The first selection from the Alliance Française French Film Festival this year is Marguerite – I found out that it is loosely based on a real-life singer called Florence Foster Jenkins who lived between 1868-1944 in the US. The main question presented in the movie is how far you are willing to go to protect your loved one emotionally, if he or she is deluded in the limit of their ability.
Marguerite Dumont (Catherine Frot) is a wealthy socialite in a seemingly loveless marriage to Georges Dumont (André Marcon). The issue is, Marguerite cannot sing although she sincerely thinks she could. She works hard on her vocal, and immerses herself in the costumes of various plays that are famous in the era. Marguerite loves to have her photographs taken in dramatical poses by by her faithful servant Madelbos (Denis Mpunga). She belongs to a club of socialites where she would regale them with her singing on a regular basis. Everybody plays along nicely, pretending that they enjoy her singing – keeping the whole charade going. Problem arises when Marguerite wants to sing for the public …
There are more characters in the movie that I believe serve as good ‘place makers’ – such as the cads who try to take advantage of Marguerite, including her vocal instructor. You will have to discover them when you see the movie.
The issue that I have with this movie is that it is subtly promoted as a comedy about a deluded singer – and yet it is not a humorous movie at all and should not have been positioned as such. Yes, it is funny to hear Marguerite singing off-key and thinking that she is much better than she really is, however the story is much more than that. The key message is that love is often expressed strangely, in a way that is often not accepted by those outside the circle, but understood by those within. Another clear message at the end is that sometimes the people who we trust the most, and protect us, end up the ones who take advantage of us for their own goal.
The movie is highly enjoyable and handsomely presented – the Director: Xavier Giannoli frames his images so poetically at times that some snapshots are worthy of printing and framing. The stars of the movie are undoubtedly Catherine Frot – who portrays her childlike delusion and sincerity with a passion. You can’t help falling in love and pitying her at the same time. I also think that André Marcon is perfect as the long-suffering husband who has his own skeleton in the closet.
All in all, Marguerite is a thought-provoking movie and a good start to this year’s French Film Festival for me!