JEANNE DU BARRY (France/Belgium/United Kingdom/Russia/Saudi Arabia 2023) ***½

Directed by Maïwenn

Co-written, directed by and starring Maïwenn with co-star Johnny Depp as Le Roi (King Louis XV the new French film JEANNE DU BARRY about the illegitimate affair between the King and a commoner is filmed entirely in French.  In case one is wondering, Depp is fluent in French an spoke for hours during his interview with Maïwenn.

Based on true historical events in France, regarding Royalty and the royal court, JEANNE DU BARRY tells the story of the woman and her life with King Louis XV.

Jeanne Vaubernier (Maïwenn), a common girl eager to rise socially, uses her distinct charms to get out of her condition.  Her lover, the Count du Barry (Melville Poupaud), who is getting rich thanks to Jeanne's lucrative gallantry, wishes to introduce her to the King (Johnny Depp).  He organizes the meeting through the intermediary of the influential Duke of Richelieu (Pierre Richard).  It is good to see Pierre Richard again, Richard who used to make so many comedies with director Francis Veber).  This meeting exceeds his expectations: between Louis XV and Jeanne, it's love (or is out lust?) at first sight... With the courtesan, the King rediscovers his taste for life - so much so that he can no longer do without her and decides to make her his official favourite.

The one huge plus about the film that makes it entirely compelling are the film’s production values.  The extravagance of King Louis XV and his court is matched by the extravagance in the film’s production values.  Mention is made of the forty dishes the King partakes of, for a meal, all tased by the King’s Taster.  The people at his court including his ugly daughters are all robed in magnificent garb with hairdos of multiple styles and colour,  The film has been nominated for Cesars in the departments of production and costume design.

.The unfamiliar practices of French royalty are also of immense interest,  In 1768, when the king wished to make Jeanne maîtresse-en-titre, etiquette required her to be the wife of a high courtier, so she was hastily married on 1 September 1768 to Comte Guillaume du Barry. The wedding ceremony was accompanied by a false birth certificate, created by Jean-Baptiste du Barry, the comte's older brother.  The execution by guillotine during the French Revolution on accusations of treason i totally omitted in the film, which concentrates mainly on her romance with the King,  Also intriguing is the behind-the-scenes of Versailles of the time the elegantly masked power struggles, finely weaving links between the 18th century and our time

Depp performs well, exceeding expectations and speaking fluent French as the King, apparently fully recovered from the brutal court case he was acquitted of.  But this is Maïwenn’s film from start to finish, she plays the extravagant beauty that seduced the King.  The credibility issue is in question here.  Though Maïwenn is a pretty actress, undoubtedly, she is not an absolute ravishing beauty, so to believe that the King would single her out among a hundred other women in court and invite her to his bed needs quite a lot of believing.

JEANNE DU BARRY opens only in theatres, where it should be seen on the large screen, beginning May 2, 2024.


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