A master of minimalist portraits of historical figures, Albert Serra (Story of My Death, NZIFF14) directs French New Wave doyen Jean-Pierre Léaud as Louis XIV during the last days of his 72-year reign as the king of France.
Hailed as one of the most beautiful films at Cannes, Catalan director Albert Serra’s latest cinematic elegy also features, in a masterstroke of casting, the legendary Jean-Pierre Léaud. As an actor who’s seen it all over six decades of French cinema, from New Wave to the ‘death of film’ and the passing of many esteemed filmmaking peers, Léaud reclines poignantly into the role of France’s longest-reigning monarch. Serra’s candlelit chamber piece is as sedate and transfixing as the king’s agonising death from gangrene, which this film documents, through advisers, physicians and Léaud’s solemn bedridden presence, in a stoic trance. — Tim Wong
“[The Death of Louis XIV] observes in a patient, crestfallen manner how one of history’s most famous rulers and a selection of his closest confidants approach an inevitable fate with dignity and reserve. Restricting the drama to the confines of the king’s bedchamber and sparing in his use of extraneous formal gestures, Serra has crafted a ravishing, darkly witty evocation of 18th-century aristocracy and a neoclassical period piece as reminiscent of the historical films of Visconti and Rossellini as the modernist literary adaptations of Rohmer and Oliveira.” — Jordon Cronk, Film Comment
“The film simply looks stunning… Serra here opts for a painterly approach that combines a certain realism (if also an enormous opulence) in costumes, wigs and furniture with a rich, painterly look full of flickering candles and enveloping shadows. The light is literally dying in Jonathan Ricquebourg’s richly textured cinematography.” — Boyd van Hoeij, Hollywood Reporter