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"Farewell, My Queen": The Beautiful and Damned 

Wednesday, Jul 11 2012

Benoît Jacquot's soapy, sexy, and lezzie adaptation of Chantal Thomas's 2003 novel about the chaos at Versailles on the eve of the 1789 revolution is told not through the vantage point of the monarchs but through the eyes of Sidonie (Léa Seydoux), the besotted reader to Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger). Compressed to four tumultuous days (July 14 though 17) and taking place almost entirely within the actual royal palace, Farewell, My Queen relentlessly tracks its protagonist: The camera is often positioned just a few inches behind Sidonie as she scrambles down corridors, sometimes tripping, as she tries to make sense of the rumors she hears among other courtiers and rushes to read a few pages of Rousseau to Her Majesty. "Your love of the queen makes you blind to her caprice," one of Louis XVI's historians tells Sidonie — and the pleasure of Jacquot's film is in watching various strains of discreet, heated, and deluded passionate attachment performed. Itchy Sidonie might thrill, however demurely, to the queen's applying rosewood water to her mosquito bites, but she will seethe in silent jealousy as she watches, unnoticed, Marie Antoinette interlace fingers with and coo over her most prized pet, Gabrielle de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen) — who makes la reine lose her mind before she loses her head.

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Melissa Anderson

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