Kings & Queen

That director Arnaud Desplechin is not to everyone’s taste is an understatement

April 9th, 2011 by Wayward Muse
Rating: Featured Actors: , , Actors: Elsa Woliaston, Hippolyte Girardot, Jean-Paul Roussillon, Magalie Woch, Maurice Garrel, Nathalie Boutefeu, Noemie Lvovsky Featured Directors: Languages:
Kings and Queen

Desplechin makes very long movies, full of incredibly neurotic and dysfunctional individuals and families having very odd interactions involving a whole lot of philosophical and literary dialogue. This film is a prime example. Nobody is really a hero or heroine; everybody is an anti-hero, with some good qualities, but their humanity generally shines through. The film portrays a somewhat cynical and tragic view of life, but with a strange sense of humor to balance it out. If that doesn’t sound like fun to you, give this a miss. Desplechin’s more recent film, A Christmas Tale, is at least oddly uplifting; Kings and Queen is much less so, though a case could be made that Devos triumphs over her father’s malevolence, or that sheer survival is a kind of triumph.

The “Queen” is Emmanuelle Devos’ character, Nora; and the “Kings” are the men in her life: her father, her ex-husband (Mathieu Amalric), her future husband, and the dead father of her son. Almaric plays a man suffering from bipolar disorder who has been in classic psychoanalysis for years, but ends up involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital. His portrayal of bipolar disorder is quite realistic. I know nothing about the French psychiatric system, but do know psychoanalysis, by itself, is an expensive and ineffective treatment for bipolar, and wonder whether a French audience would also find that part hilarious. The plot is far too convoluted to try to describe, and not terribly important; the real story is the interaction and relationships among the Queen and her Kings, as well as the intriguing ways each of them cope with what life has thrown their way. I love this stuff—can’t get enough of it—but then my view of life is a little cynical punctuated by dark humor. Altman fans might also appreciate Desplechin (their styles are very different, but their attention to the details and quirks of characters is similar.)

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