Any single person with the ability to laugh at themselves and with a slight understanding of self-awareness will enjoy this film. It beautifully captures the poignance and cold-hearted ridiculousness of the outsider. It could have been about Jan Terri or even Mark Gormley, two youtube sensations that have enchanted audiences with their ability to not only write good music but also to offer zany and poorly produced aesthetics that may or may not be intended. Instead, for Xavier Giannoli’s 6th feature he decided to base the events around the enigmatic 20th century soprano, Charlotte Foster Jenkins.
Marguerite (2015) dazzles as a real contender for one of the most interesting biopics to be released in some time. Although mirroring the majority of Jenkins’s life directly, Marguerite is set on Gianolli’s home turf of Paris, instead of Pennsylvania, perfectly illustrating the renowned hoax with humour, sensitivity and out and out profundity.
As Jenkin’s did, Marguerite only displays her “wildly out of key” voice to her friends and the extended guests of her estate where they hold recitals. Playing up to her dreams of being a landmark opera singer, her husband and the characters that surround her delight her fancies and let her believe that she has a beautiful voice, forcing applause out of the audiences that witness her massacring the classics and also having acquaintances write favourable reviews in the local newspaper. It would seem quite ridiculous to suggest that Marguerite has absolutely no idea that her voice is almost unbearable (but for the humour provided) but as a young operatic hopeful points out, it is often impossible to hear yourself sing when you are singing at those volumes.
All this is fine for Catherine Frot’s beautifully portrayed Marguerite, who is originally happy to only perform recitals to audiences who are made to enjoy them but the narrative really starts to take hold when Marguerite begins to desire to perform in front of real audiences. Much to her husband’s dismay and disagreement she works with wilful enthusiasm to make sure this happens.
Catherine Frot perfectly exposes the uplifting sadness of Marguerite’s position. The starlet of current French cinema captures the beauty of Marguerite’s passion for music and a desire to achieve greatness partly for the sake of art and partly to impress her adulterous husband.
The supporting cast (who are on the whole unknown) are well rounded and wholly believable, with two radicals willing Marguerite on for the sole purpose of entertainment and to cause trouble regardless of Marguerite’s desires and with a butler who also greatly encourages Marguerite so he can take and sell pictures of her hoping to find fame in doing so.
The award winning costume design lives up to its name perfectly encapsulating Jenkins’s love for obscure costumes through Marguerite’s wardrobe choice and realistically replicating a buzzing Parisian opera scene.
With all things considered, Gianolli’s biographical effort brings to life the beauty of the prolific failure. Humanity loves an underdog that tries their hardest but still falls short much to the enjoyment of the audience that witnesses their blaze. Like Ed Wood or The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, Catherine Foster Jenkins has delighted observers for years with her dissonance and Marguerite brings an eloquent cinematic beauty to this.
Marguerite is in cinemas 18th March 2016.
Director: Xavier Giannoli
Stars: Catherine Frot, André Marcon, Michel Fau
Runtime: 129 mins
Country: France, Czech Republic, Belgium