Film and TV

The Princess of Montpensier deals in corrupted love and pointless war

The finest Western you'll see this year is set in aristocratic sixteenth-century France, in the heat of counter-Reformation. In The Princess of Montpensier, Mélanie Thierry's father barters her for the titular title, marrying her off to Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet's shy, pained prince — instead of her heart's first choice, Gaspard Ulliel's Duke de Guise. De Guise keeps keeps chasing after the wedded princess, along with — for reasons requiring no explanation to anyone who's ever seen Thierry — the Duke d'Anjou (Raphaël Personnaz) and the film's calm center, the philosopher-warrior Count de Chabannes (Lambert Wilson), who has retired from an active role in the world after a campaigning tragedy. The Wars of Religion provide this boudoir-and-battlefield film's other front: Director Bertrand Tavernier applies athletic Steadicam to filthy melees and crossed dueling swords, conveying the heft of steel and crush of close combat in takes of endurance and harsh verisimilitude. The action is remarkable also for its revelation of character and moral dimension — qualities learned from American horse operas by Tavernier, who vigorously jounces painterly posing out of this period material. The setting always serves the performers rather than vice versa — though Princess is also greatly enhanced by the costuming, the rugged French countryside photographed in outdoor-adventure CinemaScope, and Philippe Sarde's baroque-tribal score, its martial and romantic poles matching a tale of love (corrupted) and war (pointless).

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Nick Pinkerton
Contact: Nick Pinkerton