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|Index||19 reviews in total|
How do you create a follow up to the two masterpieces that were "Comment je me suis disputé" and "Ester Kahn" (we won't talk about the dull "Léo... en jouant Dans la compagnie des hommes") ? You just listen to what your heart has to say, however hard and difficult it might be, and make no compromises. You don't fear to be misunderstood. You care about the audience but do not let them influence your work. You're a genius but you still have doubts, and these doubts make your art even better. "Rois et Reine" ("Kings and Queen"), Arnaud Desplechin's latest film, lasts 2h40mn and, in spite of its length and its harsh contents, is utterly entertaining, fascinating, moving and even funny. It does not fear to be (often) irritating and boring : the burlesque moments, for instance, are quite annoying, but then again, that's a personal point of view. The thing is, the storyline about Nora's relationship with her father and her ex boyfriend and her son, and then again Ismael's relationship with Nora's son and with his family are so powerful, they don't need more. Unfortunately, Desplechin is often reluctant to cut deep in his movie and as a result, "Rois et Reine" sometimes looks like a long, long ride. Add to that some unfortunate flash backs burdened by bad acting (the character of Pierre) and boy does the movie sound dull at times. Emmanuelle Devos and Mathieu Amalric, finding here the roles of a lifetime, are absolutely fascinating. When in the end, Nora discovers the secret pages of her father's diary, or when Ismael spends an afternoon with Nora's son, it's devastating. I've rarely seen a movie that translates human emotions so beautifully. Just for that, "Rois et reine" is a must see.
Rois et Reine starts and ends with an audio feast of divinely beautiful
unplugged "Moon River". In between, it offers the richest content that
I remember in any film that I've seen.
Use of two parallel, initially apparently unrelated story lines is a favourite structure for movie makers. One that immediately comes to mind is Le Huitieme Jour. In Rois et Reine, one thread is Nora, a beautiful art gallery director struggling with a terminally ill father and a fatherless son Elias. The other thread is Ismael, a viola player taken into a psychiatric ward through strange circumstances. However, it does not take long (relative to the two-and-a-half-hour film) to get to the convergence point where the audience are privy to the fact that Nora and Ismael had lived together for seven years during which Nora's son developed a devoting affection for and attachment to Ismael (which, incidentally, reminds me of a similar relationship in Love Actually, in a character played by Liam Neeson).
But this is only the bare beginning. The sprawling story surrounding these two main characters commands the viewers' every attention, and this film really deserves several viewing.
I wouldn't attempt to go into all the details of the many characters, sub-plots and sub-texts. Briefly, the central story is Nora's relationships with three men, Elias's father who was shot under suspicious circumstances, Ismael who became Elias's de facto father and the man she is now going to marry but is not really certain if she truly loves or not. While those relationships are touched on lightly, some through flashbacks, her relationship with her father Louis and sister Chloe receive sharper focus, with twists and turns leading to some rather devastating revelations towards the end.
With Ismael's family (and there are quite a few members) the circumstances are very different, but equally intriguing. While there is also conflict, and this one centres around the issue of adoption and estate, the mood in one of wry humour. Family matters aside, there is also another dimension, the psychiatric ward, where Ismael interacts with no less than three psychiatrists (one played by Catherine Deneuve) as well as a women fellow-patient Arielle with whom he develops a close relationship that continues after their discharge.
And don't be mislead into thinking that quantity will compromise quality. The entire film is throbbing with energy, telling the story in so many different ways, in so many changing moods, which, however, never feels disjointed. Similarly, the deft use of background music brings you delight in every turn.
I have only touched on the bare surface of this absorbing film. Among the many fascinating aspects of the film is the development of the two main characters and a common characteristic: both are vain and arrogant. Yet, the interesting thing is that they are not portrayed in that light at all. It's through the description by other characters that this comes to light, and then we are compelled to look behind the surface to understand.
The audience will find that there are many scenes, from devastatingly emotional to hilariously noire, that they will remember long afterwards. If I were to pick a most memorable one, however, it will be the last scene, between Ismael and Elias, and I think many who have seen the film will agree. A masterful piece of auteurist work, Rois et Reine is a film that will be a crime to miss.
"Kings and Queen (Rois et reine)" is a deceptively beautiful looking
exploration of the differences between appearances and substance.
Our first impressions of each parallel character who seems to have no relation with any other character undergo a complete turn-around by the time we have finished circling around them in time and space at the end of the film, especially as we begin to realize they are unreliable, self-serving narrators of their own experiences.
