French cinema legend Jean-Pierre Léaud takes the title role as the expiring French monarch in the stylistically rigorous and strangely transcendent new film from visionary Spanish auteur Albert Serra (Story of My Death).
The Death of Louis XIV
Shot with three cameras in static widescreen compositions that emulate the shape of the ruler's bed, drawing upon copious literary references (such as Saint-Simon's memoirs) for historical accuracy while also invoking artistic representations of the monarch that stretch from Antoine Benoist (the king's personal portraitist) through to Roberto Rossellini, La Mort de Louis XIV is both painstakingly detailed and strangely transcendent, hushed yet extravagant. Garbed in golden silk and wearing a succession of outrageously oversized wigs, Léaud gives one of the finest performances of his career, his grandly prolonged onscreen demise made all the more poignant by memories of his mythical first role as the young Antoine Doinel in Truffaut's The 400 Blows. Riding a fine line between incongruous humour and stirring pathos, Serra's slow, de-spectacularized portrait of suffering is simultaneously an exegesis on voyeurism, an ironic commentary on the absurdity and anachronism of royal rituals, and a moving meditation on mortality. Winner of the prestigious Prix Vigo, La Mort de Louis XIV ultimately reveals death to be the greatest performance of all.
Albert Serra's five-screen installation Singularity will be exhibited as part of Wavelengths from September 8–17.