Vatel

You could hardly ask for more from a historical spectacle: Silly wigs, plunging décolletage, lavish banquets in ornate halls, a stirring score from Ennio Morricone and witty dialogue by Tom Stoppard (who adapted the original French screenplay into English). It's even based on a true story, so there's a bit of history amid the gilded...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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You could hardly ask for more from a historical spectacle: Silly wigs,

plunging décolletage, lavish banquets in ornate halls, a stirring score

from Ennio Morricone and witty dialogue by Tom Stoppard (who adapted the

original French screenplay into English). It's even based on a true story, so

there's a bit of history amid the gilded fluff. France, 1671: As the country

prepares for war with Holland, the Prince de Conde's (Julian Glover) household

steels itself for an even more momentous onslaught — the arrival of his

majesty, King Louis XIV (Julian Sands), and his entourage, including the Queen

(Nathalie Cerda) and her lovely lady-in-waiting, Anne de Montausier (Uma

Thurman). But the king's three-day visit is more than a country holiday. If

war is declared, he hopes to tap Prince de Conde to lead his army; the prince,

for his part, is desperately broke and hopes a lavish display will pry open

the royal coffers. Everything, from the Grucci-sized fireworks display to the

tiniest candied grape, must be absolutely perfect. Enter Francois Vatel

(Gerard Depardieu), Conde's master of pleasures and festivities, lord of the chateau's massive kitchen and stage manager of spectacular entertainments.

Vatel has organized the King's stay down to the tiniest detail — after

all, the fate of France now rests in his hands — but there's no

accounting for petty jealousies, particularly those of the King's nefarious

envoy, the Marquis de Lauzun (Tim Roth). The film is an absolute triumph of

costume and production design: From mirrored halls to rats in the walls,

rarely has a period film looked so authentic. The stellar cast is just as

fine, even if it's a little hard to believe the portly Depardieu could inflame

both Thurman and the king's decadent brother (Murray Lachlan Young).

Director Roland Joffe's stock plunged after his misbegotten rewrite of The

Scarlet Letter with Demi Moore, but he can once again hold his head high.

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: You could hardly ask for more from a historical spectacle: Silly wigs, plunging décolletage, lavish banquets in ornate halls, a stirring score from Ennio Morricone and witty dialogue by Tom Stoppard (who adapted the original French scree… (more)

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