Each person is part of a very modern blended family, both by genetics and selection, and faces the most quotidian of life cycle decisions -- life, birth, marriage, paying bills, parent/child responsibilities, Laingian sanity and particularly death -- and makes a different choice how to handle them, whether active or passive, peremptorily or as fate.
But each choice leads them to the next unexpected plateau of choices with guilt hanging on each move. For each, doing the right thing means something completely different as each responds differently to an emotional and physical crisis.
Though psychoanalysis is drolly mocked as just another philosophy, each character may be eccentric or seriously crazy and undergoes Freudian traumatizations by family in casually cruel ways that alternate between funny and shocking (and sometimes absurd).
Director/co-writer Arnaud Desplechin revels in the diversity of his characters, so that as their orbits collide they can hardly communicate because their frames of reference are so different.
The acting brilliantly matches the unexpected revelations that flash back to let us know how each character got to be this person and the transformations to where they are going. Emmanuelle Devos as "Nora" lusciously fills the screen even as we find that her nonchalant beauty masks the devastation she leaves in her wake as it helps her use others for her selfish needs.
Desplechin has frequently cited Woody Allen as an influence (and "Seinfeld"), and Mathieu Amalric's Ismaël is a tribute to that talkative, intellectual Jewish persona and Philip Roth is mentioned as well, though this character is much more up on hip pop music and surprisingly matures as he gains far more humanity than his New York inspirations.
The film is long and slow, but curiosity about how each character got to where the film started is involving.
It's impossible to keep up with all the erudite references to poetry (Desplechin says the title comes from a chess metaphor in a French poem: "King without kingdom/ Queen without a scene/ Castle broken/ Bishop betrayed/ Fool as a brave man"), literature, mythology, art, music and film ("Moon River" seems to be used frequently these days).
Eric Gautier's cinematography is sensual and is particularly dreamy when an awful event occurs.
The production design creates illustrative environments for each person and family, as every object around each character has ironic counterpoint to the dialog.
The soundtrack eclectically extends from electronica to klezmer to hip hop to singer/songwriters Paul Weller and Randy Newman to classical and more that reflect the characters' psychological mise en scenes.
Nora (the devastating and luminous Emmanuelle Devos) is a single mother
who suddenly has to care for her dying father (a successful writer
straining to put the finishing touches on his last book, a memoir of
sorts) on the eve of marrying her new suitor. Ismael (the fantastic
Mathieu Amalric) is her "ex-boyfriend" who cared for her son most of
the boy's life, and is a struggling musician who suddenly finds himself
trapped in the loony bin thanks to an over-zealous sister, a bitter
friend, and a "judicial error." Director Desplechin (this is the only
film I have seen of his) does a nice job flipping back and forth
between the utter bleakness and emotional hell of caring for a dying
parent, and the absurd serio-comic-horror of being stuck in the "crazy
hospital" against your will.
There's a lot of play with psychoanalysis (highlighted by Catherine Denueve in a bit part as a psychiatrist) that is fun and illuminating to watch. There's speckles of romance, dark humor, nihilism, magic realism, and soap opera theatrics with lots of references to philosophy, mythology, and poetry that keep the film interesting and unpredictable even as its over two and a half hour run time tries your patience. There are plenty of revelations and big emotional payoffs here punctuated well with eclectic music choices (everything from classical pieces to some sort of catchy European hip-hop) and nice little surprises (Magalie Woch is delightful as the lovely suicidal mental patient who becomes smitten with Ismael). This utterly French film gives the viewer a lot to chew on, even if you have to gnaw through a bit of gristle before dining on the filet mignon.
There is SO much going on in this film, but it has rhythm, pace, a great soundtrack, and enjoyable, charismatic performances, that kept me engaged from the word go. The editing owes something to 60s Godard - lots of jump cuts in the dialogue scenes - and 80s Rohmer - anguished 30 somethings worrying about true love - and possibly, in its tour de force final sequence, a reference to La Jetee, which is also of course about memory, fate, and mortality. And then there is the rather bizarre Audrey reference which opens the film: as Nora steps out of a black car, clutching her morning coffee, clothed in black, her hair wound up on her head, the strains of Monn River sound. So far, so post-modern. This is is a film that is freighted with filmic, literary, theatrical (esp Shakespeare and the Tempest) and artistic allusions, but that uses these in service of a specific point: that these cultural references and allusions make the web of our being - that art is how we communicate to each other (notice that all the characters communicate through art - the gift Nora gives her father, the music Ismael dances to, the book the father writes - even the 'murder scene' is filmed through a highly stylised mise-en-scene): that 'artifice' can reveal the deepest and most moving of human emotions. It is a beautiful film that will move you and make you leave the cinema feeling transported. And Deneuve is just great! I love the bit where Ismael asks her if anyone has ever told her she's beautiful, and she gives a slight twist of her lips, sighs, and says, yes, she has heard that before. Just because something has become cliché, doesn't mean it's not true.
