For this severely beautiful art-house period piece, we surround the death-bed of the Sun King himself as he gradually succumbs to gangrene, much to the puzzlement of a legion of confounded Sorbonne doctors.
French icon Jean-Pierre Leaud, 73, scarcely recognisable under the huge wigs and ageing make-up (that once fresh face so symbolic when it stared out at us at the end of Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, from 1959) excels in the best part he’s had for years,
His Louis lies there, fawned over by courtiers, wheezing his way to death but still refusing to drink water unless it’s from a crystal glass. Standards must be maintained.
Here’s the glorious king, who built the enormity of Versailles and its gardens, now confined to one room. It’s a meditation on mortality and power, one bursting with Enlightenment period details, such as the box of eyeballs the doctors use like a Dulux colour chart to determine the King’s rheumy eyed ailments.
Costumes and decor are great in Albert Serra’s film, laden with close-ups and whiskers, but this is not the version of Versailles that we’re seeing in all its sexy glory on the TV at the moment. This is about man as god, the fading of power and glory, and the fear of darkness after the dying of a sun.