Marie Antoinette [1938]

Director: Herman Hoffman, Julien Duvivier, W.S. Van Dyke
Stars: Norma Shearer, Tyrone Power, John Barrymore, Robert Morley, Anita Louise
Genre: Biography, Drama, History
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Runtime: 157 minutes

The contrast between the elegance of the French royal court and the barbarity of the French Revolution makes the story of Marie Antoinette, France's last queen, a vivid and hypnotic narrative. Marie Antoinette - The Scapegoat Queen follows the Austrian-born princess through the complex politics of her arranged marriage to her sometimes scandalous behavior as Queen of France to her harsh end on the guillotine, arguing that though often foolish, Antoinette deserved neither her savage fate nor her reputation as a callous tyrant. The documentary uses an impressive wealth of paintings, sculptures, and architecture to capture the flamboyance and playful flavor of the French aristocracy, and also uses occasional snippets of movies about the period to provide a little more visual activity. All in all, a thorough depiction of an incredible historical period...though whether Antoinette comes across as anything but a self-serving pawn of history is debatable, despite the documentary's emphasis on her few moments of dignity. --Bret Fetzer

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