Marie Antoinette and The King of the Pigs

Farewell, My Queen

Benoit Jaquot directed this opulent imagining of Marie Antoinette's last days, based upon Chantal Thomas's recent novel, with Diane Kruger as the rather self-centered, "lesbian" queen; Virginie Ledoyen as her lover Gabrielle de Poligrac; and Lea Seydoux as the monarch's slavishly faithful reader, Sidonie Labode.

It's through Sidonie's eyes that we view the majestic world of rustling silks, shimmering jewels, and rapturous rooms. And just as the golden splendor of a church can make you believe in the power of Christ, these furnishings cloud the servant's eyes into viewing her mistress as a faultless goddess whom it's an honor to service. Who need bother with what the rabble rants?

But as the Queen's hours ebb in number, a conflict arises between Sidonie's vision of what's occurring and Jacquot's laying bare of the actualities. For example, there's the gritty, odorous living conditions of the cowardly court and the royal attendants. Sidonie certainly doesn't get to brush her teeth or bathe each morning. Instead, she gargles and dabs herself with rose water. And then there's the Queen little kindnesses, such as soothing the young girl's mosquito bites. Are these acts of concern, seduction, or just manipulation?

Always fascinating in detail,  Farewell will entice you to seek out your nearest world history textbook so you'll be better able to connect the dots of one of the world's most epic, brutal eras.

The King of Pigs

Unlike the porkers in Orwell's  Animal Farm, the swine in this hard-hitting animation from South Korea are the underclass. The downtrodden. The dogs are the oppressors. The one percenters.

Director Yeun Sang-Ho, in a work inspired by his own childhood, first introduces us to two of his main characters in a manner not meant to draw much empathy. Kyung-Min is an in-debt businessman who has just slaughtered his wife. She sits open-eyed at the kitchen table while he showers off her blood. Across town, Jong-Suk Jung is a failed novelist and freelance writer who beats up his girlfriend in a jealous rage a few hours after his own boss has demeaned him. What do the duo have in common? And why are they now meeting?

Flashback to their youth 15 years ago and we soon discover how youthful innocence can be corrupted by societally approved bullying. Kyung-min, then a slight boy from a wealthy family, was constantly slapped about by his peers. Jong-Suk, his only friend, one day accidentally wore a girl's pair of Guess jeans to class, and was called a fag. Who would dare defend these underdogs? Only Chul Kim, a loose cannon who was abandoned by his father and whose mother subsequently became little more than a prostitute. His philosophy: "You need to be a monster if you don't want to keep living like a loser." So how does he toughen up his pals? He gets them to knife a stray cat, for starters. Well, how do you follow up that first act?

A searing depiction of Korean society as a bully's utopia, where "money only follows the rich,"The King of the Pigs is animated fare definitely not meant for children. Instead, it's a hard-hitting, never-less-than-engrossing, film noirish exercise that was screened in the Director's Fortnight section at Cannes this year and was also a highlight of the recently acclaimed New York Asian Film Festival at Lincoln Center. - Brandon Judell

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Mr. Judell is currently teaching "The Arts in New York City," "American Jewish Theater," and "Theater of the Sixties" at The City College of New York and is Coordinator of The Simon H. Rifkind Center. He has written on film for The Village Voice, indieWire.com, The New York Daily News, Soho Style, and The Advocate, and is anthologized in Cynthia Fuchs's Spike Lee Interviews (University Press of Mississippi) and John Preston's A Member of the Family (Dutton). He is also a member of the performance/writing group FlashPoint.

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