Kings and Queen
Two ex-lovers have their story told in parallel lines: just as Nora (Devos) is about to marry her third husband, she learns that her father is in the terminal stages of cancer; meanwhile, Nora's second husband, Ismael (Amalric), a highly-strung classical musician, has to deal with the consequences of being forcibly consigned to a mental hospital. Told with admirable fidelity to naturalistic film-making principles, Kings and Queen is a rigorously unsentimental and occasionally crude depiction of how people realise and then come to terms with their limitations. Noble in intent it may be, but the overall impact is a depressing one. The cross-cutting story ultimately means that we don't stay long enough with any one character to build up an emotional response, and the rough, jumpy edit cuts undermine the narrative flow. The exaggerated characterisations don't help either; Amalric is that bit too manic to engender sympathy, while Devos' performance has all the placid grandeur of a stalled glacier. Roughly an hour too long for its own good, Kings and Queen is a bum-numbing exercise in self-indulgent navel-gazing. The French obsession with introspection is a commendable one, but the cinematic equivalent of their souls is nowhere as fascinating as they seem to believe.
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