Vatel (2000) Poster


User Reviews

Add a Review
46 ReviewsOrdered By: Helpfulness
George Parker31 August 2001
"Vatel" is a French period film with Depardieu as the title character, a master steward under the crown of King Louis XIV whose job it is to put on feasts and spectacles for the pleasures of royalty. Typical of director Joffe, the film peers deep into the character of Vatel, around whom swirl politicking and wickedness, with such depth and dimension as to make the plot of secondary importance. Replete with sumptuous sets, elegant costuming, and epicurean delights, the film fills the eye and whets the palate as few films can while it paints a portrait of a sensitive and honorable man who makes the supreme sacrifice for dignity.

A superb watch for those into period films painted with delicate brush strokes and subtle nuances.
46 out of 54 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
One of the year's best films
tprofumo17 January 2001
Roland Joffe's "Vatel" does something few movies can do these days: it takes you to a place you've never been before.

The French made film has Louie XIV visiting a poor province ruled by an improverished prince, who must put on spectacular entertainment fit for the Sun King. There's more than the King's time at stake here, though, for Louie wants the prince to lead his army, should France go to war with Holland, and the Prince desperately needs Louie's financial help, to save his nearly brankrupt province.

Enter the prince's chief steward, Vatel, played by Gerard Depardiue. A combination French chief extraordinaire and showman supreme, he not only serves up unbelieveable meals, but also puts on shows that would out do James Cameron, and does it on a much smaller budget. From pop up lawn decorations to fire works extravaganzas that would shame the Chinese, Vatel displays a genius for spectacle that will literally leave you breathless.

"Vatel" the movie includes lots of court intrigue and some fine acting from those carrying it out. Deparidieu delivers an unexpected performance as Vatel. Rather than the explosive, temperamental French chief, he plays this 17th century showman as a harried administrator who is trying keep a lot of balls in the air at the same time he must navigate the tricky waters of French politics. It's an understated performance in which much of what is going on is behind his eyes (and probably in his stomach ulcers) rather than on the surface.

His protagonists are Julian Sands as the petulant,devious King and Tim Roth as the chief court intriguer, kind of an early version of a political advance man. Uma Thurman is a lady in waiting who has caught all three men's eyes.

All are good, but what sets "Vatel" off is the visuals which give you a look at spectacle the likes of which this writer had never before seen. This film should walk away with all the set design, costume design and effects Oscars hands down. It is one of the most incredible visual experiences in film history. See it in the theaters, though, and not squashed into a TV screen.
38 out of 45 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
We should not judge this movie by its cover
tantris041916 August 2002
Letting yourself be submerged by the visual aspects of this subtle but not so fast movie is the key to its understanding. The images are rich and varied; the atmosphere is deep in history if not somewhat accurate at least attempts to recreate wonderfully the ambiance, decadence and glory that was France during the Reign of Louis XIV. Those who love history will love this movie, not for its content, but for its exuberance and unashamed panache.

I will not attempt to decipher the story line, the words in itself are what is important here. Whether the story is accurate or not or whether is fact or fiction or whose point of view is it, is irrelevant, you should make your own conclusion. The most important aspect for me is its own subtlety, seeing its hidden little treasures in its rich tapestry of images and symbolism was the most fun, also its unassuming little gems of wisdom about human nature here and there, gave enough impulse to the story to keep it interesting, Yes! This is not `The Three Musketeers' for those looking for action and Yes! This is not `Cyrano' either for those looking for the power and poetry of the prose.

What these characters do is not as important as how they do it, specially during those days of very conventional and strict etiquette, their seemingly detached attitude is only a reflection of their hidden emotions as much as their blind following of the rules imposed by a necessary tyrant. Only then we come to understand that this was only a clever device that Louis XIV created to maintain all of these rich dilettante aristocrats busy with life at court to keep them away from the real world and the real politics thus providing him with absolute power (This was his glory not Versailles).

