Starring Uma Thurman (THE AVENGERS, PULP FICTION), Gerard Depardieu (THE CLOSET), and Tim Roth (ROB ROY), VATEL is based on the true story of an ordinary man, a decadent king, and the woman caught between them! In the west... more » of France, Prince de Conde has a scheme to save his bankrupt province: he'll regain the favor of King Louis XIV with a weekend of spectacle and merriment. The plan's success rests with Vatel (Depardieu), the one man who can deliver sumptuous food, elaborate amusements, and all-out decadence fit for this king. But in the midst of it all, Vatel catches the eye of the beautiful Anne (Thurman) ... and places himself in direct competition with the King! Visually stunning and grandly entertaining, it's a motion picture you must see to believe!« less
"It's 1671, and the King of France, Louis XIV, is looking for a general to carry war to the insufferably insolent Dutch. One of his nobles, the Prince de Condé, wants the job, thinking such royal favor will relieve his chronic impoverishment. The Prince's strategy to entice the sovereign's attention is ... well, to throw a lavish party, of course. VATEL is Condé's master of the kitchen and entertainment planner for the big event, for which the King, his Queen, and a large coterie of sycophants will descend upon the Prince's country estate to be lavishly fed, housed, and amused for several days. The expense and bother of it all will be staggering.Gérard Depardieu, Julian Sands and Julian Glover play the roles of VATEL, Louis XIV and Condé respectively. Additionally, Uma Thurman plays Anne de Montausier, the King's favorite "lady-in-waiting". ("Waiting for what?" would be an obtuse question.) And, Tim Roth has the role of the creepy Marquis de Lauzan, one of the monarch's carousing buddies.The best elements of this outstanding film are the opulent costuming and production design. Indeed, the culmination to the King's entertainment is a sensational "live event" that is itself an eye-popping spectacle within a spectacle. Depardieu, relatively unknown to American audiences, gives a bravura performance as the over-worked, hard-pressed and self-sacrificing major domo struggling to make his boss look good on a shoestring budget. (His contribution to the alleviation of Condé's gout is particularly heart wrenching.) Roth, in a style he does so well, is exquisitely slimy as the villainous Marquis. Thurman is fetching as a young woman not yet too debased to not want something better out of her life.In my opinion, VATEL should have won an Academy Award for art direction if nothing else. Visually, it's a truly sumptuous piece. The viewer will leave the screening disgusted at the extravagant excesses of past royalty, but certainly impressed with the flash of their presentation."
Vatel = "Why critics are useless"
Joseph Haschka | 06/20/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"See Vatel. See it for the truly exceptional art direction. See it for the performances of Depardieu and Roth. See it because Thurman gives what may be her best performance yet. See it to take a trip back to the Golden Age of France, without Musketeers. See it simply because of the movie magic of watching some of the most beautiful food known being created. However, this is not some Martha Stewart field trip to the seventeenth century . For all the remarkable spectacle Vatel presents, it is really a wonderful character study, layered over a profound fable of the stresses and dangers of living in a society obsessed with material excess and impossibly complex social codes. Sound familiar? Louis XIV carefully kept an entire social class deliberately distracted by the pursuit of pleasure and prestige in order to politically neutralize them. Considering that we are in the throes of a similar, though far more widespread social regression, the points of view explored in Vatel are relevant beyond what is usually found in a costume drama. Better still, it doesn't go all preachy, preferring to let the story to speak for itself.The critics panned it - but by and large they didn't get it. They complained about Depardieu's accent (umm, he's like...French! Duh...), which doesn't get in the way of the emotion of his performance unless the viewer is either narrow minded or hard of hearing. Since France has many regions and the social classes had different accents, it makes a weird kind of sense that his speech should be different from the Aristocrats. Then there's the irritating "a babe like Thurman would never go for fat old Depardieu" criticism - doubtless formed by critics who haven't got much experience of life. Others complained about the extravagance of the production overall. I suspect the same critics would complain about the lack of social realism in The Wizard of Oz.Did I mention that Vatel reminds me why I try not to take critics too seriously? I can't wait to see it again."
