Marguerite & Julien
Directed by Valérie Donzelli
Julien and Marguerite de Ravalet, son and daughter of the Lord of Tourlaville, have loved each other tenderly since childhood. But as they grow up, their affection veers toward voracious passion.
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★★★★★ review by Martyn Conterio on Letterboxd
‘The best way to avoid sin is to flee temptation.’ So says the fearful uncle of Marguerite and Julien, two young aristocratic siblings whose love for one another is steadfast and passionate (as well as illegal.) Physically torn apart by boarding school arrangements and then an arranged marriage, M&J continue to transgress and decide to make a run for it.
Valérie Donzelli’s latest film is a tale of star-crossed lovers who just so happen to be related by blood. From a screenplay written for François Truffaut in the 1970s, Marguerite et Julien is a giddy and perverse Venus wrapped in the divine surrealist furs of Walerian Borowczyk. Indeed, if this was forty years ago, and he somehow had gotten hold of the script, he might easily have made it into his own picture.
The story treatment could have been written by Georges Bataille, too, because it has the required surrealist flavour and ties in with so much of his philosophical musings and themes. (It's actually based on a novel by the late screenwriter Jean Gruault.)
Inspired by the real-life case of Marguerite and Julien de Ravalet, who were executed in 1603 on adultery and incest charges, Donzelli has used their story as a sort of impish parallel/alternate take on the famous medieval romance of philosopher Peter Abelard and his beloved Heloise.
Donzelli crams in plenty of counter-cinema gestures and deploys deliberate use of artifice (it's a giddy anachronistic work with a timeline, use of props and soundtrack that doesn’t give a fig for historical accuracy) to bring the film to life in a host of ways that period dramas never dare imagine. Let alone attempt and execute with such dash, enthusiasm and skill.
Marguerite et Julien is likely to annoy anybody not wishing to attune to erotic dreaminess and be dismissed as the kind of arty twaddle that the French excel at. Yet there is a profound cinematic beauty at work in what is a delirious recounting of love against family, society, God and the law.
★★★½ review by Nonomoi Kapone Lennon on Letterboxd
I'm disturbed and apathetic at the same time.
Moral and social values versus love.
Incest is considered wrong but it will be more certain to penalize a person for being in love with someone in her family??
You do not choose who you fall in love with..you know...it's more complicated than that...
Very underrated film with solid script in some theatrical kind, good soundtrack and very good acting.
Thank God I don't care with the opinions of critics.
★★★★ review by Laura ☕ on Letterboxd
What a strange, beautiful and heartbreaking little film. I couldn't help but be fascinated by it.
The anachronistic props, music and clothes give the story something eternal and timeless, which I think worked beautifully, especially with the ending of the film. Yet, the tale also seems to be rooted in the realm of fairytales and goodnight stories, which give it a fantastic and almost dreamlike quality.
What I actually liked (and what I have seen criticised by many reviewers) is that the film doesn't try to present a clear moral perspective. I don't need wagging fingers or moral sermons in my movies to still be able to differentiate between what is right and what is wrong. The film makes it possible for the viewer to feel sympathetic to these two characters and see them struggle with their forbidden love; but it also shows how their family and friends have to suffer because of their passionate and oftentimes crude and selfish actions.
★★★★★ review by Maëva on Letterboxd
Juste le film de l'année! Passionné, Subversif, Inventif. Un bijou.
★★★★ review by Olivier Lemay on Letterboxd
SO SHOCKING SO STUPID SO REPULSIVE IT CAN ONLY BE GENIUS
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