Picks and Pans Review: Queen Margot

updated 12/19/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/19/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

Isabelle Adjani, Daniel Auteuil

This 2-hour-plus adaptation of the 1845 Alexandre Dumas novel takes an eternity to get going, but the final third is deeply satisfying and every bit as gallopingly passionate as a 16th-century French costume drama ought to be. Even as King Charles IX lies on his deathbed, sweating blood from his pores, over at the Bastille the executioner's ax is being sharpened for an undeserving neck. Actually make that a couple of necks. Meantime the beautiful Adjani, lost in the throes of a desperate love, is doing her specialty—a sort of open-mouthed reverie that suggests an erotically charged sleepwalker. Better still, a significant chunk of this melodrama has been set in motion by the entertainingly ludicrous plot device of a falconry book with poisoned pages. How sobering to think that, in today's world of mass publishing, it would probably be a trade paperback about angels.

To get to the conclusion, though, you have to sit—very patiently—through a good deal of exposition and prodigious amounts of blood as Catholic princess Margot (Adjani) is married off to the Protestant Henrei of Navarre (Auteuil). The match is made ostensibly to quell the country's dangerous religious tensions, but—given the machinations of Adjani's scheming mama, whose last name, not for nothing, is Medici—it only ends up fanning them. Then, lo and behold, one fine day the king falls from his horse during a boar hunt—the movie's best-shot sequence, with white horses gleaming amongst the gray-green trees—and is gored by his quarry. No one, including the two brothers in line for the throne, initially seems inclined to save him. As the king shrieks and the boar charges and the princes look on impassively, you know you are entering the realm of melodrama.

And you begin to be happy. (R)

From Our Partners