13 April 2020 | Simon-Rogopag
The new Angelique to me is a sign of everything that's wrong with the French TV of last 20 or maybe even 30 years. French art-house cinema is still pretty strong, and they often produce quite good commercial movies too , but TV is a different story. French TV used to produce some nice, immensely watchable (if not particularly profound) literary adaptations that used to be very popular with viewers far beyond France, especially in many eastern European countries and former USSR. What we get now is absolutely unwatchable, inconsistent, and pretentious. There are good exceptions like Engrenages or Les Revenants, but these are more like French takes on popular US TV models. When it comes to material based on the history of France, the French TV is churning up things like faux-arty but completely incomprehensible new version of Accursed Kings after Maurice Druon, atrociously amateurish new version of La Dame de Monsoreau after Dumas and this dud - Angelique, Marquise of Boredom.
The original film series is often criticized for the turning the source material into some Alexandre Dumas- Lite period adventure pieces, but that is exactly why I loved them. In all honesty, the source books are not masterpieces. I have read almost all of them and I believe that at best they are just a cape and sward adventures in lush period settings told from a woman's perspective (kind of precursor of The Outlander), at worse (and every subsequent book is getting worse and worse) they are just your average romance novels that are supposed to have Fabio on the cover (ok, maybe slightly better researched and written than your average romance novel, but you know still a type of book where the titular lady hero spends pages objectifying various sexy studs, still holding a candle for a love of her life and simultaneously getting in touch with her inner goddess...).
The original film adaptations (5 films) were made by Bernard Borderie who few years before that made perhaps the most satisfying (yet still imperfect) adaptation of The Three Musketeers. He treated Angelique in the same way, making it a rollercoaster of fast paced adventures of the beautiful heroine with swordfights, poisonings, exotic locales, and a little bit of sexual titillation. The quality of films varied - I consider 1st and 3rd films excellent, 2nd and 5th are OK and 4th is even worse (though its worst part - a hilarious "torture by cats" scene comes directly from the source material). Now, there are certain dedicated fans of the books that consider that these films don't do justice to the source material but sorry, in my opinion they mostly improve upon the books (and in my opinion there are very few films out that improve upon the books). I wonder what these critics think of this new take that manages to make the France of Louis XIV look as a completely unattractive and unpleasant place, has the ladies and gentlemen behave like street thugs, and turn the titular character into some kind of swashbuckling tomboy.
I did not like anything about this series from casting to costume design. The old film had a gorgeous leading actress - Michelle Mercier, whose popularity for a while even rivaled that of Brigitte Bardot. Nora Arnezeder seems to be a beautiful and talented young lady - and maybe with a right material and presentation she can become a prominent star - but the way she is directed, dressed, even lit in this series make her look completely plain and forgettable. As to the gentleman around her? In addition to charismatic Rober Hossein as Joffrey, almost every suitor of Angelique was drop dead gorgeous: Gulianno Gemma, Sammi Frey, Jean-Louis Trintignant, and many more. Here they all look drab and boring.
However, the worst offender is the director - the directing is simply inept, from time to time even amateurish. And am not speaking about artistic choices, I am speaking about simple things like setting up a scene, transitions between pivotal events, built up of tension or rather lack of thereof. I read some reviews praising the costumes and sets, come on, you can't be serious?!