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Marceau Carries The Day
on April 26, 2001
The spirit of Dumas is alive and well as D'Artagnan and his three legendary companions regroup and once again go forth in defense of the Crown in "Revenge of the Musketeers," directed by Bertrand Tavernier. This time around, however, it's D'Artagnan's daughter, Eloise (Sophie Marceau), who sounds the alarm after witnessing a cold-blooded murder at the convent she has called home these many years, having been raised there while her father was off on one adventure after another in service to the King. And it's the King for whom Eloise is concerned; in the wake of the murder, she has uncovered a conspiracy to assassinate the about-to-be-crowned Louis XIV during his coronation. Her evidence is a cryptic message discovered among the personal effects of the recently deceased resident of the convent. So throwing caution to the wind, Eloise takes to horseback, alone, to seek out her father and inform him of this threat to France and the King. What she doesn't know is that D'Artagnan (Philippe Noiret) has recently withdrawn from the service of the King, and not by his own choosing. It seems that the King-to-be is something of an upstart, the fact of which D'Artagnan conveyed to him personally-- in no uncertain terms-- after which the now former Musketeer retired to private life to give lessons in the art of swordsmanship. All of which is about to change with the arrival of the daughter he hasn't seen for many years, and who to his knowledge is still safely ensconced in the convent.
To successfully present yet another episode of "The Three Musketeers," it must have that certain sense of bold carelessness born of confidence and larger-than-life adventure, and Tavernier's film has it. Though it takes a couple of scenes to find it's legs after an intense opening that makes you sit up and take notice, when it finally kicks in (which it does fairly quickly) it becomes a rousing adventure steeped in the tradition of it's predecessors. And, as in the best of the "Musketeer" movies, it's laced with subtle humor and intrigue. Tavernier sets a pace that is at times inconsistent, but he provides enough action and fun that it can be easily overlooked; it may threaten to stall occasionally, but never actually does.
Philippe Noiret cuts a striking figure as the aging D'Artagnan, who though slowed somewhat by the years, is still one of the best swords around. He successfully embodies that spirit and sense of "legend" that makes his D'Artagnan believable, and delivers it all with the confidence befitting his character.
The highlight of the film, however, is the lovely Marceau, who as Eloise proves that she can cross swords with the best of them. Her technique with a blade may be a bit awkward at times, but it gives credibility to the character; a young woman raised in a convent-- even the daughter of a famed Musketeer-- wouldn't necessarily be a master swordsman. And Marceau gives a lively performance as Eloise, diving into the action with a reckless abandon that makes her endearing, as well as fun to watch. She has a radiant screen presence that draws the eye to her, even in a crowded scene. But what really puts this character across-- and again, the entire film, for that matter-- is that unabashed spirit of adventure, which Marceau manifests in Eloise.
The supporting cast includes Claude Rich (Crassac), Sami Frey (Aramis), Jean-Luc Bideau (Athos), Raoul Billerey (Porthos), Charlotte Kady (Eglantine de Rochefort), Nils Tavernier (Quentin), Luigi Proietti (Mazarin) and Jean-Paul Roussillon (Planchet). Proving that even Musketeers beyond their prime can be engaging, especially when combined with a spirited beauty like Marceau, "Revenge of the Musketeers" is a welcome cinematic chapter in the saga Dumas began so many years ago. In the end, it's a satisfying experience that will transport you to another place and another time, when chivalry was alive and well, and right always triumphed over wrong.