This is a good movie, and although camparisons with its 1994 successor are inevitable, it wears well on its own and better in some ways. This is old-fashioned French film making, not noticeably different from Hollywood historical epics of the same era w/ the exception of a flash of nudity here and there. It is important to remember that at the time of this film, only Gance (screenplay) was an international legend. Moreau is fine as Marguerite de Valois & Françoise Rosay as Catherine de Medicis does a good job of chewing up the scenery. The '54 style potrayal of Henri d'Anjou as a very effeminate homosexual has been proven to be historically inaccurate, but Daniel Ceccaldi is amusing in the part. The acting for Charles IX, De la Mole, Coconnas et al is up to '54 par, acceptable and not terribly detracting from the story.
The inevitable discussion will be around comparing the two version, '54 & '94. Chereau lifted entire sections of the screenplay from 1954, and didn't do a bad job with them, for all that. A more faithful adaptation of the Dumas père novel, the '54 version cannot really be said to be a better movie. It is more "French," to be sure, and less sensationalized, but it, too, drags in spots just as the '94 does. The St. Bartholomew's Day massacre IS depicted, but not in an overlong and blood-drenched manner.
Moreau is rather cool as Marguerite whereas Adjani is overwrought in the '94, but both actresses give fine performances, each in their own manner.
This '54 version is a movie for an older generation, perhaps more academic in its approach, whereas the '94 is for a younger generation who like more zap and pizzazz in their cinematic representations.
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