Although Corsage makes a worthy attempt to recast Elisabeth as independent of her constraints, its final note leaves it feeling a little too much like its own sort of requiem.
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Kreutzer has her own style of revisionist feminist history, and aided by Krieps’s bold and brilliant turn, it’s riveting stuff.
Full of odd glitches and deliberate flubs in period detail, the film feels like an invitation into a secret conspiracy to reach back through time and, with deft, irreverent 21st-century fingers, loosen the stays on Empress Elisabeth’s corsetry just a little.
Kreutzer employs a variety of subtle anachronisms – servants wearing modern glasses, a concrete wall here and there – to allow herself and Krieps the freedom to introduce a modern sensibility that sticks a middle finger up at the polished production design of most films of this genre as casually as Elisabeth does at the decorum of her courtly life.
Corsage . . . although a late entry to the disaffected royalty subcategory, is arguably one of the most interesting so far, much closer to the ludic, imaginative queen of the genre, Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (2006).
Ultimately, Corsage is a deeply sympathetic portrait of Elisabeth, enhanced by Krieps’ delightful performance.
In many ways this is a study in anger, and it is an austere and angular picture. Krieps gives an exhilaratingly fierce, uningratiating performance.
Corsage succeeds precisely by ditching the myth of objectivity in favor of portraying a woman eternalized by the glory and dolor of her imperfections.
Krieps is terrific in a role which depicts Elisabeth as both a victim of her gilded cage circumstances and a chain-smoking self-absorbed uber-bitch.