Cannes 2015: Marguerite And Julien - As Misjudged As Incest

An empty film that even the director has given up on by the end.

Rating: ˜… Seemingly driven by a creative bent but showing none of it on the screen, Marguerite And Julien is a peculiar film that flirts with trying to ape Baz Luhrmann or François Truffaut, yet is so half-arsed it winds up a pointless experience with empty frills. It is also the first movie from Cannes 2015 that can be legitimately labelled with the pretentious brush. The final sequence is a slice of spiritual mumbo jumbo that attempts to mythicise the incestuous relationship of its titular characters, French aristocrats who, following abusive marriages, go on the run from the law; the duo whisper lines about being one with the world over sub-Malick shots of nature while you question how this got close to Competition. It's the sort of thing that could have potentially worked in another film, but by this point the movie's lost any and all goodwill. You can almost respect some of the creative choices for their experimental nature, even if most come across as ungodly perplexing. Why is the duo's capture shown in still photographs set to Agnetha Fältskog Past, Present And Future? What compelled the mashing together of eighteenth century aristocracy and mid-1900s tech? Who OK'd a death scene with such overt symbolism that it makes Revenge Of The Sith's "lost the will to live" denouement feel sensible? And then you have the interesting ideas that aren't carried through to fruition; a fairytale imbuing set-up is dropped halfway through and there's no consistency to any visual ticks. It's as if Valérie Donzelli got as sick of her film while making it as the viewer does watching it. The film's biggest mistake is how it utterly fails to get you to invest in the incestuous relationship. Even the Lannister twins from Game Of Thrones, who are introduced pushing a child from a window, feel like a pair with emotions and opinions. Here poor casting, particularly Jérémie Elkaïm as Julien, and minimal time actually spent showing the emergent feelings (apparently drawing your siblings is setting you up for a lifetime of sin) make you completely passive to the couple's plight. Much has been made about how the screenplay was originally written for Truffaut back in the '70s. This has given the project an unearned sense of prestige and a vague justification for some of its more eclectic choices, but is nothing more a steaming hot pile of publicity prose; the famed director never came close to pursuing the film, probably because he saw it as the muddled, pretentious mess it is. Keep up with all of our Cannes 2015 coverage on the official page here.

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Film Editor (2014-2016). Loves The Usual Suspects. Hates Transformers 2. Everything else lies somewhere in the middle. Once met the Chuckle Brothers.