La princesse de Montpensier & Gaspard Ulliel. A Very French Evening

Two nights ago Dianne and I went to a screening of the French film La princesse de Montpensier at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. I had to endure a three-hour commute from Orange County (yay for LA traffic!) to make it to the theater, but despite the arduous trek the movie was well worth the drive. The film is based on the short story written by Madame de La Fayette back in 1662 and was adapted to the screen by François-Olivier Rousseau, Jean Cosmos, and director Bertrand Tavernier.

The story focuses on a young woman, Marie (Mélanie Thierry), who is forced to marry Philipe de Montpensier (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet), but is still in love with Henri de Guise (Gaspard Ulliel). Marie is intelligent and stubborn, but sincere with her actions and feelings. At times she is a victim of her own naiveté and beauty because of its effect on men and the jealousy it arouses in her husband. Throughout the film you see Marie’s struggle between accepting her duties in society, to her husband, and following her love for Henri. The story takes place during the Wars of Religion and Tavernier’s depiction of battle is refreshing in that it does not romanticize war, but in fact shows its most brutal and horrid aspects.

 

A character that stood out is the noble and war weary Comte de Chabannes (Lambert Wilson) who had seemingly lost all hope in life until becoming friends with Marie. The relationship between the two characters is earnest and sweet and one of the more hopeful parts of the story. The stunning cinematography and realistic sets truly make you feel as if you are in France during the 17th century, and the story depicts the sometimes cruel nature of marriage, love,  and society at that time.

'La princesse de Montpensier' Screening

Director Bertrand Tavernier with actor Gaspard Ulliel

 

Click the link for the Q & A summary and pictures of the DG girls with Gaspard!

After the film there was a discussion with director Tavernier and actor Ulliel. I will admit that I was unfamiliar with Tavernier before seeing this film and pretty much seeing it just so that I could stare like a creepy person at Ulliel whenever he was on screen. After watching this movie and listening to Tarnernier speak, though, I am now on a mission to seek out his other projects, including a book he wrote entitled “50 Years of American Cinema.” When watching him speak you see his strong passion for cinema and honestly I found it inspiring and enlightening .

'La princesse de Montpensier' Screening

Ulliel discussed how he approached his character and felt that Henri’s actions were always sincere. Another interesting comparison the actor made was between American productions versus French ones. He said that American productions tend to be more efficient (i.e. setting up lighting ahead of time) so that they can film as many scenes as possible within a time period whereas French productions don’t seem to have that type of fast paced mentality.

'La princesse de Montpensier' Screening

'La princesse de Montpensier' Screening

'La princesse de Montpensier' Screening

Tavernier discussed how he adapted the short story to the big screen. When he mentioned the changes he made I feel that they were improvements because they made the character’s actions more poignant rather than being victims of chance and circumstance. Also, the short story did not have dialogue, so considering this they had quite the task ahead of them to create every single spoken word from a story where there were none. Another interesting point Tavernier made was how he depicted war and the social atmosphere. He wanted the audience to only know as much as the main character, Marie. I feel that this made the audience sympathize with Marie’s character even more because we see the world through the eyes of a woman, and it reminds the audience of the deficient treatment of women back then.

'La princesse de Montpensier' Screening

'La princesse de Montpensier' Screening

 

After the discussion Dianne and I rushed ourselves to the front so that we could get our pictures with Gaspard Ulliel. At the end of the day, despite my newfound respect for the film and its filmmakers, I’m still a creepy fangirl and wanted to get my picture with Gaspard (come on, he played young Hannibal Lector and was a cute gay boy in Paris Je T’Aime). And since I am a huge wimp without a pair, I made Dianne ask him if we could have our pictures with him.

'La princesse de Montpensier' Screening

Gaspard and Dianne

Thank goodness, he said, “Sure.”

'La princesse de Montpensier' Screening

Gaspard and yours truly

After the photos we both told him how we loved his performance and the film. He replied with a short, but sweet “thank you very much.” Even though we went to this screening just because we wanted to do the creep on Gaspard, it was a great experience and we were introduced to a new filmmaker and his work.

 

~Gizzy

 

 

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Written by Gizzy B