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16. La Reine Margot (Queen Margot - USA),
Die Bartholomäusnacht, - Germany, La Regina Margot - Italy)


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First a word of warning. This film is made for French audiences who tend to know rather more about French history than the average Anglo-Saxon audience.

Before you watch this film you should do a little research about the St. Bartholomew's day Massacre. Or failing that, here's the very minimum you need to know to make any sense of this film.

Sixteenth century France was riven by religious wars in which Catholics and Protestants (Huguenots) killed each other with the sort of liberal barbarity that has always characterised true believers. Towards the end of the century the immature Catholic King Charles IX was a puppet of his mother, Catherine de Medici. She wanted to marry her daughter Margot de Valois to a Protestant king, Henry of Navarre, hoping that this would bolster an uneasy peace. Unfortunately the wedding provoked the murder of some 50,000 Protestants on the night of August 24 - St. Bartholomew's Day - 1572.

(The film is generally religiously neutral, but omits to portray the Pope ordering a Te deum and having a medal struck to celebrate the murder of the Protestant leader Coligney, after Coligney's severed head was sent to His Holiness.)

So to the film:

Margot (Isabelle Adjani) is married early in the film to Henri de Navarre (Daniel Auteuil), the Protestant prince destined to become King Henri IV.

As this is a political marriage, there is no affection between them, their union is for the purpose of ending a religious war.

19-year-old Margot takes a shine to the Marquis de la Mole (Vincent Perez), a nobleman she finds in the streets.

The Queen, Catherine de Medici meanwhile plays politics with her three sons, who mope around like dim spoiled brats. Catherine maintains her power through them and through violence and poisonings. Her whole family seem rather unconventional and unpleasant, and there are heavy hints about incest.

The Bartholomew's Day Massacre is well portrayed, and there is a subplot involving a poisoned book. Any reader licking his finger to turn the pages of this book will poison himself (pace Umerto Eco's Name of the Rose). When the wrong man picks up the book, the succession to the throne is threatened.

The film avoids avoids the vacuity of so many big-screen historical epics, and if anything makes exactly the opposite mistake of expecting extensive historical knowledge from its viewers.

Spectacular performances include Virna Lisi as Catherine, Jean-Hughes Anglade as the wimpy King Charles IX and Isabelle Adjani, one of the more remarkable actresses of her generation, who does a fine job of portraying Margot.

The movie was trimmed to 143 minutes for foreign audiences.

The story is based on a novel by Alexandre Dumas (père).

Genre: Historical drama.
143 mins (originally 162 mins)
Director: Patrice Chéreau
Country: France
Writing credits:
Alexandre Dumas père
Danièle Thompson (scenario & adaptation)
Patrice Chéreau (scenario & adaptation)
Danièle Thompson (dialogue)
Produced by
Claude Berri, producer
Pierre Grunstein, executive producer
Carsten Meyer-Grohbrügge, assistant producer
Original Music: Goran Bregovic
Cinematography: Philippe Rousselot
Color: Colour
Sound Mix: Dolby

Isabelle Adjani — Margot
Daniel Auteuil — Henri de Navarre
Jean-Hugues Anglade — Charles IX
Vincent Perez — La Môle
Virna Lisi — Catherine de Médicis
Dominique Blanc — Henriette de Nevers
Pascal Greggory — Anjou
Claudio Amendola — Coconnas
Miguel Bosé — Guise
Asia Argento — Charlotte of Sauve
Julien Rassam — Alençon
Thomas Kretschmann — Nançay
Jean-Claude Brialy — Coligny
Jean-Philippe Écoffey — Condé
Albano Guaetta — Orthon
Johan Leysen — Maurevel
Dörte Lyssewski — Marie Touchet
Michelle Marquais — La nourice
Laure Marsac — Antoinette
Alexis Nitzer — Un conseiller
Emmanuel Salinger — Du Bartas
Barbet Schroeder — Un conseiller
Jean-Marc Stehlé — L'aubergiste
Otto Tausig — Mendès
Bruno Todeschini — Armagnac
Tolsty — Le bourreau
Bernard Verley — Le Cardinal
Ulrich Wildgruber — René
Laurent Arnal — Protestant
Gérard Berlioz
Christophe Bernard — Charles IX's Bodyguard
Marian Blicharz — Polish Ambassador
Daniel Breton — Thief
Pierre Brilloit
Valeria Bruni Tedeschi — 2nd Escardon Volant
Cécile Caillaud — Henriette's Servant
Marc Citti — Crussol
Grégoire Colin — Jeune Egorge
Erwan Dujardin — Page
Jean Douchet — Eveque
Philippe Duclos — Telligny
Marina Golovine — Lady in Waiting
Zygmunt Kargol — Polish Abassador
Carlos López — Gaede Nancay
Orazio Massaro
Roman Massine — Charles IX's Bodyguard
Charles Nelson — Commis Rene
Bernard Nissile — Protestant
Julie-Anne Rauth — Fille Cuisine Egorge
Jean-Michel Tavernier
Béatrice Toussaint
Melanie Vaudaine — 1st Escadron Volant
Nicolas Vaude — Protestant

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