The Taking of Power by Louis XIV (The Criterion Collection)
The Criterion Collection
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Filmmaking legend Roberto Rossellini brings his passion for realism and unerring eye for the everyday to this portrait of the early years of the reign of France s Sun King, and in the process reinvents the costume drama. The death of chief minister Cardinal Mazarin, the construction of the palace at Versailles, the extravagant meals of the royal court: all are recounted with the same meticulous quotidian detail that Rossellini brought to his contemporary portraits of postwar Italy. The Taking of Power by Louis XIV dares to place a larger-than-life figure at the level of mere mortal.
SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES:
New, restored digital transfer
Taking Power, a multimedia essay by Tag Gallagher, author of The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini
The Last Utopia, a documentary about Rossellini s late career
Video interview with artistic advisor Jean Dominique de la Rochefoucauld and script supervisor Michelle Podroznik
Video interview with Renzo Rossellini
New and improved English subtitle translation
PLUS: A new essay by critic Colin McCabe
Essential cinema. --Jonathan Rosenbaum
Unrivaled lucidity and honesty...a new moral cinema of history. --Time Out
Top customer reviews
Now,if we can only get decent Criterion versions of "Open City" and "Voyage to Italy" ...
There's a mechanical anti/art quality to the films style that's somewhat radical. It's almost as if the marquise de Sade decided to make a Marxist history film
Well perhaps that doesn't sound super enticing but the film is very important piece of cinema and rossslini's greatest late period work
This film, shot for French television, is a cousin to Rossellini's historical films of the Enlightenment (The Age of Medici, Cartesius, and Blaise Pascal). This may be the best out of all four of those films. It's the most visually opulent of the four films, with stunning costumes and set design, and photographically it's beautiful. That's quite astounding considering it was shot on 16mm film, which doesn't age very well. Kudos to Criterion for restoring it well. While the performances in the Italian TV films were mostly perfunctory, in this film they are livelier and more interesting. It could be because Rossellini was working with direct sound (something he never did in his Italian films), and the performances are enriched because of that. Jean Marie Patte, who plays the king, is stiff at times, obviously reading from cue cards in a few scenes. Rossellini gave his actors their lines just before they shot, and had cue cards on the set if they couldn't remember, so it's not all Jean Marie's fault. It's a bit distracting, but it doesn't detract too much from the overall experience of the film.
There are some striking scenes in the film, one near the end film in a garden, and when a key rival of Louis is arrested. The courtoom intrigue is absolutely fascinating. There are also surprising parallels between today's world and the world inherited by Louis XIV. It's also fascinating to see Louis mature from a shy, spoiled, hedonisitic person to a mature, solid, and shrewd politican/king.
It's also unnerving to see doctors at the beginning of the film tend to Mazarin who leaves his fortune to Louis (the doctors, learned men of their time, bleed Mazarin in hopes of healing him. They also smell his chamber pot). The film is very dry, talky, and intellectual, so if you're expecting an HBO series that's occasionally historically accurate but shows gratuitous sex just because they can, you should skip this (even though they are funny scenes in the film dealing with sex). If you adjust to the rhythms and sensibility of The Taking of Power by Louis XIV, it's absolutely fascinating stuff.