I was so hoping it would live up to the hype...and it almost does - but
you know how it goes with extravagantly praised films.
Desplechin's 1996 "My Sex Life" was brilliant - a rambling, shambling, thoroughly engaging 3 hour trip through the lives of a group of rambling, shambling, lost characters, made by a director looking to pour as much raw life into a film as possible and let the rest sort itself out. He has no interest in a well-knit story....
This somehow doesn't work as well here...what is missing is the "engaging" part. This isn't a matter of his being unable edit himself; it's just characters and their situations just seem less able to cross the divide and touch you.
But i'm all in favor of Desplechin's intentions. This is a director definitely worthy of trust and respect. And can all those critics be wrong? I'm going to see this again.
"My Sex Life" had the benefit of three wonderful actors: Mathieu Almaric, Jeanne Ballibar and Emmanuelle Devos...we need more films from all three. Almaric and Devos return here. He is, as always, terrifically fun to watch. But this is her movie...Emmanuelle Devos seems to be coming into her own now, after years of playing lesser roles (The Beat my Heart Skipped). She is a marvel. Always playing the victim, stoic and long-suffering, and always bringing to this role a huge richness of feeling. She is heart-wrenching here, as she was in "My Sex Life", which she practically stole. And what a remarkable look she has...one moment the ugly duckling, another moment a ravishing beauty. I can't take my eyes off her. A great actress.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I do agree... And disagree with faridi. I did not found the movie too long maybe even too short, since I would like to have the full story of characters like Chloe or Isamel's father (who proves to be almost an action hero in an impressive sequence !) But then, it's a real-life-experience movie, and do we ever, ever really know the people we meet ? The fact that some part are missing from the puzzle makes it all more fascinating. Though I do admit some parts remains puzzling *POSSIBLE SPOILERS* : where does Ismael's "madness" comes from exactly ? One character sees him as pretentious and unrespectful in his work, but we don't see it. And is Mrs. Devos' character really an egocentric monster as her father sets her out to be ? One must say Mr Desplechin perfectly waves flash-backs and obvious fantasy sequences (Did Devos'character "killed" her son's father physically or was his suicide a fantasy ? And was her torturing him real ?), but the disjointed narration is at the same time puzzling and fascinating, hinting at things that could have fueled a whole movie in itself (the whole adoption current : Ismael's father being adopted, him adopting another guy who lived with him and his wife, Ismael's refusal to adopt another child.) But in our days and time, how can one blame a movie for being too rich, too meaningful, up to the point that you wonder if some very emphatic, theatrical dialogs do not hold some kind of key ? Definitely a fascinating movie and, I bet, one that will withhold the test of time, mesmerizing and puzzling spectators in the future. Hey, all classics does not have to be perfect... A must-see for viewers tired of pseudo-intellectual babble AND Hollywood trifle as well !.
It starts out with a woman describing her various marriages, then, after a bit, we meet a man right before he is condemned to a mental hospital. The connections and the backstory aren't clear at the outset, but this is not at all frustrating in this film. Instead, I was captivated from the beginning. The dialogue is all top-notch, very literary but also grounded. The style of the film is quite remarkable; the two plots are expertly intertwined, and the director makes judicious use of a quick-cut technique in which he rapidly shows the viewer two, usually brief, takes of the same action or emotional reaction. The acting is very strong, and the characters are sympathetic but also, well, "complicated." Finally, the story is very poignant and at times crushing, but it also contains a wealth of little charming moments and amusing quirks. I can't really do justice to how good this movie is, though, so really, I can only say that I highly recommend it!
