6 hours ago
Thursday, 14 April 2016
I had high anticipation of this one and, although I found it agreeable enough, it did fall a little short of my hopes for it.
Foreshadowing the imminent release of, and 'inspired' by the same true story of the American, Florence Foster Jenkins (the upcoming film of that title starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant), this French film, actually shot in the Czech Republic, is set in the 1920s and relates how the middle-aged Marguerite Dumont (Catherine Frot - magnificent in the part), self-deluded into being unaware that her execrable singing is being derisively laughed at by everyone except herself, while she believes that she's widely loved and admired by the audiences at her informal concerts and recitals. Her long-suffering and philandering husband (Andre Marcon) has for years played along with allowing her to retain her fantasy. But now, as she becomes determined to achieve fame as a renowned opera singer, and taking professional singing lessons for the first time, his uneasiness, as also the disquiet of all those who've been humouring her, becomes the source of conflict which he doesn't know how to resolve without letting her know the truth about her hopeless vocal 'skills' and hurting her deeply.
Right through Xavier Giannoli's film I was longing for a lighter touch. It's true that there's a serious undercurrent to this otherwise superficially whimsical story, but it does get over-heavy at times. Other than Marguerite's hilariously bad singing, there are one or two other laughs to be had, but no more than that. All the arias she 'performs' (as well as two or three by 'proper' singers) will be familiar to opera lovers.
Perhaps I've been unfairly spoilt by the trailers currently playing of the Stephen Frears/Meryl Streep film, and that one really does look like great fun. So through this French film I kept reminding myself to see it on its own terms. Though that did make it slightly better I yet felt something wanting, which wasn't helped by it being a colour film shot largely in what looked like matter-of-fact monochrome.
But it's an interesting take on a story - or at least its central character - of which I've been aware for something like 50 years. The remarkable thing is how it's taken so long for a film to be made about it. I hope I'll like the forthcoming 'Florence Foster Jenkins' even more when I see it in a couple of weeks time or so, but in the meantime I award this French version of the story a fairly commendable................6.5.