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Film Reviews Review: The Death of Louis XIV is contemplative cinema at its best

Jean-Pierre Léaud in La mort de Louis XIV [The Death of Louis XIV].

Globe and Mail Update

4 out of 4 stars

Title
The Death of Louis XIV
Written by
Thierry Lounas and Albert Serra
Directed by
Albert Serra
Starring
Jean-Pierre Leaud, Patrick d’Assumcao and Marc Susini
Genre
Drama
Classification
PG
Country
France/Spain/Portugal
Language
Latin/French
Year
2016

A masterpiece. Admittedly, callow viewers may have difficulty getting past the cumulously bewigged Jean-Pierre Léaud's uncanny resemblance to Phil Spector, circa 2008. The rest of us will be entranced, almost voyeuristically so, by Albert Serra's measured, methodical depiction of the Sun King's slow but inexorable expiration from gangrene. (The film plays a one-night stand this Sunday night at the Bell Lightbox after screening at TIFF this past fall.) Virtually all the action takes place in one place, the king's bedchamber, where his candle-lit decline is watched over, commented on and occasionally ameliorated by sundry "physicians," quacks, servants and courtiers. The 18th century has never seemed so close and yet so other. Heightening the poignancy is Serra's casting of Léaud as Louis. As Andréa Picard, the curator for TIFF's Wavelengths program, noted during last year's festival: "We've watched Léaud grow up [especially in the films of Truffaut and Godard] and here he is, at 72, embodying a dying king. There are these layers of cinema and life here that are confounded in a way." This is contemplative cinema at its best.

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