"Rois et reine" aka "Kings and Queen" (2004) directed by Arnaud Desplechin is a most unusual film that mixes expertly comical and tragic, unbearable and optimistic, life and death that are intertwined in the story of two former lovers whose lives have crossed once more when they least expected. Nora (Devos) has to take care of her dying father. Ismael (Almaric), a talented but neurotic musician (Roman Polansky + Woody Allen) is mistakenly committed to a mental hospital under the care of a clinical psychiatrist, forever young and still the most beautiful woman in the world, Catherine Denueve. ("Do you know that you are very beautiful"? - asked Ismael. "I've been told", smiles she). I still think about the movie - the complicated relationships between one woman and several men in her life - how much she affected them, sometimes, with tragic consequences. This is also the movie about perception - how big is the difference between the way we see ourselves and the others see us and what they think of us in reality. It is a movie about love - is it always blind? Is it possible to love deeply and see with the clear eyes? I was totally engrossed and heartbroken by some scenes involving Devos's caring for her dying father, by the flashbacks that tell about her relationship with the father of her son, and next minute I was laughing out loud following the Almaric's ordeal in a mental hospital and his attempts to escape. The movie could've been a gem but it is too long, has too many characters that were perhaps very interesting but I never knew what happened to them and it could be confusing due to its broken narrative which was OK by me but the final result even compelling and memorable was not completely satisfying. Both Mathieu Almaric and Manu Devos are marvelously talented actors and they were the main reason that overlong and confusing movie worked. I hope to see both Almaric and Devos in many more movies. I remember Devos since the first movie I saw her in - "Sur Mes Levres" and I knew then that she had all potentials to become a great actress. Her acting in "Rois et reine" confirmed my first impression.
Kings & Queen is the first film I've seen from writer/director Arnaud
Desplechin, but I can already tell that he is a master director and,
perhaps even moreso, a master storyteller. This is a film filled with
an ensemble of highly complex, emotional, tragic, comedic, realistic,
compelling and human characters. As an outsider into the universe that
Desplechin creates these people seem normal in most ways, but what
makes them so real is that in each character's head they are the focal
point of their universe. Which is an obvious thing to say since that's
true about every human being, but it's rarely demonstrated in films.
Most films feel like they are their own universe and the characters are
just people in that universe, moving along as characters and not
necessarily their own personal worlds. That isn't the case here,
though, as all of these people maneuver as their own individual
universes inside of the overall scope that Desplechin as masterfully
created. They aren't just one-note characters; they are their own kings
and queens of their world, if you will.
This film focuses on two very different characters going through two very different stories. Nora (Emmanuelle Devos) is a woman who is faced with many grueling dilemmas. She is living with a history of loss and pain, and only gets more of this as she learns that her father has bowel cancer and only a few more days to live. Along with this she has to try and manage her son from her first marriage and her upcoming third marriage to a new man who her son doesn't like. There is so much on her plate, yet she always tries to keep her emotions in check and tries to keep a joy in her life. This bleak, emotional melodrama is split with the character of Ismaël (Mathieu Amalric) who is her polar opposite. Ismaël, Nora's second husband, is someone with no harshness in his life. He has a sort of magic around him at all times, no matter what state his life is in. He too is facing hard times. The IRS is attacking him and we are introduced to the character as two men from a psychiatric hospital show up at his doorstep and drag him away to their hospital. This story is filled with immense life and highly absurd comedy, which is a perfect mix for the painful melodrama of Nora's journey.
One of the many geniuses of Kings & Queen is how Desplechin weaves these two different stories together so seamlessly. Not only do the characters feel remarkably real, but they feel as if they belong to the same universe. It's so rare these days to find an ensemble film where everything fits into the same world, instead of these big chunks of different characters that feel as if they are just mashed together from completely separate films but the writer/director tries to put them all together. Films like that always feel bloated and awkward as they transition from one entirely different universe to another. Kings & Queen features two highly unique types of journeys, but the transitions are never awkward and the film is never bloated. Whenever we are watching Nora, in the back of our minds we are still thinking about where Ismaël is on his journey through the film. And likewise, whenever we are watching Ismaël, we are thinking about Nora as well. This is a huge compliment to Desplechin as it is the perfect example for how he puts these people in the same universe, instead of entirely different films.
Devos and Amalric lead a highly impressive ensemble cast through this epic journey of tragedy and comedy. Everyone helps Desplechin in making their characters so rich and alive. You can tell that each actor has put a long history inside of their roles that we only get to see a portion of throughout the course of the film. Mathieu Amalric is an absolute revelation a, and easily the most remarkable of the cast. I wouldn't hesitate to go so far as to say that it's one of the best performances I've ever seen. He is filled with charisma and life, but also with a hint of insanity just below the surface. His Ismaël is an extremely bipolar narcissist who greatly impacts everyone that comes across. I can safely say that I've never seen a performance like it and that he dazzled me for every moment he was on screen. Emmanuelle Devos is almost as impressive, bringing so much emotion to a point just below the surface where you can tell how much everything is affecting the character but she holds it down for most of the film, so that the scenes where she lets that emotion pour out are much more compelling and say a lot more about her character at that time in the story.
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