Author Topic: French Movies  (Read 728 times)


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Re: French Movies
« Reply #30 on: January 19, 2018, 05:19:39 AM »
L'échange des princesses / The Royal Exchange (Marc Dugain, 2017)

Not exactly the stately period drama I was expecting. There is some of that of course, with the costumes and the sets and the wigs and all that, but this film does have a little more on its mind than that, even if it doesn't entirely work. Telling the story of two royal marriages between 18th century France and Spain (one between a 10-year old Louis XV and a 4-year old Spanish princess - the other between two teenagers, one the son of Philip V of Spain, the other the daughter of a cadet branch of the Bourbons, the Orléans), there is a sense of futility to the proceedings that feels very pointed. In about 50 years, the Bourbons will collapse, and though they'll come back in France for a bit and actually persist in Spain to this day, it's quite clear that the duty these characters are told they have to their family and their country is somewhat pointless.

Death hangs over the whole film: this takes place right after Louis XV became king because essentially his whole family died of smallpox, creating a power vacuum (since Louis XIV being replaced by a kid does change things somewhat) that necessitates this whole ordeal, not to mention the succession issue because Philip V having a claim to the French throne... but this is not what the film is about, so let's not get too bogged down in historical detail. The point is that this is a harsh world, and everyone here is stuck having to perpetuate institutions for no other reason than survival, without having any kind of choice in the matter.

Well, that's certainly what the teenage part of it is about, with an assist by Lambert Wilson as Philip V, who hams it up a bit and basically states the themes of the film a few times. There is also a more down-to-earth narrative here, with this marriage between a horny doofus and a haughty princess which develops into something surprisingly tragic, in large part thanks to a strong performance by Anamaria Vartolomei (unkown to me as well). The other half of the film is much less succesful, consisting essentially of Louis XV looking sad, the little princess looking cute, and Condé being a snivelling creep. There's some absurdist humour in both halves that works relatively well, but the Versailles part of the narrative just doesn't really have any emotional center, as it can't decide if Louis XV or the princess should be the protagonist, and just doesn't have time to do both.

It also looks pretty good, with the highlight being the exchange itself, when the princesses cross the border at the same time. Wish it had  wasted less time on the political side at the start and left more time for its fatalistic mood to settle, as is it's interesting but not fully realized.

« Last Edit: January 19, 2018, 05:21:37 AM by Teproc »