The King Is Dancing


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The king is Louis XIV. As a young man, dominated by a formidable mother and the zealots at court, he indulged his delight in dressing up and stayed out of politics. At the age of 22, after assuming the mantle of power, monarch in name and deed, he excluded his mother and her cronies from the inner circle and set about creating a golden era for the arts, particularly in music and ballet.

He insisted on building a palace on marshy fields outside Versailles that would reflect the brilliance of his reign. He continued to dress up, performing in specially commissioned musical extravaganzas, when not sitting for yet another portrait. It was only later, after his marriage, that his interest in dance waned.

Gerard Corbiau's lavish production is beautifully filmed. The costumes in costume drama have a tendency to restrict the action by showcasing their spendour. Not here. With the exception of the theatrical numbers, where the headgear is particularly startling, clothes are worn for a purpose, to keep warm or to appease narcissism. The drama's the thing and music the weapon.

This is the story of Jean-Baptiste Lully (Boris Terral), an Italian composer, who finds favour with the king (Benoit Magimel), and his collaborative feud with Moliere (Tcheky Karyo). For Lully, royal patronage is the life blood of his existence, so desperately desired it is akin to love. For Moliere, freedom of expression encourages satire, which gets him into trouble, as well as penning librettos for that unholy alliance called opera, which Lully abhors.

The film is reminiscent in style to the exquisite Farinelli (1994), also directed by Corbiau, with its emphasis on intrigue, sexual diversity, music and self-delusion. The performances bathe in the aura of The Sun King - arrogant, beautiful, glowing with life. The look is from Caravaggio and the passion from La Reine Margot, but, more than anything, The King Is Dancing plays beneath the shadow of a cloud, not from packed masses on the streets of Paris, but from the failure of art to immortalise a man.

Reviewed on: 03 Jul 2002
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The life and music of young Louis XIV and an Italian composer, with Moliere as librettist.

Director: Gerard Corbiau

Writer: Andree Corbiau, Gerard Corbiau, Didier Decoin, Eve de Castro, based on Lully Ou Le Musicien Du Soleil by Philippe Beaussant

Starring: Benoit Magimel, Boris Terral, Tcheky Karyo, Colette Emmanuelle, Cecile Bois, Claire Keim, Johan Leysen

Year: 2000

Runtime: 108 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France


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