Director: Xavier Giannoli
Cast: Catherine Frot, Andre Marcon, Denis Mpunga
France, Czech Republic, Belgium 2015, 127 min.
Xavier Giannoli’s portrait of the Roaring Twenties in Paris is neither a satire nor a celebration of the artistic life of the era; best described as a study of lonliness and self-delusion – even Catherine Frot’s stirring performance as the eponymous chanteuse cannot save this ill-advised and overlong drama from descending into tedium.
Frot, who has seen much better days in films like La Tourneuse de Pages, has to sing her heart out to keep the film alive. Her character is obviously a terrible singer, paying her way on the concert platform with her own enormous wealth. Her unsupportive husband George (Marcon) usually arrives too late at her concerts – his sports car always ‘giving up the ghost’ at the same spot – a running gag used too often. But then, repetition is the main curse of MARGUERITE: her black valet Madelbos (Mpunga) tries again and again to con her audience and journalists with bribes to attend these embarrassing soirees, the singer flirts with younger men, and the flower arrangements to mark the ‘greatness’ of her performances grow to monstrous proportions. Instead of emotion, we get pantomime; instead of characters we have caricatures and, worst of all, every move is telegraphed.
The opulent production design makes one one wonder how costs could have been spent more wisely and the dreadfully contrived ending sends everyone rushing home before the final credits have rolled – just to escape this unspeakably noisy, over-bearing and unimaginative caricature of a film where the only laughs are involuntary, directed at the majority of unfortunate collaborators. MT
VENICE FILM FESTIVAL 2-12 September 2015