Kings And Queen

Director: Arnaud Desplechin

Stars: Emanuelle Devos

Rating: STC


Arnaud Desplechin’s Kings And Queen has been struggling towards a commercial release here for the better part of two years — a travesty, by any standards. This is one of the best films you’ll see this year, if not the best — a stunning, audacious, enveloping masterpiece with room enough for devastating emotional intimacy and dark, absurd comedy.

Kings And Queen follows two very different characters through very turbulent periods of their lives, which are happening simultaneously: Nora (Emmanuelle Devos), about to marry her third husband, learns that her novelist father has just a handful of days to live, while the neurotic violinist Ismaël (Mathieu Almaric, the distrustful intelligence broker of Steven Spielberg’s Munich) has just been committed to a mental hospital — maybe by accident, maybe not so much.


It doesn’t sound like the stuff of great cinema, but Desplechin lays it out with stupendous skill, employing a nervous camera and jump-cut editorial strategy to terrific effect, then dropping in quiet, beautiful moments that are almost crushing in their perfection. Desplechin’s script, written with Roger Bohbot, is similarly light on its feet. It’s like a novel but feels a lot more like life, with all its awkward pauses, conflicting motivations, buried resentments and explosive tensions. What a magnificent accomplishment.

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