Albert Serra double-featured at the Toronto International Film Festival
French cinema legend Jean-Pierre Léaud takes the title role as the expiring French monarch in the stylistically rigorous and strangely transcendent new film “The Death of Louis XIV” from visionary Catalan auteur Albert Serra. Serra's five-screen film installation “Singularity” will also be exhibited as part of Wavelengths from September 8–17. Commissioned for "Catalonia in Venice" at last year’s Venice Biennale, the installation sensually explores, in no narrative order, the stirrings of a society based on labor and sexual exploitation that is forced to develop new forms of technology in order to subsist.
Born in Banyoles in 1975, Albert Serra is a Catalan artist and director. Having studied philosophy and literature, he wrote plays and produced different video works. He gained an international recognition with his first long feature, Honor de Cavalleria, a free adaptation of Don Quijote played by non-professional actors from his village. The film was presented at Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight in 2006. For his second film, Birdsong, Serra took inspiration in a traditional Catalan Christmas song, El cant dels ocells, and worked with the same group of people to tell the story of the Three Wise Men who golled their guiding star to Jesus. In 2013, the Centre Pompidou in Paris gave him a carte blanche in his correspondence with the Argentinian director Lisandro Alonso. The same year he received the golden leopard in Locarno for his new film Story of my Death, inspired by Casanova’s memoirs. The Death of Louis XIV is his new film starring Jean-Pierre Léaud as the Sun King.
The Death of Louis XIV / La Mort de Louis XIV
France / Portugal / Spain 2015
North American Premiere
Iconoclast meets icon in one of the year's most momentous and masterful works of cinema. Albert Serra, the visionary Catalan filmmaker and artist, brilliantly casts nouvelle vague legend Jean-Pierre Léaud as the aged, expiring Sun King in La Mort de Louis XIV, an entrancing, candlelit period piece that largely takes place in Louis' Versailles bedchamber in August 1715, as the king suffers through the advancing stages of a nasty case of gangrene. Before an audience comprised of a cortège of servants, doctors, and Louis' loyal dogs, the monarch's suffering and slow death transpire like theatre, the invalid's every effort and gesture — whether donning a hat, nibbling on a biscotto, or sipping sweet wine — minutely scrutinized by the anxious spectators for signs of an unlikely recovery.
Shot with three cameras in static widescreen compositions that emulate the shape of the ruler's bed, drawing upon copious literary references (such as Saint-Simon's memoirs) for historical accuracy while also invoking artistic representations of the monarch that stretch from Antoine Benoist (the king's personal portraitist) through to Roberto Rossellini, La Mort de Louis XIV is both painstakingly detailed and strangely transcendent, hushed yet extravagant. Garbed in golden silk and wearing a succession of outrageously oversized wigs, Léaud gives one of the finest performances of his career, his grandly prolonged onscreen demise made all the more poignant by memories of his mythical first role as the young Antoine Doinel in Truffaut's The 400 Blows. Riding a fine line between incongruous humour and stirring pathos, Serra's slow, de-spectacularized portrait of suffering is simultaneously an exegesis on voyeurism, an ironic commentary on the absurdity and anachronism of royal rituals, and a moving meditation on mortality. Winner of the prestigious Prix Vigo, La Mort de Louis XIV ultimately reveals death to be the greatest performance of all. ANDRÉA PICARD
Albert Serra's five-screen installation Singul arity will be exhibited as part ofWavelengths from September 8–17.
North American Premiere
Commissioned for "Catalonia in Venice" at last year's Venice Biennale by curator Chus Martínez, Albert Serra's monumental five-screen film project, Singularity is a major work by one of today's most visionary artist-filmmakers. In a series of interlocking episodes, Serra's baroque, sensual epic weaves an era-spanning narrative that recounts the strange presence of a group of people in proximity to a businessman and a mine. But the work's true subject is the solipsism and complacency of a society founded on exploitation — a society forced to constantly develop new forms of technology in order to subsist, and one where individual desires, everyday habits and general corruption work against the very idea of a "renaissance." Both a moodily unfurling 12-hour film and a jagged topography of febrile fragmentation, Singularity is an exciting reconsideration of cinema's possibilities for self-realization, and a confirmation of the importance of intellect, feelings, and sentience in our computer age. ANDRÉA PICARD
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