Rise of Louis XIV, The (1966)

“Even my seemingly loyal subjects are as much to be feared as the most rebellious.”

Synopsis:
Young Louis XIV (Jean-Marie Patte) ensures dominance over France during the first twenty years of his reign.

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Response to Peary’s Review:
Originally made for Italian T.V. (then released cinematically), Roberto Rossellini’s neo-realist costume drama is, as Peary notes, “slow-paced”, but provides “unusual viewing pleasure” for those with enough patience to sit through it. Rossellini boldly forgoes pomp and spectacle in favor of intimacy and realistic banter; the result is a quietly absorbing look at daily life and power machinations in Louis’ court. While dramatic encounters and bold musical scores are the stock-in-trade of most historical dramas, Rossellini’s approach shows us what such elements deny us — the chance to eavesdrop on historical figures as they go about their everyday, minute-to-minute lives.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • A meticulous, historically accurate evocation of 18th century France
  • Colorful costumes and sets
  • An intriguing and revealing depiction of Louis’ gradual rise-to-power

Must See?
Yes. Widely regarded as Rossellini’s last true masterpiece, this film merits a look by all film fanatics.

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One Response to “Rise of Louis XIV, The (1966)”

  1. First viewing. A tentative once-must – but it’s of particular interest to those who follow historical dramas.

    If I’m about to watch a Rossellini film that I haven’t seen before, I tend to approach with trepidation… as if bored in advance. I’ve maybe seen around 8 (?) of his films – and haven’t really taken to any of them (I don’t think). I either find them ponderous or labored or both. The pacing and rhythms of the films seem to have a listless quality that I don’t connect with.

    It’s been some time since I’ve seen any of his work, but that’s my recollection. That said… that’s just me. Generally speaking, Rossellini’s work (overall) seems to be held in high regard – which indicates that others are seeing or experiencing something that I’m either not seeing or not responding well to.

    But *that* said… If I were going to recommend a Rossellini film that could serve as a satisfying-enough introduction to the director’s work, it would probably be this one. Mind you, I still think it’s slow (at times, funereal – whether there’s a funeral or not; though things pick up in the second half) – but that is clearly a reflection of the slower pace of the time, and the class of people being observed.

    In short, Rossellini here is impressive (again, even though I’m not a huge fan of this film) – and the details in each aspect are admirably presented. One *does* feel as though he has just walked into history itself and is eavesdropping on these people.

    Note: The Criterion DVD is titled ‘The Taking of Power by Louis XIV’.

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