Genre: Action/ Comedy
Director: Bertrand Tavernier
WORTH A LOOK
Given their premise, director Bertrand Tavernier and writers Jean Cosmos and Michel Léviant had no choice but to balance La Fille De D’Artagnan AKA Revenge of the Muskateers on the knife-edge between satire and straightforward adventure. That’s a heckuva tricky tone and Bertrand Tavernier can’t quite pull it off despite game performances from Sophie Marceau as the title character, Eloise d’Artagnan, and Philippe Noiret as her father, pere d’Artagnan.
Having no clue as to how to raise his daughter, d’Artagnan has parked her in a convent for the last dozen years or so. One day, an African slave stumbles into the convent seeking refuge from his masters (don’t ask what a slave is doing in France). When the Abbess gives the slavetraders a hard time, they put her to the sword. Eloise is convinced that there is a conspiracy afoot and she hightails it to Paris for her father’s help in setting things right.
Unfortunately, d’Artagnan’s days as captain of the guard are long past and the other three muskateers have gone their separate ways.
Nevermind. Soon enough Eloise and her dad are involved in pitched battles with numerous swordsmen. Despite Eloise’s lack of training, she somehow manages to avoid being skewered.
As you can see by the absurdity of the setup, the filmmakers had no choice but to make La Fille De D’Artagnan into a lark. The only problem is that they dwell too long on the absurdist elements of the piece, such as the obsession with conspiracies that the novels by Alexander Dumas doted on. The filmmakers are so busy making fun of their movie that they shortchange the adventure aspects.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty of swashbuckling, although it must be said that the swordplay isn’t as thrilling as it might have been. The real problem is the incessant clowning makes it impossible to take the movie seriously.
But is my criticism fair? I’d say so because director Richard Lester managed to make a rousing adventure that tweaked the conventions of the genre back in 1973 with The Three Muskateers, and succeeded to a slightly lesser with 1974’s The Four Muskateers.
The problem certainly isn’t the actors. Sophie Marceau is lovely as the spirited gamine Eloise. Philippe Noiret is appropriately world weary and bemused as the middle-aged d’Artagnan. And the rest of the actors are just fine. It’s just that they are encouraged to mug and vamp by director Bertrand Tavernier.
Ultimately, the real problem here is that Tavernier doesn’t have any respect for the genre. He thinks he’s too good for it. The reverse is true.