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Not a film for everyone, but a perfect film for people who like long, quiet movies
The French film La mort de Louis XIV was shown in the U.S. with the translated title The Death of Louis XIV (2016). The movie was co-written and directed by Albert Serra.
The film starts the with the realization that the King Louis is very ill, and ends with his death. Louis XIV was called the "Sun King." The Greek sun god Apollo was immortal. Louis never claimed to be a god, but he certainly acted like one during his extremely long reign from 1642 to 1715. It's not surprising that the people of his court found it hard to believe that he could really be dying.
We watch the king dying during the course of about a week. Director Serra gives us many, many details about his last days. The film was shot with a small cast and only the one interior setting--Louis's chamber, and the room directly outside it.
For artistic and financial reasons, director Serra doesn't attempt to "open up" the movie. There are no scenes that take place outside the palace. No Three Musketeers. No Paris streets with beggars, filth, and noise. It's all quiet interior. The actors are frequently filmed in closeup. In order for a movie like this to work, the actors must be superb.
Two of the three leading actors are: Patrick d'Assumçao, as Fagon, Louis's personal physician, and Marc Susini as Blouin, Louis's chief valet. Both actors are highly experienced professionals and they play their parts very well. Actually, the people they portray are also highly experienced professionals, who are dedicated to serving—and saving—the king.
A movie like this will rise or fall based on the actor who portrays Louis. Jean-Pierre Léaud is perfect for the role. Not only is Léaud a immensely talented actor, but he even looks like portraits of Louis XIV. He was born to play this role, and he will be remembered for playing it for many years to come.
After the movie ended, people had very different thoughts about it. Some said that they were tired of it after the first five minutes. Others said it was too long and/or too dark and/or too quiet. I can see, understand, and respect their point of view.
However, my wife and I found the film profoundly moving and truly fascinating. We happen to enjoy long, quiet movies. We enjoy great acting. We were pleased to watch a great actor starring in a great role, being directed by a masterful filmmaker.
We watched this movie at the wonderful Dryden Theatre at Rochester's George Eastman museum. If you're able to see this film, even on the small screen, I'd suggest you see it. Remember that it's long and slow. Remember that it's a masterpiece.
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