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Posts Tagged ‘Xavier Giannoli’

Catherine Frot

Catherine Frot

“MARGUERITE” My rating: B+

129 minutes | MPAA rating: R

You can approach “Marguerite”  as a cruel joke, a satire of a wannabe opera singer who doesn’t realize just how awful her voice is.

Fine. Come to laugh. But you’ll leave in a much more sober and contemplative frame of mind.

Xavier Giannoli’s lush period film is set in the early 1920s and was inspired by Florence Foster Jenkins (1868-1944), an American socialite who despite a total absence of vocal talent forged a career as an operatic soprano. She became a minor celebrity based on the entertainment value of her off-key recitals.

Giannoli’s fictional “heroine” is Baroness Marguerite Dumont (a spectacular Catherine Frot), who as the film begins is hosting a charity concert on her estate outside Paris.  The highlight of the event will be a rare performance by the Baroness.

A tone-deaf, music-mangling performance, as it turns out, one marked by grandiose theatrical gestures and much caterwauling.

The members of the Mozart Society, which runs mostly on donations from the Baroness, applaud furiously. Others in the crowd — like Lucien (Sylvain Dieuaide) and Kyrill (Aubert Fenoy), two young artistic radicals who have crashed the party — are simultaneously appalled and delighted.

Kyrill declares the performance — and Marguerite’s total lack of self-awareness — a daring new art form (“She’s so sublimely off-key”).  Lucien critiques the concert for a Paris newspaper, parsing his words so carefully that it can be read either as a ringing endorsement or a devastating pan.

The ever-hopeful Baroness takes the review as proof that she should move her career out of the parlor and onto the world’s great concert stages. The plot of “Marguerite” is about her determination to share her “gift” with the world, and the efforts to prevent that great embarrassment.

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