In the Eye of the Beholder

 

Set in 1920 Paris, Marguerite tells the story of Baroness Marguerite Dumont (Catherine Frot), an eccentric woman of considerable means with a passion for music. She’s amassed thousands of scores, sings for hours each day, reenacts famous operas complete with elaborate costumes and performs in front of large crowds at charity fundraisers.  Only no one, not her husband, not her butler nor the rest of the staff will tell her sings horribly. Her voice is not mediocre, but astoundingly, shockingly bad.

This simple premise, based on a true story, blooms into a surprisingly complex meditation on love, beauty, ugliness and truth. Due to her wealth and general cluelessness, remains in the dark about how others view her. Frot’s performance is exquisite, imbuing the character with a dignified grace and poignant innocence. When two avant-garde artists crash one of her charity performances, they are shocked and intrigued by her wretchedness. One of them, Kyrill Von Priest (Aubert Fenoy), enlists her to unknowingly contribute to his Dadaist critique of nationalism. Her rendition of the Marseilleise, the French national anthem, performed before veterans, proves so ear-splitting a riot breaks out.

Her husband, who gave her status but feels nothing but embarrassment towards her. Washed up opera star Pezzini (Michael Fau) agrees to take her on as a pupil only after the butler Madelbos (Denis Mpunga), who goes to Sunset Boulevard-esque lengths to caress Marguerite’s ego, blackmails him. Writer and director Xavier Giannoli delicately builds a world where everyone, either out of love or for financial reasons dares not tell Marguerite the truth. While some characters may laugh at her, the movie never does, treating her with great tenderness. The cushion inserted between sad, lonely Marguerite and the world’s cruel opinion of her, creates a tension builds and builds until it acts like a specter, haunting the film. While the truth is plain to see, will speaking it set Marguerite free?

One Response to “In the Eye of the Beholder”

  1. Great review thanks. Unusual coincidence that these two films are released so close together. They might appear to be very similar but in fact are quite different. Drop in for a read of my review of both films.

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