Volume 9, Issue 5, May 2019

A Word from the Editor

Three films and the two novels on which two of the films are based revisit the eighteenth-century nobility. The first, L’échange des princesses (The Royal Exchange), Marc Dugain’s 2017 adaptation of Chantal Thomas’s novel, deals with teen-aged Louis XV’s little-known marriage in 1720 to the Spanish Infanta then aged three, repudiated when she is seven. As part of the Regent’s strategy to bring the French and Spanish monarchies closer together, his 12-year old daughter is wed at the same time to the adolescent heir to the Spanish throne. As Lisa Graham explains, both novel and film depict how poorly contemporaries understood childhood and adolescence, with children presumed to act and respond as miniature adults, leaving them feeling alone and bewildered.

In his review of the 1975 acclaimed Regency film, Bertrand Tavernier’s Que la fête commence (Let Joy Reign Supreme), Jonathan Spangler considers the film’s 44-year legacy. Its 1970s permissiveness and spoofiness do not age as well as the melancholy arc of the Regent’s troubled self. Tavernier depicts Orléans, played by Philippe Noiret, as kindly if debauched, nothing like the steely and ambitous ruler portrayed  by Olivier Gourmet in Dugain’s version. Since the plot involves the Breton conspiracy of 1718-1720 to put Philip V on the French throne (that Orléans’ chief minister Dubois ruthlessly repressed), perhaps both versions of the Regent leave something to be desired.

We move half a century forward with Emmanuel Mouret’s Mademoiselle de Joncquières, his 2018  adaptation of Denis Diderot’s Jacques le fataliste et son maître, composed toward the end of the Old Regime. Elena Russo finds it visually exquisite, but misses the mordant modernized touch of Robert Bresson’s 1945 Les dames du Bois de Boulogne. The story of female revenge, similar to that of Les liaisons dangereuses, sees a feckless but endearing nobleman woo and then abandon a charming young widow. She then plots to have him fall in love with a prostitute whom she presents as a dévote. Her evil project is foiled in the end in a surprising twist. The philosophical ruminations that surround this story in Diderot’s version disappear, yet the dialogue-driven film does question human psychology and its motivations.

Liana Vardi

University at Buffalo, SUNY

 

Table of Contents

Reviews

Stolen Childhood, Marc Dugain and Chantal Thomas’s The Royal Exchange, by Lisa Jane Graham
Is the Party Over? Bertrand Tavernier’s Que la fête commence/Let Joy Reign Supreme (1975), by Jonathan Spangler
Mademoiselle de Joncquières or Diderot Updated and Corrected, by Elena Russo

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