Plenty of blood is spilled in the late Patrice Chéreau’s masterful 1994 wars of religion epic “Queen Margot,” being rereleased in a newly restored version. But more important, blood also courses through the movie’s veins like a beautiful, dangerous and twisty river.
Set in a sweltering and turbulent 1572, it begins with the hyped marriage between bored and beautiful Catholic Margot (Isabelle Adjani) and nervous Protestant Huguenot King Henri de Navarre (Daniel Auteuil), arranged by Margot’s shrewd, flinty mother, Catherine de Medici (a terrifying Virna Lisi), to heal a divided nation.
Behind it, however, is a scheme to slaughter Huguenots — a real Red Honeymoon, to use “Game of Thrones"-speak — and in the aftermath, the thrown-together couple wage a fragile campaign to band together and survive, while the forbidden love between newly politicized Margot and wounded Protestant agitator La Môle (Vincent Perez) creates new problems.
Chéreau’s and screenwriter Danièle Thompson’s lively adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ novel remains a model of heaving, combustible history, in which period lavishness and performance energy aren’t mutually exclusive. Splendidly acted and tautly executed, with the restoration of Chéreau’s 2007 director’s cut stressing Philippe Rousselot’s kinetic, beautifully florid cinematography, “Queen Margot” depicts the perversity of rule and the bitter grace of hard-won compassion with the most assured of brush strokes.
MPAA rating: R for nudity, strong sexuality and graphic violence.
Running time: 2 hours, 39 minutes.
Playing: At Laemmle’s Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.