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Beautifully, Stereotypically French: Angélique


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Beautifully, Stereotypically French: Angélique


By Ryan Thomas

There are few categories of foreign film that evoke an instant knee jerk reaction like French cinema. The tropes are well established and Angélique has every stereotype that make for a perfect date night French film.

The following is an abridged list of perfectly realized French film stereotypes that Angélique flawlessly executes, each of which it should be noted are essential to the films plot:

  •         Bouffant period piece costumes, historically accurate to the point of distraction
  •         A scathing portrayal of Catholicism and Protestantism
  •         An orgy lit by candlelight complete with silk drapes and masks
  •         Unlikely lovers who transition from conflict to nudity in a few well placed scenes  
  •         A motley band of street urchins with a subtitle nobility and honor
  •         Weirdly close cousins
  •         Drama and tragedy writ large

The above list of Western stereotypes of French cinema are all firmly a part of the French romantic tradition.

At this years Cinéfranco Film Festival, Angélique was billed as an Adventure | Romance.  


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A tasteful orgy is what you’d expect, but it’s not the whole story.


A tasteful orgy is what you’d expect, but it’s not the whole story.


Touched with magical realism and great characters instead of great caricatures, Angélique is part of one of the most often overlooked genres of French film; adventure. And in the tradition of deftly handled Adventure films in French cinema, Angelique delivers.

Take for example Nora Arnezeder, who plays the title role of Angélique. In the wrong hands, the fiercely independent female lead in a period piece could feel woefully out of place (Ed. note; for more on female leadership struggles, see "You're not the bossy of me"). However, Nora acts in a way that balances the strong female lead, passionate lover, and bitter outcast within Angélique masterfully. When moments of male dominated machinations set in the 17th century create situations where Nora’s Angélique is forced to play a passive participant in her own story, she handles these scenes deftly with body language that makes her performance feel less caricature and more character.

With performances on par with Nora’s, the film never loses its sense of grand adventure. Swordfights, mid-night break-ins, dangerous politics, and titillating sexual encounters keep you on edge while it’s cast walks a fine line between stereotypical and iconic with aplomb.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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By no means perfect


By no means perfect


Now that the praise is out of the way, this film is by no means perfect.

The establishing shots are clearly an afterthought, shot on much lower quality film. The contrast between seeing, for example, a daring castle escape at night though secret tunnels in full HD glory followed by a swift cut to grainy out of focus footage of a deer foraging is simply unflattering.

The film can also feel a bit long. As an adaptation of a 15 book series, there’s a lot of heavy lifting to establish Angélique as a fully realized character. In a first viewing twice you’ll be certain that the plot’s been resolved and the movie is almost done - rest assured, it is not. It’s not as bad as the last Lord of the Rings movie, but you get the idea.

All said, Angélique is worth your time, worth a date night and worth the work it will take to track down the entrance to the Cinéfranco Film Festival. Revel in it’s moments of the sexual, magical, whimsical, tense, sublime and tragic; everything a French adventure film should be.  

 

What You’ll Love:

·         Nora Arnezeder is a French Jennifer Lawrence, your crush on her is inevitable.

·         Gérard Lanvin is sexier in his 60’s than most men can ever hope to be.

·         A great mix of 17th Century pomp, swashbuckling, sexuality, and drama.

What You’ll Bemoan:

·         Some choppy editing in establishing shots and wipes.

·         Mild pacing issues.

·         Tomer Sisley‘s historically accurate curls.  

Ryan Thomas is the founder of Squab & Pigeon, a branding and public relations firm in Toronto Canada. Despite his personal bias towards attractive French women and sword fighting, this review has not been biased by financial re-compensation from Cinéfranco Film Festival or Angélique's production team. 

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