Sunday, August 31, 2008

KINGS AND QUEEN (Arnaud Desplechin, 2005, France) I haven't decided if I despise Nora: a self-centered, egotistical and emotionally cold woman who has failed in her relationships with the three most important men in her life (her father Louis, her first husband Claude, and second husband Ismael). But she also displays grace and strength as her father lays dying and the old spiritual wounds open to reveal the clotted truth beneath the scars. She relives the suicide of her first husband and begins to accept responsibility for his downfall; she also finally recognizes her own selfish manipulation of Ismael and the need for her child to have a father. Ismael is a tortured artist with many problems who appears to be the psychologically weak link in the story. But appearances are deceiving: Ismael has more on the ball than Nora and as he regains stability his life converges once more with his ex-wife...for the sake of her child Elias. The little boys father was Nora's first husband Claude who died before he was born, so he only knew Ismael as a father. But the two are not destined for a reunion and Ismael has a long fatherly talk with Elias about accepting his new step-dad Jean-Jacques amid the pitfalls of adulthood. The hateful letter that Nora receives from her dead father is the centerpiece of this story and her reaction is extraordinary: she quickly composes herself and burns the letter as if it never existed though she must carry it in her heart forever. Mancini's Moon River bookends the film which leads us into obvious comparisons between Nora and the graceful Holly Golightly. This is a deep and moving film that is part slapstick comedy, part tragedy, and overall a meditative reflection of the simple human experience through these "kings and queens". (B)

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