Friday, February 4, 2011

The Taking of Power by Louis XIV

La prise de pouvoir par Louis XIV (The Taking of Power by Louis XIV), 1966
Dir: Roberto Rossellini

In 1962, Rossellini declared that "cinema was dead", and decided to move into television, which he considered, if used correctly, to be a great educator and a tool against "ignorance and barbarism" (I wonder what he'd think of today's tube...). That is basically what this is. It took me quite a long time to adjust to one of the most extreme forms of deliberately slow pacing I’ve ever seen in any film. This is slow in a way completely different from “minimalism”. As uninteresting as it sounds, and this is indeed an “educational” film (like a documentary you'd watch in a classroom), I can’t help but find it interesting just because Rossellini is trying to accomplish something that I haven’t seen attempted before. In essence, the film is about the power vacum that occurs once Cardinal Mazarin dies in 1661, and as Louis decides to govern as well as rule, his machinations to make sure that it happens. Rossellini's neo-realism has completely done a 180 from his post-WWII days, as all melodrama has been eschewed for non-actors who were only given their lines about 15 minutes before shooting commenced (Watch the "actor" playing Louis read his lines off a blackboard here). However, Rossellini's camera is still intent on capturing small details, and I think that alone makes this worth watching. I mean, watching Louis eat his dinner while he makes all of his nobles watch is boring, but this is how Louis did things, and kept the aristocrats in check. Louis was a genius at making the trite seem important, and so is Rossellini.

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