Monsieur N


Period and swashbuckler films

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Time Out says

That's Emperor Napoleon. Exiled on the mid-Atlantic island of St Helena, the ageing Bonaparte (Torreton) is allowed to maintain a facade of court life, but only in the grounds of an isolated manor house - an open prison guarded by British troops under paranoid governor Lowe (Grant). New arrival Lt Heathcote (Rodan) is fascinated by the micro-power struggle between the two men, and much taken with Napoleon's English consort, Betsy Balcombe (Hewlett). In contrast to the whimsical frivolity of The Emperor's New Clothes, this is costume drama played straight. South Africa makes a convincing stand-in for St Helena, and the set-up is absorbing in itself, but as René Manzor's screenplay develops its conspiratorial conceit, the enigmas and ambiguities he's digging end up undermining the movie's own claim on historical credibility - and that being the case, you find yourself wishing de Caunes had played faster and looser with the material and had some fun with it. Or at least allowed us to. Torreton (from Tavernier's It All Starts Today) is an appropriately dour, proud, cunning N, but Grant has nothing new to show, and neither Rodan nor Hewlett makes much impression. Zylberstein does more with less as the Emperor's mistress Albine de Montholon.

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