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Kino on Video presents
Regent Philippe d'Orléans: You believe in God now?
DVD ReviewBertrand Tavernier's Let Joy Reign Supreme... (Que la fte commence...) is a gorgeous production filled with dazzling sets, costumes, and photography. Considering its strengths, which also include sharp dialogue delivered by interesting characters, it is easy to overlook some of its more severe flaws, such as overly obvious themes that don't go anywhere.
In 1719, France is in a state of unrest following the reign of King Louis XIV. The King has been dead for four years and Regent Philippe d'Orlans (Philippe Noiret) is the uncrowned ruler of France. As he presides over the monarchy, awaiting for Louis XV to assume power when he becomes an adult, d'Orlans must contend with a small group of malcontents in Brittany. Led by the incompetent Marquis de Pontcallec (Jean-Pierre Marielle), these Bretons seek to form their own republic with the aid of Spanish troops. While the Bretons prepare for war with the Parisians, d'Orlans is caught up in personal and sexual intrigue. His daughter has just died from, according to the doctor, gluttony. While attending her funeral Mass with his new concubine, Emilie (Christine Pascal), d'Orléans clearly established that he has nothing but contempt for the Church.
Church corruption is a major part of the script (written by Tavernier and Jean Aurenche). The embodiment of it is found in Abb Dubois (Jean Rochefort), an atheist who regularly engages in orgies with d'Orlans and other members of the royal court. The banter between the Regent and the Abb is full of grace and wit, particularly as Dubois pleads to be appointed Archbishop. This is strictly a power mover, for Dubois admits that saying mass bores him. When his request is denied by D'Orlans, Dubois turns to the British. They agree to support Dubois' promotion to Archbishop, but only if he puts an end to the rebellion in Brittany.
The film is a mixture of comedy and historical drama. The comedy is the highlight, especially in the scenes involving the Marquis' misbegotten revolution. The efforts of the Bretons to wage a war with less than a dozen men, as well as the Marquis' marriage to a woman who speaks a seemingly unknown language, are perfect examples in situational comedy. Jean-Pierre Marielle's performance as the Marquis hits all the right notes, conveying a semi-delusional demagogue who fails to realize the gravity of the situation he's caught up in. Equally impressive are Philippe Noiret and Jean Rochefort. Noiret (perhaps best known for his role in Cinema Paradiso) is the anchor of the film, bringing just the right amount of humor and sorrow to the role of Philippe d'Orlans. There is a look on Noiret's face throughout the film that suggests a man who is worn down by age and tired by his own debauchery. The scenes between d'Orléans and Emilie never feel erotic, with Tavernier's direction opting for a more realistic portrayal of a man at the end of his rope, more interested in the young beauty for her naïve outlook than her carnal qualities. Rochefort's portrayal of Dubois is one note, but when the actor hits the note of a scheming priest as well as Rochefort does, it's tough to complain.
The historical aspect of the film is also impressive, with Pierre Guffroy's production design and Pierre-William Glenn's cinematography creating a vision of 18th-century France that brims with authenticity. The music, which was composed by the real life Philippe d'Orlans, also contributes to creating a vivid experience, making the events shown on screen feel more like a documentation of history than a movie. Tavernier's direction and the script successfully hit the right tone of the actual events and characters of that historical period, but it also does not fully develop the supporting cast. Apart from the three leading men and Emilie, none of the characters stand out and feel buried in Jacqueline Moreau's gorgeous costumes. The script certainly is historically accurate, but it never fully makes for a complete drama.
Part of this probably stems from the thematic elements in play here. Stories about corruption in high society and religious hierarchies are old. The freshness of stories like The Age of Innocence and Vanity Fair is lacking here, with the script failing to shed any new light onto the subject matter of high society in the 1800s. There also is a massive shift in tone in the film's closing sequence, in which Tavernier uses the events on screen to tie the story of Philippe d'Orlans to the French Revolution. Such a case is, historically speaking, next to impossible to make. This can be forgiven, but the drastic switch from entertaining historical drama to dark historical allegory ends the film on a sour note.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-
Image Transfer Review: Kino has remastered the film in a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. The colors are astounding, particularly reds, which never bleed. Detail of the sets and costumes is surprisingly strong, but depth is not as evident. Skin tones are accurate and contrast is strong. Blacks look nice, with good detail and texture. Dirt and grain are barely noticeable, showing evidence of a solid restoration performance.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: The original French mono sound mix is preserved here, with clear and clean sound emanating from the front sound stage. There is nothing dynamic about this mix, but the sound effects and ambient noise are well mixed with the dialogue. The sound is a little soft towards the end, but not enough to be distracting.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Extras Grade: D+
Final CommentsLet Joy Reign Supreme... (Que la fte commence...) is presented with a lovely anamorphic widescreen transfer and sufficient mono sound. The extras are nothing extraordinary, so it's the quality of the film that makes this a marginally recommended title.
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