The Death of Louis XIV
[La morte de Louis XIV], directed by Albert Serra, France/ Spain/ Portugal 2016, 105'
The king is dead, long live Jean-Pierre Léaud! After the screenings of The Death of Louis XIV in Cannes, the critics wrote that it is the role of a lifetime (sic!) for the cult actor of the French New Wave, who received this year's Honorary Palme d'Or. His face, which used to mature with each subsequent movie by Truffaut, Godard, Eustache, Tsai Ming-liang, in Serra’s movie becomes still, pales and drowns in gold and purple fabric, wrapped in an absurd, giant wig. Serra avoids naturalism, and focuses on depicting a contrast between the immobilisation of the patient and the inevitably progressing disease, between the decaying body and the royal gesture that strives to remain within the limits of ritual. He creates scenes inspired by 17th century paintings, filled with whispers of the servants and warm candlelight. The screenplay is based on medical reports and memoirs of Saint-Simon, depicting the last days of the Sun King who is dying of gangrene surrounded by helpless medics. As usual with Serra, the leading neo-modernist of the European cinema, the historical context is merely a pretext for talking about the universal aspects of human life in the spirit of Bressonian pure cinema.