16 May 2016 | paul-allaer
"Who will throw the first stone?"
"Marguerite" (2015 release from France; 128 min.) brings the story, "inspired by true events" we are reminded at the beginning of the film, of socialite Marguerite Dumont. As the movie opens, it is "September, 1920", and we are at a private recital, with a goal of raising funds for the was orphans. When Marguerite, who headlines and generously sponsors the program at the same time, finally comes on, she sings.... completely off-key. Yet people clap and adore her. Why? To tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the latest movie from French quality director Xavier Giannoli who previously brought us other high quality films like "When I Was A Singer" and "In the Beginning". Here he tackles a variation of "the emperor has no clothes" story. It is clear to anyone that Marguerite cannot hold a note, yes she gathers acclaim, be it because people think she is brave enough to do it, and/or because she is delusional, and/or because people want to remain in her good graces. When, in preparation for her first bi-scale public concert, her exasperated music teacher comments to Marguerite's husband "Who will throw the first stone?", that becomes the main point of the movie: will Marguerite be told the stone-cold truth or not? Catherine Frot brings a towering performance as Marguerite, and in fact won the French equivalent of the Best Actress Oscar for this (the movie was nominated for a BUNCH of Cezar Awards, including Best Film and Best Director). My only complaint is that at 2 hr. 10 min. the movie is a bit too long for its own good. I think that trimming 15-20 min. would've made for a tighter movie without losing any of the narrative. The "inspired by true events" line at the beginning in fact refers to New York socialite Florence Foster Jenkins, and coincidence or not, a movie about her, starring none other than Meryl Streep in the title role, is set for a release in US theaters in just a few months (August, I believe). I'll be interested in checking out that one too, to see how it compares with this.
"Marguerite" opened this weekend at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati. The Saturday early evening screening where I saw this at was attended quite nicely, somewhat to my surprise. Maybe the fact that the Meryl Streep movie is coming out soon (and is already gathering buzz for Streep's supposedly stunning performance) has increased the interest in seeing the French movie version. Regardless, if you like classical music (of which there is a TON in the movie) and are up for a top-notch foreign movie with great performances, you cannot go wrong with this. "Marguerite" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!