Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
France/United Kingdom/Belgium, 2000. Légende Films, Gaumont, Nomad Films, Timothy Burrill Productions, TF1 Films Production, Canal+. Screenplay by Jeanne Labrune, English adaptation by Tom Stoppard. Cinematography by Robert Fraisse. Produced by Alain Goldman, Roland Joffe. Music by Ennio Morricone. Production Design by Cecilia Montiel, Jean Rabasse. Costume Design by Yvonne Sassinot de Nesle. Film Editing by Noelle Boisson.
Roland Joffe produces a visually stunning but shallow period piece involving an eighteenth century French prince (Julian Glover) who puts on a lavish spectacle when the Sun King, Louis XIV (Julian Sands), visits his chateau to discuss possible war with Holland. The task of keeping the entire mansion running smoothly during the royal visit is left to the prince’s chief steward (Gerard Depardieu), a man who is too busy being good at his job to bother worrying about the possible political ramifications of what goes on in his home. Uma Thurman is also lovely as the Queen’s lady-in-waiting who is wooed by all manner of noblemen in the court but is won by this hard-working servant who truly appeals to her heart. The original screenplay was adapted to English by Tom Stoppard, so thankfully the dialogue all sounds great, but the Remains of the Day-meets-Dangerous Liaisons story is incredibly shallow and has no focus. Based on a true story, the film reveals a tragic ending within its last ten minutes that seems completely at odds with the rest of the plot. Make no mistake about the set design and costumes, though, they are truly awe-inspiring even for those who think they’ve seen every possible period piece ever made.
Academy Award Nomination: Best Art Direction