M. S. Tucker | Los Angeles, CA USA | 08/28/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film is such a visual masterpiece! It's absolutely stunning from beginning to end. The set design is by far the most accurate historically that I have ever seen (and believe me, I have seen just about every 17th century period piece there is). The actors performances are overall, perfection. Gerard Depardieu does a magnificent job as playing the title role Vatel, who is a party planner extrodinare! The pretense is an all important visit from Louis XIV (played beautifully by Julian Sands) to Vatel's master's estate. Everything must be perfect so that the Sun King may grant Vatel's master a commanding generals position in an impending war with the Dutch and thus, bestowing riches upon him. Intrigue, lust and pure love is what transpires over the three days that Louis spends at the estate. Uma Thurman gives a great performance as a courtesan who catches most everyone's eye, including that of Vatel however, the King catches her first which complicates matters. Tim Roth gives a fine dastardly performance as a Marquis. In my opinion, this film is a masterpiece of set and costume design, such is the case that the actor performances are secondary, which is fine by me. I cannot praise this film enough, it has knocked off my all-time favorite period piece "Restoration" off of the first place pedestal. It is a gourmet feast for the eyes!"
A truly wonderful film
M. S. Tucker | 08/14/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I noticed that several people gave this film a poor review and while I realize that historical films are not for everyone, I think a few people missed the point of the film. Aside from the bittersweet love story, the sharp contrast depicted between Vatel and the court of Louis XIV highlighted the reality of the French aristoracy and court life during this period (as well as into the reigns of Louis XV and XVI). The situation of the French aristoracy vis-a-vis the King was not at all like that of their English counterparts. The aristocracy depended upon the King for a good deal of their wealth, as well as their position within the court and government. Hence the Prince de Conde's need for money from Louis XIV and his willingness to go so far as to bet Vatel in a card game to secure it was not so far fectched as it may seem. Although I cannot talk specifics pertaining to the real-life Vatel, I can say with certainty that during that time securing the King's good favor was worth almost any price. If any one out there has ever visited the palace of Versailles just outside of Paris (a project undertaken by the Sun King, himself, building upon a hunting lodge of Louis XIII) then I need not say more. For those who have not, however, French court life was lavish and based very much on adhering to etiquette (according to most historical accounts). Was it ridiculous and over the top? Of course, but that was the reality of the French court. For anyone to criticize Vatel based on the obsurdity of the court and a "childish king" then you don't know much about French history. Why do you think Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were such easy scapegoats (although that is arguable- some blame the king directly and at the very least indirectly for the revolution)? People were starving and heavily taxed, while the aristoracy sat unmoved or ignorant (depending on which accounts you agree with) of their plight. Vatel highlighted this contrast beautifully- in the movie Anne (who we can agree was a kind person) said to Vatel- "But the poor are happy to be the King's creditors." To which Vatel responds something to the effect of "My parent's were so happy [to be the king's creditors] they died of it." In truth, Vatel is a story set within a story- that of the frivolous and lavish French court and two people trying to get along within it. Anne understands what she lives in and the precarious nature of her position at court. In Vatel, she sees something different- something good. Vatel, on the other hand, isolated on a country estate knows little of the ways of court and only of the people he works with and the pride he takes in his job as master steward. His naivity of the reality of the court and of the court system proves to be his undoing. He believes his life and his work are not subject to the demands of King and court and on this, he discovers he is terribly wrong. I highly recommend this movie to fans of good historical films. It is both artistic and moving, and at least in terms of the setting and of court life, historically accurate."
"A brave and overwhelming movie. Ronald Joffe (a true master director)(The mission) describes carefully the efforts and creative virtues of Vatel, a true artist in the sense of that Jean Renoir statement: The art is not a job; its the way you make that job".
All the corrupt and decadent atmosphere that surrounds the Kingdom and the Court of Louis XIV are shown through a powerful script and very brief but also bitter dialogues, and an amazing employment of the visual and corporal languages.
The direction is first rate , the astonishing visual angles are supported by a descriptive style, breathtaking "travellings" , monumental images and a superb cast. Depardieu show us once more why he's a living legend and one of the top twenty actors in the world; the exquisite and exceptionally gifted and beautiful Uma Thurman gives probably the most powerful performance in her career and obviously Tim Roth, amazing as always.
Watch this film. You'll be widely rewarded.
You'll feel and experience that special rapture , a trademark so typical of the masterpieces."