I find that if we look carefully under the varnish and the gold, they were not too far from the farce and ridicule that we see on today's society. When we look around, the music, the clothes and the places might be different, but the treachery, pettiness, envy, jealousy, hunger for power and those who utilize it for their own purposes are still the same. If anything, this movie is a mirror of society at is very worst and best, and a great point of reference to look at ourselves as we were and as we presently are. Those who pretend that this story is just a boring fantasy of the past of some fertile imagination dressed up in pretty costumes with some period music; they need a better set of glasses than an eye doctor can normally prescribe. Those with the sensitivity to appreciate what is not obvious and can read between the lines will be ready for a treat.
21 out of 28 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Nice historical drama
tfc16 March 2002
Vatel was not a bad movie, in fact it was worth viewing. If it were not a true story you could argue it was too calm and had too little excitement for the people who seek diversion entertainment. However, since it is a true story, about a royal cook and what he had to go through just to do his art it becomes very interesting. Another good theme was the disfunctionality of the royals and how the servants interacted with these powerful people (Vatel tried not to as much as possible). I particularly liked the part where Vatel said "no thank you" so philosophically to a nobleman's perverted request that Vatel won him over as a friend through respect. If you like brinkmanship and maneuvering, this movie has it, be it subtle.
7 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Finally - A French Food Movie!
carrie726 February 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Any true gourmand knows the story of Vatel -- and that he died for his art. I thought it impressively well-filmed and quite stunning. I didn't care that this wasn't Depardieu's best film or that it wasn't that well-acted. The visuals alone were worth the price of admission. It is sad that Tom Stoppard disappointed with dialogue that could have been far more compelling but I still didn't care. I am just happy to have a French Food Movie and see the history of Chantilly Cream!
13 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The Player and The Viewer
tedg17 August 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

A terrific script, one which appears to be concerned with class imprisonment but is far more clever. The key notion here is self-reference.

Vatel is a producer of lush entertainments, presented to us by -- a producer of lush entertainments. Though only the translation is by Stoppard, this is the most Stoppardian of notions: to amuse us with a story about people just as greedy as ourselves for luxurious entertainment -- and to please while condemning.

The story goes farther into the truth: all entertainers are slaves, prostitutes. The game for an artist is one of drawing lines between that slavery and the noble joys of creation. Vatel does what he does because his obnoxious sponsors provide him the means to do what he desires. That's all, or not all because he needs the applause.

Also in Stoppardian fashion, we have Roth (Guildenstern , Mitchel, Vincent) there to tell us the terrible truth about ourselves. The plot involves competing attentions to Uma's character -- essentially a sweet whore with canaries -- and Vatel, the grand coordinator of revels. He is pulled by the King and his present employer as well as sexually by the King's brother. He wins the admiration (and protection) of that brother in refusing his advances by noting their common perversion in the quest for perfection.

How perfect for this film to be lacking the salt of engaging drama, that excuse we normally give for watching. How perfect that we collectively reject it because it is merely beautiful.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching
12 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Visually stunning look at the technology and society of "Court"
jglass120 January 2006
The film's production value is in league with the best sci-fi films; yet it was a legit piece about European Court in the 17th Century and the impact of the monarchical system of government on love, money, culture and politics. If you've ever experienced an unrequited or forbidden (not illicit) love, you'll empathize with the plight of François Vatel, played by Gérard Depardieu, whose performance is characteristically excellent. The movie's historical elements offer a surprising look at the available technology, even if the applications were anticipated. The love story is not original (stations interfere with true, but conflicted, love), but the context and visual surroundings -- and the fact that it is historically based -- add an unexpected dimension to the viewing, which is best appreciated on a large screen.
8 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Depardieu is brilliant
RARubin15 May 2006
Vatel, perhaps a weak title to a spectacular film; it recreates the excesses of the French court in its pre-off-with-their-heads-phase. In order to escape bankruptcy, the gout afflicted Viscount must entertain the King so sumptuously and so entreatingly, that the King may commission a war with Holland, thereby paying the Viscount's debts. To keep the King and his courtiers entertained, it was no small thing, so the entire countryside is enlisted in the feasts and entertainment. None will be paid unless the banquets are a success. Louis' entourage of Queen, mistresses, and waggish cavaliers run riot through the festivities. The fete is essentially an Olympic opening parade that goes on for three days in dazzling costume orchestrated by one great artist, the Viscount's steward, Vatel.

