When Florence Met Margueritte
Well, this is bizarre.
So, you'll recall that on Thursday, I wrote here about the new film just released in England with Meryl Streep starring as Florence Foster Jenkins, the wealthy heiress who fancied herself a great opera singer, but couldn't carry a tune, and began giving recitals around 1930, culminating in an infamous performance at Carnegie Hall.
Okay, so I was looking at my schedule for weekend movie screenings at the Writers Guild theater. And on Sunday morning, they have a French film called, Margueritte. Here’s the description that the Guild sent in its screening mailer –
“Paris, 1921, the beginning of the Golden Twenties. Marguerite Dumont is a wealthy woman and has devoted her whole life to her passion: music. Although she’s a terrible singer, both her friends and her husband act as if she’s the diva she believes she is. The problem begins when Marguerite decides to perform in front of a real audience.”
I checked it out online, and – yes, it is not shocking to learn that the film is indeed “loosely based” on the life of Florence Foster Jenkins. What is absolutely remarkable, of course, is that there are two movies about her (albeit one fictionalized), but it is truly bizarre that they were both made at virtually the exact same time. As far as I can tell, the French film is quite good. I scanned a few reviews, including the Los Angeles Time and the Hollywood Reporter, and they were very positive. The film also got 11 “César” nominations (the French equivalent Oscar), and won four, including Best Actress, Catherine Frot.
Making it all the more bizarre, the full name of the character in the French film is Marqueritte Dumont -- which, of course, pretty much the same as the real-life actress in the Marx Bros. movies, Margaret Dumont, who generally played a wealthy heiress Groucho that was always pursuing, and who whenever she sang would generally evoke some wisecrack from him.
t would seem to be just a gob-smacking, outlandish coincidence. It’s hard to imagine a French filmmaker hearing of a biographical film with Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant, directed by Stephen Frears, and saying, “I’ll make that exact same true story, but fictionalize it!” And I also can’t imagine Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant and Stephen Frears hearing about a fictional version of such an odd story and saying, "Hey, let’s make the true version of that even though it’ll be almost exactly the same movie.” How odd and sickening it must have been for one another to have heard about the other. (The French film at least got released in its home country long enough before the Streep film was released, so it wasn’t hurt by it. And the Streep film shouldn’t likely be hurt much, if at all, by a French-language move that probably will be a bit under the wire. But still…)
Here's the trailer. And no, if you saw the trailer for Floroence Foster Jenkins, this is not deja vu...
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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