Country: France, Belgium, Czech Republic
Language: French, Italian, English
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Director: Xavier Giannoli
Music: Ronan Maillard
Cinematography: Glynn Speeckaert
Xavier Giannoli’s MARGUERITE is a Gallo-period drama borrows the inspiration from the story of Florence Foster Jenkins, and grafts it onto a rich French woman Marguerite Dumont (Frot) in the Golden twenties, whose inferior singing ability doesn’t stop her from fulfilling her biggest fantasy, to organise her own concert in a real theatre.
Naturally, there are two possibilities of Marguerite’s apparent oblivion of her own ludicrous voice, a more plausible one is she is fully cognisant of her inadequacy but she is not deterred by it, since she has the wealth to squander, she doesn’t mind (or can endure) to be the object of ridicule, as long as it pleases herself and hogs the spotlight due to her self-centred disposition; an alternative possibility could be, she actually doesn’t entirely realise how awful her singing capacity is, because, maybe she has some hearing disability or very often, in reality, the recording of one’s own voice sounds rather different from what one habitually conceives of, still, the scenario in the case of Marguerite is more serious, in Giannoli’s script, she is building castles in the air, what enters in her own ears (while she is singing), assures that she is a qualified coloratura (or mezzo) with distinct talent, an autodidact achieves her faculties by persistent practice. I don’t know if there is a medical term for her deep-rooted delusion, or more practically, it is simply Giannoli’s creation, which sets to hone the climax, to see what will happen if she hears her real voice from a record player.
In that case, Marguerite is really a wretch despite of her blessed (or cursed) wealth, she is a woman engulfed by lies and pretence, her husband George (Marcon), marries her for the enormous fortune, haunted by guilt, which by the way doesn’t stop him from conducting an extramarital affair, and has no guts or whatsoever to rescue her from the elephant-in-the-room; others regard her as a laughing stock, either egg her on or refrain from candour for their own sake, including the opportunistic young reporter Lucien (Dieuaide) and his poet friend Kyrill (Fenoy), who merely exploits her as an anomaly for his own anarchic propaganda.
It is riveting to watch Catherine Frot feigns her impassioned performance under the salvo of off-key ululation, which is carefully meted out to aptly eke out laughter in each of the film’s five chapters. Besides, Ms. Frot doesn’t yield to the simplified caricature of Marguerite, in lieu, her self-possessed mannerism glistens with bons mots, she balances off Marguerite’s larger-than-life image with endearing subtlety which reflects her as a sensible human being, she is, after all, a woman dares to be honest with her own passion and feelings, against all odds. Comedian Michel Fau is pre-eminent in his flamboyant turn as Marguerite’s singing coach Atos Pezzini, a gay opera singer, who is blackmailed into accepting this impossible task by Marguerite’s loyal butler Madelbos (Mpunga), who, undoubtably, is the most inscrutable player in Marguerite’s enterprise, with his own agenda which is applied as a game-changer in the end but rings hollow in its own seriousness.
Shot entirely in Czech Republic, as a fill-in for Paris, the film adopts a more subdued palette of the roaring 20s, albeit of its amazingly detailed vintage decor, as if Giannoli tries to forewarn us of the finale throughout the whole journey, MARGUERITE is not a farce of titbits, she is a by-product comes to fruition in a hypocritical society, you can mock her, but she actually accomplish something few of us dare to even start with.