Based on the novel of the same name by Maurice Druon, Les Rois maudits (The Cursed Kings) is the second television adaptation of this seven-volume book which is widely agreed to be an ...
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Based on the novel of the same name by Maurice Druon, Les Rois maudits (The Cursed Kings) is the second television adaptation of this seven-volume book which is widely agreed to be an accurate representation of actual events. It is the early 1300's and the treasury of France, under the rule of Philippe IV (Philippe le Bel or Philippe the Beautiful), is empty. The king decides the only solution is to raid the treasures of the Knights Templar (amongst others) and concocts various charges of treason, heresy and deviance against the Knights and their Grand Master Jacques de Molay. Having confessed under torture to the crimes of which he is accused, de Molay is condemned to be burned at the stake. With his dying breath he curses the king, the king's advisor (Guillaume de Nogaret), the pope (Pope Clement V) and the thirteen succeeding generations of their families. There follows one of the most dramatic periods in French history, half a century of political intrigue, murder, treason, war ... Written by
Just sat through the 5 films of this series, about 7,5 hours in total. I have to say I left the seat with mixed emotions. The stuff itself is interesting, the dialog well written. But there is a lot to tip the scales to the negative. When I say the production is cheap, I don't mean it's done on a shoestring budget: on the contrary. There are lavish production numbers, gigantic sets, and probably Gerard Depardieu's fee for a typical 10 minute walkover, designed to save a mediocre film, is stellar in itself. I'm thinking more of the emotional and stylistic poverty that flies in your face every now and then. It's a total mishmash of intentions: the writers seem to have striven towards a historically correct, serious drama (as far as I understand it's a pretty close remake of an early 70s series). The casting director has herded together an international cast of actors with very different styles and abilities. There are good, insightful performances, such as given by Tchéky Karyo and Julie Gayet; then there are cheesy, dubbed, but enjoyable performances (Luca Barbareschi); and finally there are totally atrocious, bad, plain wrong performances such as Jeanne Balibar's Béatrice d'Hirson, who walks and talks like a heavily painted, booze soaked 1940s film noir tramp, dresses like Lady GaGa and at one point even wears yellow rubber gloves in a laboratory (in the year of our good Lord 1315). There's a limit to everything.
Towering over everyone is the great immortal Jeanne Moreau, who probably couldn't care less who she has to act against and tear to pieces (yes, it's a blood sport up there) and is engaged solely in giving a tour de force performance to forever silence all other actresses around her. No wonder the director(s) found this Sodom and Gomorrah of great personalities unmanageable, so he (they) just didn't give a damn and instead of a flowing narrative gave us a random selection of scenes and episodes. Everything is lit in a cheap (yes, I've said it), sharp, colorful giallo light, making it Eurotrash at the best and a made-for-cable quickie at the worst. Only this quickie lasts for hours on end.
The cherry on the top is the art direction. It's absolutely impossible to grasp the intentions of the dress, make up and set departments. The costumes are a mix of Mad Max and Xena with an occasional "period gown" thrown in to add to the confusion. I already mentioned the yellow rubber gloves and sexy latex leotards worn by Miss Balibar. It gets worse as the series progress. Jeanne Moreau gets to change her outfits almost in the middle of her scenes. In her glossy glamour dresses, shoulder pads, Ascot hats, wearing heavy modern lipstick and beauty pageant hairdos, she looks like an eighties transvestite, but nobody seems to notice or object to that. It seems many of the actresses just walk to the set with whatever they had on. The illusion keeps chattering, if ever there was one.
The sets... where do I begin? Sure, they had the money. Perhaps the producers were afraid that a historical epic wouldn't sell well enough, so a set design genius was brought in to "update" the Gothic world. Obviously heavily influenced by the Riddic Chronicles, the action seems to take place in a gigantic space ship. Unless it takes place outdoors. In that case it seems to take place on Venus, since in every single outdoor shot there is a superimposed 3D heaven with supernova effects, bright red / blue / green / purple clouds and a wind speed of at least 600 MpH. There is also a very interesting scene where they build a Gothic cathedral. If you watch carefully, you'll learn, that they actually built top-down.
Watch it, enjoy it, be blown away. Not quite what it could have been, but never a dull moment.
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