4,5 this film is magical! Jean-Pierre Léaud's performance is amazing - he can simply sit and not move at all, and yet the screen is filled with emotion and grace. i've never seen such a king! his tiniest movement says - i am the king - and at the same time he is so humble. the progress of the leg (and the approaching death) is also briliantly orchestrated.
Leaud is as much as a symbol as an actor, but it's a testament to his transformation that this dirge doesn't just use him as an avatar of cinema, but for something grander. This is, with little dialogue, one of the most haunting films of 2017, a look at the inevitability of death, the absurdity of history, and the way human civilization—each phase of which looks surreal in retrospect—is helpless in the face of it.
A studiously slow visual requiem as much as an unforgiving autopsy - at first an autopsy of the myth of the Sun King and in the end a literal one. Jean-Pierre Léaud and, despite the limited screen time, the man who plays the quack doctor from Marseilles are the real stand-outs here. Despite the minimalist set, plenty of interesting historical detail - from exiled ex-king James II to state of medicine at the time.
Compositionally brilliant. It's a sombre affair, sure, but Serra keeps a sense of the sardonic alive (he again narratively deconstructs a mythic/religious figure, but this time it's paired with a literal deconstruction!). The film's last moments make for the most forceful final scene since Scorsese's THE WOLF OF WALL STREET. I'm sold.
An alternately transfixing and confounding visit to The Sun King's deathbed, Serra's latest is also a decidedly non-majestic but sorta magnificent meditation on death, dignity, celebrity and cinema. I wrote an extended blather about it here: https://bostonhassle.com/the-death-of-louis-xiv-2016-dir-albert-serra/
It's beautiful how this film establishes an atmosphere of truth and how it really seems we are watching a documentary instead of a fiction. Acting - on point. Clothes & wigs - perfection. Serra really showcases an ability to do a lot with so little on screen - light, shadows, long silences, heart. As we watch the death of Louis XIV, we are really watching the perishing of human power facing our biggest fear.
It was like being in a live painting for a couple hours, a gorgeous period painting, with perfectly convincing acting and lighting that allowed for the candle-lit period, but sparkled in every frame. It seemed to have the veracity of a well-researched piece that made me think I learned something more than I had before. With a gaze neither cold nor cloying. Splendid.
I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this film just yet. At times, the humor is extraordinary--tremendous pomp and circumstance surrounding the passing of the most powerful French monarch, his massive wig playing no small role in the aforementioned pomp. But the final 30 minutes, as a man dies in great pain, is an exercise in masochism for the viewer.
Est-ce vraiment Louis XIV qui agonise ? Derrière ce tableau d'ombres obscurs, à qui se destinent ces simagrées qui entourent ce corps déjà avachi ? L'obséquiosité des courtisans, incapables et abrutis devant la mort qui vient, font échos à ceux-là mêmes qui tiendront nos membres quand le moment sera venu. Lugubre et somptueuse, cette agonie marmoréenne de Louis XIV, c'est d'abord celle de chacun d'entre nous.
"(straight gazing camera) Gentlemen, we shall do better next time" fucking hell, Albert Serra, you really are a wicked man.. "Nothing will help the sins of the eyes" Allegory of seeing and cinema on the rotting, dying, closing body of Jean Pierre Leud. So mortifying theater experience.
Still gnawing on this days after the fact. It's death, and homage to one of the greatest actors ever. Not to mention maybe the best costumes for a period piece ever. It's very quiet, save for an orchestral blow-out mid film when Jean-Pierre Léaud just stares at you for minutes, AH! While his physical decline is clear, he's unsurprisingly charming, raw, captivating. May the cinema gods bless him. Masterpiece.