Arnaud Desplechin’s Kings and Queens has been attracting a considerable share of critical attention. It’s not often that you get reviewers like Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir making statements like:
A lot of filmmakers talk about bridging the gap between high-gloss pop spectacle and independent auteur cinema, but “Kings and Queen” is one of the best, and most alive, attempts to do that in at least a generation.
The film tells the story of two ex-lovers. At the outset their paths are clearly divided, with Desplechin’s deft style-shifting providing most of the insight into who they each are, and the forces that drove them apart. As their stories unfold and become once more entangled, the style becomes more uniform, but the deftness remains.
We see layer upon layer of artifice stripped away as the characters’ self-perception and status in the eyes of their acquaintances are gradually laid bare, often in shocking ways. The film was not shocking and its twists and turns are never nail-biting, but the surprises are deeply felt. The exploration of identity is not novel, but it is allowed to unfold in a wonderfully sympathetic manner.
It provided a fine way to spend our first night in NYC.