Leave it to French New Wave icon Jean-Pierre Léaud and the singular charms of filmmaker Albert Serra to turn a film about a man succumbing to his final resting place — read: lots of laying down, a tremendous amount of moaning — into one of the most riveting offerings of this (or any?) year.
Serra’s “The Death of Louis XIV” enjoyed a healthy festival run last year, including screenings at Cannes, Toronto and New York, and it’s finally bound for a limited theatrical release, all the better for audiences to have the chance to take in his consuming vision of the final days of the so-called Sun King. Léaud is at his most magnetic and magic as the beleaguered King of France, a ruler long-rumored to be seriously unwell who was ultimately felled by a spat of gangrene.
As his various attendees and doctors struggle to treat the king — remember leeches? oh, you’ll remember leeches — Louis grapples with his impending demise in various ways, all brought to stunning life by Léaud in one of his finest performances.
At Cannes, our own Eric Kohn wrote that the film “maintains a clinical air as it tracks the regal character slowly fading from existence. While the king’s closest advisors swirl around him, speaking in frantic, whispered tones about their options, ‘The Death of Louis XIV’ evolves into a nuanced treatise on the aimlessness of wealth and power in the face of mortality,” adding that “like most of Serra’s work, the movie’s spare, contemplative approach is not engineered to impress everyone.”
Check out our exclusive trailer below, along with a first look at the film’s poster, designed by Scott Meola.
“The Death of Louis XIV” will open on Friday, March 31 at NYC’s Film Society of Lincoln Center, where it will screen concurrently with their recently Léaud retrospective.