Vatel orchestrates the extravaganzas and falls for Uma Thurman, the King's new mistress. She is not yet the jaded courtesan and sees greatness in Vatel's can-do veneer. Indeed, Vatel is a man of integrity, denying the King's pedophile brother a young kitchen boy at the risk of his life. Vatel swats away meddling noblemen and women for the entire feast while making love to Thurman, star-crossed lovers though they are. Gerard Depardieu is brilliant even with his modest grasp of English.
8 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
a true "living movie"
peppeuse26 August 2000
One of the best film I've ever seen. The story of Francoise Vatel, the Condé's Master of Cerimonies, and the King's three days visit at Condé's Castle. This is truly a living movie, because of the soul that R. Joffé was able to put inside it. An amazing G. Depardieu, together with the whole excellent cast and the wonderful sets and costumes, gives us the taste of Vatel's life. His thoughts, his hearth and his death appears to us in all their poetry. The screenplay by T.Stoppard and J.Labrune is touching, the dialogues are perfect, the actors are amusing, the music by E. Morricone is quite good. All mixed by the directing of Joffé. A strange masterpiece.
9 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Favorite Scenes
agenerette4 June 2009
I simply never get enough of this film. It's one of the few that I have to re-watch, every so often.

Now, one of the things that struck me most strongly was the fact of Vatel and Anne's goodness -- this, in spite of where Louis' example might have led them -- with the people who worked with them.

The scenes with Vatel and Colin; with Anne and Louise... especially the one where Louise drops the vase that Vatel sent to Anne (and Anne says "It's alright, Louise... it's alright") ... these are made almost painfully beautiful by the contrasting scenes with the aristocrats running amok.

But, Vatel's words come back to me here: "Harmony and Contrast -- All beauty comes from those two things".
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Contrast of noble status and noble virtues
Gordon-119 November 2007
This film is about a servant of noble values having to prepare an extravagant feast for the King's visit.

Vatel understandably focuses on one single character, Francois Vatel. To me, everything else in the film seems to be subplots or minor characters. Much time is spent on portraying Vatel as a hardworking, bright and noble person. He even knows his subordinates' life history by heart! Vatel's noble virtues contrasts with the corrupted mortals of high social status. The film's dark theme is sometimes overshadowed by the merry atmosphere of the feast. The extravagant sets and amazing costumes are very dazzling. The film is worth the watch just to see the feast scene!
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Historical Drama
aa43531 July 2007
I enjoyed this movie due to the historical treatment of how politics played out during the time of the European kingdoms. Money is always the problem and the money is always from the poor for the selfishness of the rich---some things never change. Vatel like so many perfectionists of their crafts comes to the realization that no one cares--not even his employer! Good film with underlying truths that quite possibly could be reviewed in today's world. If you have visited castles in Europe you will enjoy getting a feel about how the sub-basements were used--no more complaints about your kitchen. Gerard Depardieu gives a good performance and the costumes and scenery are exquisite.
7 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A wasted opportunity - and there is no excuse for it
jameswtravers25 June 2000
It is deeply frustrating that what could, and should, have been a great period drama, with some fine acting talent, should end up a dull, mediocre piece of cinema. The film lacks structure, has a lacklustre script, whilst the acting performances are generally lame and, in some instances, quite awful. There is some graphic and totally unnecessary violence, and vulgarity is used as a substitute for wit. To garnish this unhappy ensemble, the background music is repetitive and feeble to the point of nausea. I couldn't get out of the cinema fast enough.

First, the acting. Uma Thurman appears to be totally miscast in the role of Vatel's secret admirer, and her performance is dull, emotionless and sometimes irritating. By contrast Gérard Depardieu, a great acting talent, is wasted completely. All he is required to do is walk about the sets barking out orders to his servants and occasionally looking a bit miffed when one of the aristocracy gets his gander up. One suspects that he has already realised that the film is a turkey and so feels no enthusiasm to waste his energies trying to lift the film out of the pit of mediocrity in which it is well and truly lodged. And one can hardly blame him.

The film's only saving grace - indeed the only reason for seeing the film at all - is the magnificent depiction of the royal entertainment designed by Vatel. The scale of the activities is quite breathtaking, brilliantly executed, and offers an interesting insight into the life of the royal court at this time in history. Unfortunately, we are not allowed to enjoy the legendary fireworks scene because a servant is brutally and explicity killed in the process. This is probably the one true great moment in the film, but it seems to get in the way of the one piece of entertainment on offer to us and the tragic impact is lost completely.

On balance, it is the ending that is the greatest disappointment. This should be a deeply moving and tragic finale, but it fails completely to have any effect. The film just loses momentum after the fireworks scene and gradually shrivels up to nothing. It looks as if the entire cast and production team gave up and went home early. The final scenes lack any emotional impact or integrity and overall the film appears shallow and insubstantial.

