The Corsage, made in the period from the end of 1877 until Elisabeth turned 40, is not a portrait of a burning woman, but it is equally smoldering. Long admired for her beauty, supernaturally slim figure, and elaborate hairstyles, Elizabeth is faced with the undesirable reality that her currency is now in free fall. As he famously declared in “All About Eve” when faced with the same truth about women and aging, “I. hate men. Injustice extends to the decline of Elisabeth’s political power: Emperor Franz Her marriage to Josef (Florian Teichtmeister) cemented the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but he routinely dismisses her attempts to advise him on policy issues. Still endeared and relentlessly scrutinized by his subjects, he communicated his ambitions through good deeds in local hospitals and psychiatric hospitals, and traveled extensively across Europe while swooning (or pretending) to perform rituals. Escape from the boredom of obligations.
Kreutzer and Krieps give the ‘Corsage’ an air of carefully constructed craftsmanship. Like Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette,” to which the film is inevitably compared, the filmmakers believe that it is a modern-day errant farm tractor and mop bucket, a harpist singing court music, and so on. Never miss an opportunity to inject an anachronism. Of “As Tears Go By”. Creeps plays Elisabeth as a proto-feminist frustrated woman, tired of not only being judged by her looks, but totally dependent on them. She glances at the camera as if to ask the audience, “Can you believe what I have to endure?” .
Thematically, “Corsage” is about a smart, self-aware woman trapped within her privileges, as anyone familiar with the latest tranche of Princess Diana’s story will immediately recognize and start humming. But dramatically, the increasingly ahistorical retelling of Kreutzer begins to feel inert, like its world-weary heroine is disempowered and full of weariness. .
‘Corsage’ benefits from a remarkably handsome production shot with refined grace by cinematographer Judith Kaufman. But its episodic structure, which leads to bizarre speculations about Elisabeth’s ultimate fate, gains a certain masochistic momentum but loses interest. It seems we’ve embraced the tired assumption that heaven helps us as an ‘agency’. Yet Corsage, despite its charming lethargy, offers a provocative rebuttal to the fetishistic depictions of Elisabeth that have been commoditized in Austria over the past 125 years. Tear open a box of candy to reveal a toxic substance in the center.
Unrated. At the Angelica Film Center Mosaic. Contains sexual scenes, brief nudity, smoking and drug use. English, French, German, Hungarian, with subtitles. 153 minutes.