King of Hearts

Movie Information

Genre: Whimsical Anti-War Comedy
Director: Philippe de Broca
Starring: Alan Bates, Geneviève Bujold, Adolfo Celi, Jean-Claude Brialy
Rated: NR

Even though it’s only been about a year since King of Hearts (1966) was run locally, it’s nice to see this early cult classic (maybe the first film deserving that accolade) being remembered. The film seems a little less of a groundbreaker today, and its soft tone has caused it to be severely downgraded in many quarters, but that doesn’t keep the film from having its charms—nor does it keep modern viewers from being able to understand what all the fuss was about some 40-odd years ago.

The film’s story line does suffer from its romanticized portrayal of the mentally ill as somehow saner than the people walking around outside. In many cases, that’s just plain demonstrably nonsensical—it’s even a bit that way in the film itself—but in the context of war as presented here it works. The idea of an army entering a deserted town that has been taken over by the inmates of the local asylum (no one bothered evacuating them) is an amusing one. Tossing in the bestiary of a circus enhances it and leads to some of the film’s most charming scenes. Regardless, the film itself is a pleasing work with lovely performances from Alan Bates and Geneviève Bujold—and it’s certainly worth revisiting from time to time, if only to hold our cynicism in check.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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3 thoughts on “King of Hearts

  1. Ken Hanke

    Any simian action? (He asked hopefully.)

    The fact that I don’t remember any (I watched it last year), I’d say no, but I may be so dazzled by the film’s white camel that I’m forgetting.

  2. Don’t remember any simian action but I do remember some ursus involvement and some great continuity mistakes.

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