REVIEW: DVD Release: D'Artagnan's Daughter

Film: D'Artagnan's Daughter
Release date: 4th October 2010
Certificate: 15
Running time: 125 mins
Director: Bertrand Tavernier
Starring: Sophie Marceau, Philippe Noiret, Claude Rich, Sami Frey, Jean-Luc Bideau
Genre: Action/Adventure/Comedy
Studio: Second Sight
Format: DVD
Country: France

Nearly a full decade before Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow sailed the seven seas, spurning authority and balking at the prospect of meeting a gruesome end, Philippe Noiret’s D’Artagnan was doing much of the same in rural France. Alexandre Dumas’s original three musketeers became four with the introduction of surly D’Artagnan, and even though this new installment of a much-coveted franchise sees the musketeers weary ageing men eager to recapture former glories, the result is just as farcical and pulsating a swashbuckler as its plucky, rum-fuelled descendant.

Tavernier’s film, however, is less about the musketeers themselves than it is about the titular character Eloïse (Marceau), daughter of the fourth musketeer, and every bit as keen to aid the French resistance. Her discovery of a curiously-worded note sparks speculation about whether there is a plot against the French monarchy, a conclusion hastened by the increasingly volatile behaviour of the Duke of Crassac, and his merciless muse Elgantine de Rochefort.

Eloïse turns to her estranged father for advice on the matter, the result of which is that the musketeers are reunited for one last(?) quest, accompanied by Eloïse herself, and romantic poet Misère, who is courting her affection…

More than any other element of D’Artagnan’s Daughter, Philippe Noiret’s turn as D’Artagnan is responsible for setting the comedic tone of the piece, as his interaction with Marceau - a striking doppelganger of Isabelle Adjani, if more fickle an actress – provides an interesting aside to the goofing around. Noiret is the core of the ensemble, managing to come across as a different outlet for everybody’s frustrations; an intimidating but effortlessly cool father-in-law, and to his colleagues a helplessly noble sucker for a ‘cause’.

One of the amiable successes of D’Artagnan’s Daughter is its ability to unite a set of characters so loosely bound, with wildly different approaches to adversity, to its common cause of libertarianism. Eloise is carrying out a moral crusade, while her father seems to enter the battle out of duty; Misere is a dreamer who wants to make an impact, while the other musketeers are as resigned to accept the situation as workers asked to cover a shift at short notice. Despite this, there are few moments where you wonder just what this troop of folks are doing together, which is admirable given that the ‘mission’ itself, however uncertain and sporadic, has a distinct air of the novelty about it.

The group impetuously push on with their venture, unsure of who exactly is threatening them and in what capacity, drunk on activism and motivated by a general distaste for the current political situation. As an early scene involving the murder of a Mother Superior is depicted with all of the pulp of a sherry trifle, it becomes clear that this is a project much more devoted to the sillier, camp elements of 17th century France, keen to excise historical hang-ups from the musketeer mantra. As a consequence, D’Artagnan’s Daughter feels more token, reliant upon wit and pace, carrying with it all of the irony of watching people fight for fighting’s sake, rattling off quips about each other’s incompetence, putting their own appetite above each other’s safety.

There’s a tiresome, roundabout slog to the film’s constant desire to win over an audience through non-committal bitchiness and predictably-sarcastic pockets of humour. At over two hours, it’s little surprise that the film cannot sustain its energy through this technique, dissipating as a frothy comedy and delivering lite on the promise of concrete historical satire. One is reminded, more often than not, of those pesky Pirate films, and their distracting approach to a laboured, idea-shy narrative.

It’s somewhat of a credit, but largely a misguided deferral, to suggest that the most chiefly apt description of D’Artagnan’s Daughter is ‘fun’. As well as it captures the period with marauders in tunics and brazen women in suggestive attire, D’Artagnan is just that bit too stagy and familiar to sidestep the self-consciousness of a script so skewed towards generating laughter from general indifference and incompetence. It draws attention to its own motivations far more than one would like.

As a bit of a maverick venture, D’Artagnan’s Daughter fairly obviously coasts on the notable eccentricities of Dumas’s work, and feels exactly that; a well-meaning fixture, rather than a genuine extension of the franchise. It introduces a different angle to a well-known story, but is too content to hide behind flippant remarks, its lack of ambition curbing any legitimate shots at glory. This may be more than mildly entertaining fare, but it isn’t one for all. CR

1 comment:

  1. A good fun throwaway film, not a classic but definitely worth more than two stars.
    A damn site better than those awful johnny depp movies.
    worth three stars at least.