Vatel (2000)

ROLAND JOFFE

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BB.5

France/United Kingdom/Belgium, 2000.  , , , , , .  Screenplay by , English adaptation by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , Roland Joffe.  Music by .  Production Design by , .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Roland Joffe produces a visually stunning but shallow period piece involving an eighteenth century French prince () who puts on a lavish spectacle when the Sun King, Louis XIV (), 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

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