, baroque or opera perhaps, but not some modern pop tune. But you should hang in because it’s just the Director’s odd choice of music that doesn’t feel right and things return to normal with the opening scenes.

The movie captures the period beautifully with lovely costumes and elaborate sets. Most of the action takes place at the magnificent Palace of Versailles (the “benchmark” for others wishing to build a château) which showcases the opulence of the monarchy of those days.

It’s too bad some more editing was not done; it would have kept the movie to less than two hours. For example, from the time of the Sun King, elaborate rituals were part of palace life including the daily morning dressing of the King and the Queen. This is an interesting footnote to history but becomes a bit of a bore when it’s shown a half dozen times. Similarly meals were served in a prescribed manner but we don’t need to see so many of them to get the idea.

Unlike most movies where the dialogue is a key component to the telling of the story, in this movie it is more often from snatched murmurs that we find out what is going on. It is in a sense like “being a fly on the wall”.

However the overall impression is a good one and well worth putting up with these shortcomings.

for sexual content, partial nudity and innuendo.

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