The Death of Louis XIV
Director: Albert Serra
Cast: Jean-Pierre Leaud, Irene Silvagni, Patrick d'Assumcao, Marc Susini, Vicenc Altaio, Bernard Belin, Jacques Henric
Genre: Drama, Biography, History
Language: Latin & French with English subtitles
Country of Origin: France-Spain-Portugal 2016 115 mins. (12A)
Cannes Film Festival, Official Selection, Special Screening; Best Film, International Competition, Jerusalem Film Festival; London Film Festival 2016, 'Dare'
Released by New wave Films
Jean-Pierre Leaud is riveting in Albert Serra's 'The Death of Louis XIV,' the Sun King, the larger than life monarch, who ruled France for 72 years, seen as a very human person as he nears death.
Based on the Duc de Saint-Simon's account, Louis (Jean-Pierre Leaud), bed ridden in the Chateaux de Versailles with gangrene, tired, suffering night sweats, loss of appetite and the realisation that death awaits him, remains revered and majestic - there's a lovely touch when Louis desperate for water refuses to drink unless it's in a crystal glass. Courtiers, counselllors and his velet Blouin (Marc Sasiui) attend but affairs of state are on hold and Louis' secret wife Madame de Maintenon (Irene Silvagni) and his personal physician Fagon (Patrick d'Assumcao) fear for the future of France. Medics from the Sorbonne debate the cause of his demise and desperate for a cure, allow a quake doctor from Marseille to suggest the latest elixir of bull's sperm and frog fat. Death comes, the body's dissected and it's noted that the intestines are of a good size.
A painterly quality infuses the film, rich in colour and texture and beautifully shot by Jonathan Ricquebourg. Superbly choreographed, it's mesmerising, compelling cinema and centre stage, Jean-Pierre Leaud, remembered in Truffaut's 1959 classic 'The 400 Blows' gives a poignant and riveting performance with hair pieces that defy gravity. Wonderful cinema.