'Princess of Montpensier' rules

THE PRINCESS OF MONTPENSIERDirector: Bertrand TavernierStars: Melanie Thierry, Lambert Wilson,...

THE PRINCESS OF MONTPENSIER
Director: Bertrand Tavernier
Stars: Melanie Thierry, Lambert Wilson, Gaspard Ulliel, Raphael Personnaz
Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

LIZ BRAUN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:44 AM ET

If The Princess of Montpensier were a contemporary novel, it might well be of the sort that features Fabio on the cover. Under the 16th-century detail and swashbuckling historical event, this drama is really a sophisticated bodice ripper.

And what a bodice. The production is lavish and impressive, and the costumes are one small part of the meticulous attention to period recreation.

The story centres on the Princess (Melanie Thierry), a woman who loves one man but winds up married to another. Despite her own growth and education, she continues to pine for the one she cannot have while war rages in the background; call it Gone With The Wind with a French twist.

The Princess of Montpensier is set in the 1500s, during the Wars of Religion, and begins on the battlefield. French Catholics and protestants are duking it out for the glory of God, and here is a noble knight, the Comte de Chabannes (Lambert Wilson) engaged in a skirmish that ends his taste for war. He's had enough. But now one side will see him as a traitor and the other as a deserter, so it's lucky he is welcome in the household of his former student, the Prince of Montpensier (Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet).

The prince's father has just finished making a deal: he has convinced the father of Marie of Mezieres to hand over Marie in marriage to the prince.

It's a political and economic bit of bartering, for which Marie's father gets a coveted piece of land. The prince is very happy to discover who his bride will be.

She, on the other hand, is horrified. Marie has long been promised to Henri de Guise (Gaspard Ulliel), the cousin she adores. She attempts to rebel against her arranged marriage to the prince, but her own mother convinces her to give it up and give in to duty. And so it begins.

They marry. The prince is now afraid and angry around Henri, his rival in love, and he leaves Marie in a faraway castle in the care of his old tutor, the aforementioned Comte de Chabannes. The prince goes back to war. Chabannes teaches Marie about poetry and art, and she asks to be taught to write. Scandale! But Chabannes soon falls in love with Marie.

Later, when they all go to court, the Duke of Anjou (Raphael Personnaz) also falls in love with Marie. She, meanwhile, continues to make goo-goo eyes at Henri de Guise, a situation that drives her husband, the prince, quite mad.

In the end, Marie attempts to follow her heart, a nice idea in romantic comedy and generally a stupid move anywhere else.

The Princess of Montpensier may play out like a love story, but it's a love story full of adventure, intrigue and high emotion. Despite its lengthy running time, the pace never flags and the film is never boring; from the tinker's cart to the battlefield to an audience with Catherine de'Medici, the story is full of wonderful visual and historical detail.

The Princess of Montpensier is inspired by a 17th century story by Madame de La Fayette. The film is in French with English subtitles.

In Toronto, The Princess of Montpensier is playing at Bell Lightbox.


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