Kings & Queen
Wellspring // Unrated // $24.98 // November 22, 2005
Review by Svet Atanasov | posted December 20, 2005
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Due to some unknown to me reason Wellspring have provided DVDTALK only with a "screener" and not a finished product for their DVD release of Kings & Queen. Therefore I can not comment on the extras being provided for the final release nor I can confirm whether or not this is indeed what the final transfer of the film looks like.

The Film

A film of subtle elegance Arnaud Desplechin's Rois et Reine a.k.a Kings & Queen focuses on the stories of two ex-lovers both at different stages in their lives. Nora Cotterelle (Emmanuelle Devos) is attempting to finally bring some logic to her life where many men have left their mark. Her most recent love affair has developed into something much more serious and Nora has decided to settle down with a man who appears to be both tolerant and understanding of her needs. After an unexpected visit to her father's home however Nora is presented with a tragic dilemma which threatens to disrupt her family plans.

IsmaŽl Vuillard (Mathieu Almaric), Nora's ex-lover, is in dire need for some help. He is being investigated for tax fraud and his often illogical behavior has forced him to seek help from a well known mental institution. In it IsmaŽl will finally meet a person who not only cares for him but seems to understand his often confusing world as well. Sadly the brittle friendship between IsmaŽl and his equally sick lover will end up forcing the two to ponder "what if" they would have met in the real world.

Clocking in at nearly two hours and forty minutes Arnaud Desplechin's Kings & Queen offers a collage of exceptionally rich characters that most certainly will leave viewers with mixed feelings. Attempting to pick a favorite between the two main protagonists is certainly a tricky endeavor as neither Nora nor IsmaŽl appear likeable enough to convince us that we have indeed sided with the "right one". In an almost Shakespearean manner Desplechin presents a story where the virtues one is supposed to appreciate ultimately transform the main characters into social parasites without any redeeming values. There is plenty of well plotted deception in this film and despite the unconventional running time eventually everything falls into place providing an excellent thought-provoking finale.

The true brilliance of Kings & Queen however comes not from the narrative (which is anything but exceptional) but the manner in which the true identity of each character is revealed. Take for example the scene where Nora first gets the news that her father has a cancer. The devastation which we witness on her face is not only convincing it is indeed gut-wrenching. Now fast forward to the moment when she finds her father's revelations neatly tucked in his final book manuscript. What an enormous contradiction this scene is to everything else we have seen up to this point. Truly the effect this unknown confession delivers elevates Kings & Queen into the upper echelon of refined French cinema.

Quickly switching back to IsmaŽl the audience will discover a character who despite his unfair dealings with the law and serious mental issues offers much more credibility when compared to Nora. I did indeed sense a hidden invitation to follow up on earlier leads which present an interesting dilemma to those willing to explore. Like a giant onion which we have to peel piece by piece in order to reach to the core of this film the story becomes more and more confusing until we see the true identity of the two protagonists.

Kings & Queen is a film of subtle nuances which make you feel uncertain about the right choices we make in life. From the moral confessions to the elusive feelings about guilt to the "logical" decisions one has to make in order to survive Kings & Queen is an intelligent take on modern societies where underneath a "civilized" surface lays a dormant monster we all carry in our hearts.

Arnaud Desplechin's Rois et Reine a.k.a Kings & Queen is the winner of the Critics' Award for Best Film granted by the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics (2005), winner of the Cesar Award for Best Actor (Mathieu Amalric), and Prix Louis Delluc (for director Arnaud Desplechin).

How Does the DVD Look?

Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's this print clearly appears to be a PAL to NTSC port. There is a visible amount of "ghosting" and unlike the print used for the recently reviewed Wild Side this presentation is quite distracting. The even bigger issue here however is "color-bleeding" which I noticed in a number of scenes. If you are used to paying attention to detail you would most certainly notice that during daylight scenes a few times the color scheme of the film becomes distracting.

How Does the DVD Sound?

Presented with a French 5.1 track and optional yellow subtitles in general the audio mix appears decent. I did not hear any distracting "hissing" or audio drop-outs that would affect negatively your viewing experience.


Unfortunately I can not comment on the extra features for this DVD release as DVDTALK was provided with only a screener and not the official release which is rather odd to say the least. I am going to request another disc as there is plenty on this DVD (interviews, conversations, etc) which many will be interested to read about.

Final Words:

This is easily one of the best French-produced films of 2005! Despite of its rather unconventional running time Kings & Queen never falls victim of its own narrative. In fact, the characters are introduced superbly and I can hardly think of a better way Desplechin could have assembled his film. Unfortunately at this point I am going to only recommend that you rent this DVD as I can not comment on the extras nor I think that the transfer deserves a higher recognition.

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