Costume Designer: Pierre-Jean Larroque. César Best Costume Design (Meilleurs costumes)
I did not see this movie when it came out, I’ve watched it on TV on Christmas Eve. As with Florence Foster Jenkins (2016) , Marguerite is also inspired by the life of the “world’s worst opera singer“. While Stephen Frears‘ film (that I did not see) is set in 1940s New York, director Xavier Gianolli, tells Marguerite’s story in Paris during the Golden Twenties. Since the 20s are my “in the wrong place at the wrong time” period in history, this little detail makes all the difference. Not only because Pierre-Jean Larroque’s period costumes are exquisite but also because the story benefits from the social, cultural and artistic context of European avant-gardism.
This is a story of passion without talent. Not of a simple love of music but of a vital need to express that love. The Baroness Marguerite Dumont loves opera and wants to be loved by her cheating husband through her talent as a venerated soprano, creating a dream world enabled by the butler / photographer Madelbos and her own wealth, pleasant disposition and childlike enthusiasm that prevent everyone around her from telling her how excruciatingly bad she is.
Marguerite creates a dream world helped by Madelbos, the butler, who protects her from the harsh reviews and mockeries of the outside world but also turns her and the elaborate photo shoots of delusional Diva roles into his own personal artistic project. For that he is willing to let her die and this was, for me, the darkest side of the movie. While this is a thoroughly beautiful and inspirational look at the nature of art and the value of a dream it is also a bitter reflection on the use of others as the object / subject of that art.
While Florence Foster Jenkins might have never known just how terrible she was, Marguerite does get to know and that ends up not making Life possible anymore.