A totally wasted opportunity.
14 out of 27 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
flashy,showy,no substance.
dbdumonteil31 December 2002
This is a movie made for His Majesty Gérard Depardieu,with an absurd supporting cast and lots and lots of wasted money. Depardieu is everywhere in the movie and reduces the others characters to walk-ons.Roland Joffé films everything he can,and tries to impress the audience with fireworks,audacious camera tricks,Fellini-inspired settings but he does not create anything.

The Sun King is featured but he pales into insignificance ,which is a shame all the same!His brother is first shown as a wicked perverse man (in the French tradition:for that matter,take a look at the "Angélique "series)when the historians describe him as an admittedly gay man but a human being who was courageous,generous with the vanquished at war,and finally gentle(see "Monsieur,frère du roi" by Philippe Erlanger).At least his last line shows his real nature but it's too little too late.

But the biggest bomb is Tim Roth's Lauzun!The duc de Lauzun was a Gascon ,who was always cracking jokes ,a bon vivant,fond of women ,so insolent that he was finally sent to the Pignerol jail where he met again Vatel's former master,Nicolas Fouquet -the movie briefly hints at him-.Tim Roth's sullen face is by no means duc de Lauzun,this joker who would marry the king 's cousin ,la grande Mademoiselle,a spinster,for her dough:oddly this colorful dowager does not appear at all.Montespan,La Vallière do,but they do walk-on parts.(Only one line each:Montespan:"I'm coming up" Vallière:'I'm coming down",the only touch of humor in the whole movie) Queen Marie-Therèse is not well portrayed either:she was rather ugly,gauche and self-effacing.Here she seems to outshine Montespan,which is rather odd!
8 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Rubbish - what a shame!!!!
Wicked1-214 May 2000
Great intriguing story and premise, with the best possible cast you could wish for, yet the net result is a boring slow self congratulatory journey through pretension and psuedo intelect masquerading as art. This could have been brilliant, but instead leaves you dead. Don't bother to rent this (you'll not bother to go to the cinema), instead, buy a reasonable bottle of wine and a nice TV dinner, it's better value.
9 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
? Spoiler ???
Bonheur-venteux12 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
There is a warning about spoilers but just about everyone on this site talked about the ending of this film anyway so...???? What ? Anyway, I am adding a comment to someone who posted here that Vatel "died for his art" which is wrong. I wonder if they actually paid attention ??? He died apparently because he did not care to have his HONOR and his feelings continually shredded. He experienced a series of heartbreaks,sad events and disappointments that were pointing to a future of more certain unhappiness. Since he was a man of honor and decency that was too much for him to bear. That is a lot different than "dying for his art". The end of the movie made it clear that people assumed so but it was not true. There. Now like everyone else here, I have discussed the ending.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
VATEL: Good actors, a good film but certainly not the best one of 2000
Italy-Wedding30 December 2001
Gérard Depardieu is known for his historical films, in which he his master. Films like 'Balzac', 'The Iron Mask'... are a few of them. But this films isn't every historical it is always about food and the please the king Louis XIV. It was well played but there wasn't a good story. Uma Thurman, Tim Roth & Gérard Depardieu gave good performances but this film was to flat. The end was good, it wasn't a happy end, but maybe was a sad end the best choice.

That the film was spoken in English was better then it would be French spoken. The film was not a high-flyer but was not awful. We can remember it as one of the few historical films of Mr. Jouffé.

Rating: 7/10 or ** 1/2 out of ****
5 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Ineffable sacrifice
Armand21 January 2007
A beautiful film about art, life, sacrifice. Very European, refined, splendid image, subtle acting, atmosphere of a historical period recreated in magnificent way. But the principal error is the beauty of a movie in which food, costumes, colors, words, art in every form transforms the story in ordinary pretext.

Depardieu is a brilliant Vatel and his impressive talent, his artistic force are reflected in acting. But Vatel was not a victim of hypocrite nobles, of time and of his social origins. The last gesture was not only result of duty conscience. And he was not a great artist in a fragile domain.

