I went to Marguerite with a friend and we spent the entire ride home musing on this and other French movies. We discussed their, for lack of a better term, “Frenchness.” French movies are always a refreshing slap in the face.
Our discussion quickly lead back to Marguerite as it really is a talking point. She asked if I liked it and I couldn’t rightly say I did at the time. I told her to ask me again tomorrow. When she did, I instantly said “yes.” I did like it, but I realised what I really liked was Marguerite herself. The creepy butler with the secret agenda, her unloving then loving husband, the ex-opera star turned voice coach and the bearded lady were all well and good, but Marguerite was a vision.
Catherine Frot (The Page Turner) playing Marguerite, is magnetic. I couldn’t help but fall a little in love with her. She can’t sing but – so what? She’s generous. She’s nice to her staff. She loves her husband and, yeah, she’s a little bit crazy. She puts on operatic costumes and has her butler take photos of her. She collects countless pieces of music even though she can’t hit a damn note. She’s a tad delusional, but that’s part of her charm!
The film begins with Marguerite holding a private concert for charity. She invites singers and musicians from around France to play and makes herself the guest of honour. There, her singing…er…talents catch the eye of a young music critic, Lucien Beaumont played by Sylvain Dieuaide (Avec amour), and his anarchistic friend, Kyrill von Priest played by Aubert Fenoy (La Vie en Rose) . They plan to use her and her wealth for their own personal gain, but find she is just too loveable to betray. Kyrill was a definite favourite of mine. He and his cheeky monocle were electric on screen.
I’d tell you more about the plot, but really, the plot lost me a little; it involved a bearded lady, a dwarf who hired a rent a crowd and a whole feast of other sub-characters that served no real purpose. It got weird. It really did - in an oh so delightfully French way.
Marguerite really works with the darkness of the 1920s. The costumes are mostly grey, everything is a little dark and dirty and even Marguerite’s infinite wealth is not shown through bright colours. It is shown through a huge eyeball sculpture which, I won’t lie, I kind of wanted. Yes, an eyeball sculpture - you see how this movie could get weird now, right?
I spent a lot of time looking at what the characters were wearing. I’m not sure if that was a sign of excellent costume work or more because some moments of the plot made my brain go a-wandering. There were a lot of fur coats that would make Cruella DeVil green with envy. There was always something that held my attention, even if it was only a head piece, a shoe or one of those amazing fur coats.
Now it would be odd not to mention that another film, Florence Foster Jenkins based on the same American socialite was released around the same time as Marguerite. Xavier Giannoli was beside himself to find that the biographical English counterpart was being made at the same time. But what Marguerite lacks in Hollywood star power it makes up for with artistic heart.
Marguerite was odd but loveable. Watch it for Catherine Frot. Watch it for Kyrill and his swell monocle and maybe try and forget the bearded lady.