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Vatel

1 rating: 3.0
A movie directed by Roland Joffi

Set in 1671 France under the decadent reign of Louis XIV, VATEL charts the events of a three-day feast in an impoverished western province. In an effort to impress the gilded king and then ask him for financial support, Prince de Condi (Julian Glover) … see full wiki

Genre: Drama
Release Date: December 25, 2000
MPAA Rating: PG-13
1 review about Vatel

Vatel - 2000 - lust, sex, debauchery and Louis XIV

  • Jun 24, 2004
Rating:
+3
Pros: costumes and set designs

Cons: none offhand

The Bottom Line: _______________



Generally I don’t care for period pieces but I do like Gérard Depardieu so I gave this one a shot. Set in 1671, Louis XIV is all but penniless but you would never know from this production. Prince de Condé, in an effort to bring his countryside back from bankruptcy, invites the King for a weekend of decadence and debauchery. At his side is his latest paramour, Anne de Montausier, and his confident, Marquis de Lauzun.

Purportedly this is based on fact although the outcome of Vatel cannot be substantiated. We do know from the movie that Vatel, de Condés’ head steward, runs a tight ship around the estate, produces outlandish sceneries and pyrotechnics, is an accomplished cook, and falls in love with de Montausier.

There were many things I liked about this movie, mainly the detail to period costume and landscape. It was interesting, if somewhat degrading, to watch the caste system in action and to view the lives of those with too much time on their hands and too many vile thoughts in their heads. Director Roland Joffé spent a great deal of time perfecting what his impression of what the times and lives were about during this era. A short snippet on the DVD shows the detail given to costume design and scenery devotion. I would have liked to seen more on these details but it was relatively short.

In 2001 it was nominated for best art direction and set decoration but failed to capture that Oscar. However, it did win the César for Best Production Design and was nominated for Best Costume Design. The actors involved gave wonderful performances. Gérard Depardieu as François Vatel was the perfect gentlemans gentleman, yet underneath his powerful exterior we find a man haunted by a love that shouldn’t be his and the desire to provide the perfect balance in the estate. His overall appearance always invokes different responses from me, I can’t decide if he is handsome or not. However, he is quite a large man, I’ve always thought he had the hugest head, it seems to overpower the scenes when he is involved. Especially when coupled with the diminutive Uma Thurman.

Uma was Anne de Montausier, a woman that made no plans to be other than what the King wanted of her, yet when she encounters the gentle soul of Vatel, she becomes torn in her decisions. Thurman seems designed for movies of this sort, her appearance is ethereal and regal.

Tim Roth as Marquis de Lauzun was a wily creature. As usual, he is lusting after something he can’t have, namely the demur de Montausier, but in the end he may just get his way. Throughout the movie you don’t know where you stand with de Lauzun, is he the henchman for Louis XIV or is he unscrupulous on his own. I think he always brings such delightful nastiness and decadence to a film and this role was particularly suited for his secretive ways.

Another strange but well casted creature was Julian Sands as Louis XIV. At times he appears clueless to all that is going on around him but underneath you think he isn’t quite as clueless as he likes to portray. However, I couldn’t get his portrayal in Boxing Helena out of my head long enough to really delve into his part.

This film was written by Jeanne Labrune with its English adaptation by Tom Stoppard. It’s a tad bit gritty and nasty and gives you a whole new insight into living beyond your means. Filming was wonderfully done and clear and I absolutely loved the outlandish scenery during the shows for the King.

Thanks,
Susi


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