Thursday Trailer Face-Off! Anonymous vs. The Princess of Montpensier
Published April 14, 2011
Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Anonymous and The Princess of Montpensier, two period dramas set in 16th-century Europe. Political scheming? Check! Illicit romance? Double check!
PremiseAnonymous is a political thriller that attempts to advance two rather kooky conspiracy theories: one, that the plays of William Shakespeare were actually written by Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford; and two, that de Vere was also the father of an illegitimate son with Queen Elizabeth I. He must have kept busy! Think of this film as Shakespeare in Love meets Amadeus meets The Da Vinci Code, maybe. The Princess of Montpensier is based on a short story by Madame de La Fayette, and takes place right around the same time—the end of the 16th Century. The titular princess is forced by her father to marry a young prince whom she doesn’t love, and appears to go on having an affair with a duke she does love. Oh, and it’s set during the French Wars of Religion, so the whole Catholic-Huguenot thing will probably come into play at some point. We have to hand this win to Anonymous; there is no way this film won’t be entertaining. Advantage: Anonymous
CastAnonymous stars Rhys Ifans as Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, who supposedly wrote all of Shakespeare’s plays and impregnated Queen Elizabeth I (played by Vanessa Redgrave). We’re a little confused about the age difference there, but Redgrave is an excellent actor and Ifans a quite good one who’s currently on a bit of an upswing (he appeared in five very different films last year, from Greenberg to Harry Potter, and also narrated Exit Through the Gift Shop). The Princess of Montpensier‘s eponymous princess is played by Mélanie Thierry, who is very pretty, but about whom Americans know very little except that she was in a Vin Diesel movie, Babylon A.D. Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet, who fittingly plays the prince, has been nominated for three Césars; and we are willing at this point to publicly declare our huge crush on onetime French Vogue cover model Gaspard Ulliel, who plays the duke; but overall, it’s kind of inevitable that this movie’s cast will appeal more to French audiences than American ones. Advantage: Anonymous
DirectorWe want so badly to give this one to Anonymous, whose director, Roland Emmerich, is best known for his over-the-top disaster movies—Independence Day, 2012, The Day After Tomorrow—since we really want to see how he’ll fit the destruction of an important American landmark into a story about Tudor-era England. But the director of The Princess of Montpensier, Bertrand Tavernier, is actually an acclaimed filmmaker whose career has spanned almost five decades. He’s been nominated for Cannes’ Palme d’Or three times and won four Césars (the French Oscar) and many other awards, including Silver and Golden Bears at the Berlin Film Festival. And now he’s won this category, too. Advantage: The Princess of Montpensier
MusicAnonymous features music by Thomas Wanker (who seems to sometimes go by the name Thomas Wander, and we don’t blame him) and Harald Kloser, who are good at sweeping, foreboding scores—they’ve worked on 10,000 B.C. and 2012 with Emmerich. The Princess of Montpensier is scored by one Mr. Philippe Sarde, who in a 40-year career has produced literally hundreds of scores—IMDb lists 205—including Tess, The Bear, and The Tenant. He’s been nominated for 10 Césars and an Oscar; even though we have to give Anonymous credit for its fun use of Radiohead’s “Everything In Its Right Place” in the trailer, this one, too, must go to the old, respected guy. Advantage: The Princess of Montpensier
Production DesignIsn’t it funny how different these two movies look, considering they’re set at exactly the same time? England and France aren’t that far apart. For our money, though—as awesome as Emmerich’s 16th-century London looks—we’re betting The Princess of Montpensier is closer to being faithful to the period. There’s something a touch on-the-nose about some of the choices made in the Anonymous trailer—dirty deeds happen by flickering candlelight, executioners and the executed all wear red; etc. The Princess of Montpensier is equally lush, but more subtle; and some of the costumes are breathtaking—we’re thinking of the coffee-colored ensemble at 0:27 and the green dress and hat the princess wears on horseback at 1:23, specifically. Damn, girl! Advantage: The Princess of Montpensier
ActionWhen Gaspard Ulliel says, “Give me something of yourself,” at 0:27 in The Princess of Montpensier trailer, you know exactly what that “something” is. There’s a decent swordfight, but most of The Princess of Montpensier‘s action appears to be of the bodice-ripping variety. Based on how much sex and almost-sex is in the trailer, if we didn’t know it was a French prestige film, we’d be tempted to call it torrid. By contrast, the action in Anonymous is more of the, um, batshit insane persuasion. The trailer starts out kind of slow, with an unnecessary shot of New York City and some guy in a scarf saying, “We all know William Shakespeare, the most famous author of all time.” (Duh?) But then, thankfully, it hops a quick train to Crazytown, and before we know what’s happening, a cannon is fired into a crowd, Queen Elizabeth is throwing papers in fits of rage, people are being seized in their pajamas by royal guards, a dude is beheaded, there’s some kind of swordfight that happens while there’s simultaneously a huge fire and driving rain, people are being punched, a rose is being cut(!), and, yes, maybe there’s a little third-base situation too! Advantage: Anonymous
GuylinerThere is a lot of guyliner in both of these movies! For reference, compare 0:40 in The Princess of Montpensier to 1:08 in Anonymous. Was there some kind of MAC sample sale we weren’t made aware of? Advantage: Draw
The VerdictWe just can’t decide! The Princess of Montpensier is the right kind of movie to go to with a date (if there’s anything to the power of suggestion, it’ll get you laid), and to casually mention having seen at a pretentious party, so that everyone around you feels culturally guilty. But Anonymous is the right kind of movie to take a bag of wine to! Everyone needs a healthy balance of both of these things in their lives; so, based on the trailers, we endorse both. Winner: You, once you’ve seen both of these movies.