For some time I had wanted to watch the 2000 film Le Roi Danse, about the relationship of King Louis XIV of France (1638-1715) (Benoît Magimel) and composer Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687) (Boris Terral) whose music provided the soundtrack for the splendid early years of the Sun King's personal reign. The movie is not available on DVD in the US; however, tonight a friend informed me that it is available (in 14 parts; here is the first) on YouTube, so I finally saw it. While pausing thirteen times to let the next installment load is not the most satisfying way to watch a movie, that should not be allowed to detract from Gerard Corbiau's triumph in capturing ancien regime France in all its glory.
Few movies could be as appealing for lovers of both the French monarchy and Baroque music (expertly performed here by Musica Antiqua of Cologne). Gorgeous sets and costumes bring the court to life, while Magimel's performance perfectly captures the king's complex mixture of regal aloofness and artistic enthusiasm. In Louis XIV the badly behaved genius Lully had a patron who fully understood the power of the arts and lavishly exploited it to the hilt, and was not without skill as a dancer himself. As with many monarchs who lived and reigned a long time, historically the image of the elderly, intolerantly pious, and warmongering Louis can tend to overshadow that of his younger self; this movie puts the glamorous, sparkling, talented, and fun-loving Louis of the 1660s and 70s back in the center of our imaginations. How the once-great nation of France could go from Louis XIV to the elected common nonentities that have dared to claim to be its heads of state for the past 140 years is beyond me.