Soft laughter echoing across marble stairs. Gently twirling parasols. Delicate lace sleeves. More hats than you could wear in a lifetime. It can only be period drama month on the Blog Collab.
A woman of the French nobility seeks revenge on the libertine who broke her heart.
The Marquis des Arcis is a piece of work, let me tell you. A libertine who claims to love all of his conquests, the Marquis has his sights set on widowed Madame de La Pommeraye.
Fully aware of his terrible reputation, Pommeraye resists his advances, proclaiming her belief in friendship only, not love. However, the Marquis and his charm begin to take effect, and the two become lovers.
Even from the French countryside, news travels fast, and Pommeraye becomes the subject of nasty gossip in Paris. Unconcerned as their love is so pure, Pommeraye prances merrily along.
When the Marquis must travel for business, so our troubles begin. As he travels more frequently, he becomes increasingly distant. Unable to take it any longer, Pommeraye confronts the Marquis about the lack of love between them. Heartbroken over their breakup, Pommeraye nevertheless remains friends with her ex…while also doing some scheming. Of course there’s scheming.
After hearing some scandalous gossip from her bestie, Pommeraye hatches an inspired plan. The scandal involves a woman born out of wedlock who nevertheless makes a good match to a member of the nobility. As it turns out, her fiancé is a next-level schemer, and arranges for a fake wedding. When she takes him to court, this woman inevitably loses, and turns with her daughter to a den of vice (le gasp) where they earn a living through sex work.
Inspired to seek vengeance against the Marquis with these two women, Pommeraye sets them up in a flat of their own as long as they follow the path of righteousness.
After introducing the Marquis to her pious friend and lovely daughter, he becomes obsessed. So consumed with his thoughts of Mademoiselle J, the Marquis begs Pommeraye to reunite them. Pommeraye at last allows him to join them for dinner when he “happens to be in the neighborhood.” During dinner, Pommeraye grills him on the questionable morality of libertines and prods him to speak in praise of living by the words of Christ.
Hiring the equivalent of 19th century PIs, the Marquis tracks down Mademoiselle J and propositions her repeatedly. He writes romantic letters, offering jewels, houses, monthly income, and significant amounts of his fortune.
Pommeraye, intercepting his letters, urges Madame J to reject all of these offers as they are not enough. Finally, the Marquis realizes the only acceptable offer is one of marriage, which Mademoiselle J is reluctant to accept. Conflicted about lying about her past and her feelings for the Marquis, Mademoiselle J eventually accepts as a way to provide for her mother.
Shortly after the wedding, Pommeraye takes Madame J and the newlyweds on a fun day trip…to the den of vice (dun dun dun). How will the Marquis react when he learns the truth about Mademoiselle J’s past and Pommeraye’s present schemes?
4/5 Pink Panther Heads
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I am always here for a period drama. The scenery, the costumes, the melodrama, the passive-aggressive lines of dialogue–I love it so much.
Though the obvious comparison is probably Dangerous Liaisons, this is actually quite sweet for a revenge film. Pommeraye herself starts out as a somewhat sympathetic character, but her schemes ultimately have the power to hurt a lot of people and she gives zero fucks.
I appreciate that this is reasonably progressive concerning women’s sexuality, especially where period dramas are concerned. The Marquis is of course a bit of a douche when it comes to Mademoiselle J’s past as a sex worker, but the story resists the idea that she is somehow unclean or immoral. Meanwhile, Pommeraye’s schemes actually do, as promised, ensure that a man no longer acts as a libertine (though not necessarily in the way she intends).
There’s also quite a lot of farcical fun here. The scene at dinner cracked me up with all of the uncomfortable squirming the Marquis endured. The amount of times he unconvincingly just happens to bump into Madame J and her daughter is quite entertaining too.