His job was his life. The parties, the food, the organization of a entire show was essence of an touching existence and reflection of the time's glory. This sophisticated art to be crux of a world was secret ingredient of a special moral victory. So, Vatel was more than a small character, builder of little extravagant shows, toy of aristocracy. His life, his death was ineffable form of sacrifice for a special gift: art to be yourself, part and builder of dream, heart of miracle and desire.
3 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Saw it 3 times...
gab195328 August 2002
Can't wait to show it to all my Friends again and again. You will be impressed by the beauty of the scenes and discover the public show technics used under French King, Louis the 14th. It is amazing to see how much they could do at that time and how they were doing it. Apparently they could also do ice statues as a dinner presentation. Whaow!! what a show!
3 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Kirpianuscus27 March 2017
beautiful at whole. for each aspect. because it is the result of wise options. to recreate the Paris. to give a complex and realistic portrait of Vatel. for use the right recipes to seduce the public. this is, in fact, the essence of this real seductive film. and the motif to see it twice. the delicate precision of the making the story, the tension, Gerard Depardieu as the only reasonable choice for the lead role are pieces for a fascinating trip across mysteries and across the spirit of a century. and this did special "Vatel". for the unique emotion. for the inspired answer. for the impeccable acting. and for the science to resurrect a page from the small history of France.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A glimpse of the luxurious life of the Sun King
Filipe Neto8 September 2015
This film tells the story of François Vatel, a master of ceremonies at the service of Prince Louis II of Condé, one of the most important aristocrats of the French court but that was bankrupt and away of the good graces of King Louis XIV. The approaching of a war with the Netherlands makes Condé, anxious to led the king's armies, decides to invite the king for a weekend at his Castle of Chantilly, hoping to be able to recover the royal sympathy. Then Vatel is in charge of organizing a three-day party like never seen before for king's amusement. Based on historical events, the film is directed by Roland Joffé, has argument by Jeanne Labrune (in original French version) and features Gérard Depardieu (Vatel), Uma Thurman (in the role of Anne of Montausier, one of the king's lovers) and Tim Roth (as the Marquis de Lauzun, the king's confidant).

Joffé managed to make the audience relive the events. The environments, the locations for filming, the costumes, the music, everything was thought out and analyzed carefully to reproduce the atmosphere of the time, so we must congratulate this effort for historical accuracy, which even received a nomination for the Oscar for Best Art Direction. The actors met well with their roles. The script also works in interesting ways, including some situations where we glimpse the contrast (and even shock) of the two worlds of seventeenth-century France: the richness and unparalleled luxury of the court and the absolute misery of the common people. Also positive note for the soundtrack of Enio Morricone, although not one of his best-known or most interesting compositions.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A Must See
Gibbers Siemon22 March 2013
If you enjoy historic/period films, this is one to see. There is a weak link - Ms. Thurman- but her performance does not ruin the whole. I confidently proclaim all other performances top notch, from the "Sun King" to the title character, to the vast staff in the kitchen of the Prince de Conde's estate in the countryside. Excellent! Transporting! The effort and attention in production is exemplary and never gets in the way of the mood of the movie and the viewer being sucked in. It is an an example to try to match. "Vatel" is a convincing travel back in time to the opulence, ridiculous behavior and systems in the royal court of 17th C. France. The viewer really feels like a fly on the wall, observing the behaviors, politics, seductions, binding and imprisoning codes of conduct and misconduct that were easily paraded by the royal court. I enjoy this film to this day despite a couple dozen viewings.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Shannon11 April 2004
Warning: Spoilers

The movie was mildly interesting as it describes (what I call) the "Martha Stewart" of 17th Century France, Francois Vatel. However, it just isn't interesting enough and I got bored very easily and very quickly. What saved this film was Gerard Depardieu's performance as the title character who organizes all the interior decorating, shows, and meals prepared for the coming of King Louis XIV to a chateau in Chantilly.

Uma Thurman's performance as Vatel's love interest is well, below mediocre. I'd much rather watch paint dry or a pair of snails drag-race.

Above all, I give this 2 out of five stars. The lush atomosphere also manages to save the film from a 1 star rating by me.
3 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Like watching grass grow.
The biggest problem of this barely watchable piece of dreariness is that there is almost no story, but plenty of scenes with Depardieu organizing catering and what-not. Costume dramas are supposed to have intrigue, political and personal, plot-twists, surprises, and not just look nice. If you want a good period piece, take a look at "Barry Lyndon" or "The Duellists", not this European-produced hogwash. These two films are visually superior to "Vatel", as well. Whatever little intrigue and plot there is tends to be unpleasant rather than fascinating.

Who cares whether Vatel's boss or some other moron gets to fight the king's war? Plus, who wants to watch Uma Thurman's wooden acting? She and Depardieu have no chemistry simply because she is a non-reactive agent in Chemistry's Actors' Periodic Table.
2 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews