Despite a suggestive title and a penny-dreadful type of introduction, promising a shocking glimpse of marital infidelity, the movie is still much closer to Victor Hugo's original Ruy Blas than to a Mickey Spillane epic. For one thing, the characters are far more interested in the seventeenth century ideal of glory than in the "passion" currently popular in drugstore circles. Alto, most of them are too busy intriguing against each other to get worked up over a love affair--even if it does involve the Queen of Spain.
Directed and adapted by Jean Cocteau, The Queen's Lover is just the kind of swashbuckling romance that was one the glory of Douglas Fairbanks. In fact, one scene of church chandelier-swinging would have been worthy of the master himself.
The plot is easily summarized. Ruy Blas, the hero, begins as a poor student trudging toward Madrid. At the end, just before his last melodramatic act, he is the Queen's lover and the ruler of Spain. In between there is a fantastic series of double-crosses, mistaken identities, and political intrigues, leaving the audience confused as to who's on whose side. Occasionally, there is even doubt as to who's in whose clothes. No one really cares, though, because even in its most hackneyed scenes the movie is brisk and entertaining enough to render all questions of credibility irrelevant.
Jean Marais, in the lead role, is somewhat too self-confident and phlegmatic for an obscure student suddenly finding himself in the Queen's boudoir. He acts as though he's seen the movie before, and knows all along that she'll come bounding into his arms. Dannielle Darricux, on the other hand, is quite convincing as the bored and unhappy Queen--a difficult task in what is getting to be a stock role.
Along with The Queen's Lover, incidentally, the Brattle offers an outstanding short on art, entitled The Experience of Cubism. An Italian production, the film provides some real analysis of technique in addition to the usual minute reproduction of canvasses. Also, there is a beautifully-photographed short on fountains in Rome, and even the Bugs Bunny cartoon is unusually clever.