What is the most inelegant and unforgivable thing Maïwenn has done? Pulling Edwy Plenel’s hair out or plunging the opening of the 76th Cannes Film Festival with her insipid and very disappointing “Jeanne du Barry”?By Atmane Tazaghart and Nicolas Chene
This biopic inspired by the life of Louis XV’s last favourite, whose flatness contrasts with the pomp and flamboyance of the Versailles setting, unfortunately failed to embody the complex personality of Jeanne du Barry, who was both light-hearted and non-conformist, audacious and clumsy.
Long before its first screening, at the opening of the Cannes Film Festival, the film was the target of fierce criticism: attacks with macarist overtones that quickly went beyond the artistic domain to attack aspects of the private life of the director – whom the film’s detractors reproached, in particular, for her “detestation of feminism” – and of its main actor, Jonny Depp – whom some would like to condemn to the gavel, ad vitam aeternam, because of marital setbacks, for which he has already given an account in court!
The film could well have overcome these criticisms, if it had been able to embody the audacious and non-conformist character of Jeanne du Barry. For, for four years, Louis XV’s last favourite shook up the heaviness of the Versailles decorum. However, by dint of looking for similarities in Jeanne de Barry’s life with her own, Maïwenn allowed herself to be carried away by a narcissistic game of mirrors which prevented the film from rising to the level of the extraordinary destiny of a woman of the people whose arrival at court upset the conventions of Versailles, bringing a breath of fresh air to the final years of a sovereign at the end of his reign, thanks to her spontaneity and her insouciance. Worse still, the film did not even grasp the tragedy of this courtesan’s destiny, sent back to her status as a commoner even before her king’s lover had given up the ghost.
Thus, the director got lost in the maze of a Versailles on which she wanted to cast a critical eye. But by reducing it to an overwhelming formalism, she inflicted on her film a heaviness that tarnished its rare festive and tedious aspects. This is why she failed to capture either the back or the front of the Versailles decor!