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'Farewell My Queen' Director Jacquot Takes a Sapphic Turn with Marie Antoinette

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood April 19, 2012 at 4:23PM

There's a reason why French director Benoit Jacquot's "Farewell My Queen" (July 13) was chosen to open the Berlin and San Francisco Film Festivals, as well as making its North American debut at COLCOA this week. The period movie, set in 1789 on the verge of Bastille Day, is a sexy period spectacle that takes us backstage at Versailles...
Lea Seydoux in 'Farewell My Queen'
Lea Seydoux in 'Farewell My Queen'

And he shot fast; his cameramen rushed through dark corridors following the characters with digital Steadicams, over-the-shoulder documentary-style.

Like Stanley Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon," Jacquot was seeking a natural light aesthetic, which was easier to achieve with today's digital cameras than it was on film in 1975. "I think Kubrick asked questions similar to ones I've asked myself," he says. "The question of directing theatrical cinema is a question of real cinematography. How did women and men live in a time when the main lighting was candles, when you can't see further ahead than five meters? I bet you the budget on 'Barry Lyndon' in candles was one week of shooting on my film." 

This was his first move to digital. "Now I will always do digital films," he says. "There's really no point in 35 mm. Every theater in France is digital. All the print labs have closed down as well. It's the technique now. And technically we can do things you could not do with 35. Two years ago, this film would not have been possible. Things are changing quickly."

This article is related to: Interviews , Interviews, Period

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.