[Written for Mr. Showbiz]
The 53rd Cannes Film Festival opened with a gala extravaganza whose selection struck many as prodigiously ironic — especially if they caught the flick at a morning press show, when Tom Stoppard’s high-flying dialogue and Ennio Morricone’s once-upon-a-time-in-the-17th-century music had to fight the noise from the drills and hammers readying the Palais for the postfilm Louis XIV–style blowout that evening. Here was a jaw-droppingly lavish movie about the jaw-droppingly lavish steps taken to keep “the Sun King” adequately wined, dined, and entertained over a three-day visit, late in April of 1671, to a country château whose owner, the Prince de Condé, couldn’t even afford to pay the local merchants. Moreover, it was the English-language film rendering of one of French history’s most peculiar episodes, with France’s premier incarnator of French national heroes, former bad boy Gérard Depardieu, gamely trading mots anglais with the likes of Uma Thurman, Tim Roth, and Timothy Spall. And if you’ve got room for one more dislocation, consider that Roland Joffé, the director honored with this opening-night selection, whiled away the ’90s cooking such turkeys as City of Joy, The Scarlet Letter, and the never-released Goodbye Lover.
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