King of Hearts

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Best Movies KING OF HEARTS: Call Me Crazy,I love it!!! - WO

May 1, 2001 (Updated Jan 18, 2012)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:A whimsical, witty, funny, charming unique film I'm still crazy about.

Cons:The film is not flawless, but for me it might as well be.

The Bottom Line: Not the greatest film ever made, nor a flawless masterpiece but a special film I truly love for it's music, warmth and humor.


Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

If it is possible to actually fall in love with a film that film for me is...The King of Hearts. The film like it's beautiful musical score is a mixture of many styles and languages too. A mixture creating a confection that is whimsical, warm and memorable. A film I keep returning to year after year to sample it's charms over and over again.


The beautiful musical score by Georges Delerue is a mixture of original minuets, polkas, marches,circus music and a beautiful waltz. The film mixes gentle whimsy with farce, a little slapstick a touch of romance, some satire, and a touch of drama. It's also told in several languages: French, German and English (mostly French with English subtitles). The film was embraced and critically praised for it's anti-war messages and clever comedy. It built a strong and growing cult audience throughout the late 60's and 70's. It's a film that played in several theaters not for 5 weeks, but for five years. That's right. A film which was the feature attraction in a handful of theaters continuously for 5 years straight and in the case of one Connecticut Theater even longer. You see, as it turns out, I am not the only one who was put under some strange hypnotic spell by the film. A film I've enjoyed at least 20 times in the last 30 years.

So I'm quite honored to finally throw down some thoughts about this very special and magical film as part of the Play It/ Read It Again, Sam write-off. I suppose I'm a bit worried I will fail in conveying my deep feelings for the special film in a way that will tell strangers how it's conceivable I could fall in love with a film such as this.

I'm surprised the film isn't even better known and more popular than it is and I feel a twinge of sadness when I run across someone who has watched the film but has not been overly impressed.

I'm a bit disappointed to discover I'm the first person to write a review for this film at epinons. Surely many of you are familiar with it. Surely many of you are fans.

I 'discovered' the film not when it was first released in 1967, but nearly five years later when it was on what was then called the College Film Circuit. It became a very popular cult movie throughout the 1970's paired on the revival theater circuit sometimes with Richard Lester's How I Won the War (1967-featuring John Lennon), or with Morgan!(1966) or Bunnuel's The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoises (1972) !. Often the prints were missing the films final 45 second epilogue, ending abruptly with the somewhat risque joke.

A memorable mixture of sound effects and clever credit editing sets the tone that this film is something different from what you've seen before.

The German Army (circa World War 1 in October 1918) is hard at work connecting a bomb, to the elaborate life size mechanical Knight in a French village's clock tower. One of the townspeople over-hears what the Germans are up to. As the German's retreat, they plan on blowing up the town when they anticipate it will be crowded with the soldiers of the enemy. The towns-person tells some of the townspeople the Germans are going to blow up the town and everyone has to leave. Then he goes to his shop and since he is part of the underground resistance sends a telegraph message in code that the approaching troops should not come into the town because it is going to be blown up by the Germans. He uses code and phrases like The Knight strikes at Midnight that will not be understood by it's recipients. As he finishes his message a German soldier sees what he is doing and he is shot and killed.

Meanwhile, at a nearby Scottish Army post, the unassuming carrier pigeon expert, Private Charles Plumpick (Alan Bates) is chosen to go disconnect the bomb and make sure the village has been evacuated. It's a risky suicide type mission so only one man is sent into the town.

Charles finds the town almost deserted, but is spotted by a German Patrol. He escapes into the town's Insane Asylum (one of the Asylum workers has left the gates open as they left the town) and sits down with some inmates who are building intricate houses of cards. One of the inmates introduces himself to the Germans who are looking for the Scottish soldier as the Duke of Clubs. When they ask
Plumpick who he is, he tells them he is the King of Hearts. The inmates begin bowing down to the King. 'The King has returned !!!' The German soldiers realize the people are nuts and rush out of asylum. After a few moments, Plumpick rushes after them. He leaves the gate open. .
The German's cut down a telegraph wire pole and it winds up knocking out Plumpick.

The inmates of the asylum emerge and begin playing their roles, taking over the deserted town. These are crazy people of the kind that only exist in the movies or fables. They are for the most part harmless, naive, charming, and humorous--very much like children. They are delightfully deluded. One wants to be a Cardinal or perhaps the Pope, one is a barber who pays the customers who let him
shave and cut their hair (this is played by future La Cage Aux Folles film star Michel Serrault). Another is Coquelicot aka Poppy(played by very young and beautiful Genevieve Bujold in her first film),who is an apprentice prostitute and tight rope walker. Eventually nearly everyone in the film wants to see Coquelicot and The King together. There's the General who lets the wild animals out of the abandoned traveling circus cages cooing at the 'nice kitty'? (lion) and playing chess with chimps.

Plumpick eventually wakes up and discovers the town is full of people. People who are acting strange and aren't listening to what he is saying. Soon he figures out that they are the people from the asylum. He can't let them be blown up, he has to convince them to leave. But they don't understand they are in danger, or grasp the concept of war at all. Will they leave? Will he be able to figure out the riddle and diffuse the bomb?

There are no stunning surprises or twists in the film. A few times, during the film, the gentle whimsy gives way to a louder more boisterous Stooges style slapstick. It's brief and while it doesn't quite fit with the tone of the film it is amusing. You might be reminded of Fellini and Bunnuel during several scenes of the film.

There's a wonderful final joke, that was risque for it's time and delighted audiences. A big loud roar of laughter always filled the theater in appreciation of what was often the film's final image. It wasn't intended to be the final image of the film, but I suppose distributors wanted the film to end with the big 'laugh' and not conclude 45 seconds later with a wonderfully poignant comment.

The final epilogue has been restored on the DVD.

Don't expect this to be the kind of film which delivers belly laughs if you watch the film alone or in a small group. It's the kind of film where you will smile, chuckle and be charmed.

Well most of you will be charmed.. As I mentioned there are a few people who hate the film and a few others who aren't overly impressed with it. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder I suppose. Their loss.

One person I know detests the film because of how unrealistic it depicts the insane. I've tried to argue to how little of the film has any basis in reality, it's a charming whimsical fantasy of a film. "Yes, but the insane are never charming or whimsical in real life, they are in horrible pain and anguish," he insists. "Could they be okay for 36 hours (the approximate time frame the film is set in)?" I ask. "Some could be, perhaps, but not most," he answers. It's sad he hates such a magical film for such a
pragmatically logical reason. Another finds the anti-war messages corny, dated and obvious. Perhaps, but I can appreciate that a lot of it was fresh in when the film was made in 1966. Besides, there's more to the film than it's anti-war messages. I still like some of the satire and
messages of the film however.

After a confrontation between the German and Scottish Armies (started because of a bouquet of flowers) General Geranium (one of the insane) comments the actors (soliders) were 'a bit over the top'. He refuses to believe he just witnessed soldiers killing each other. Did I mention the film has no gore? Beyond the anti-war sentiments are messages regarding love, jealousy, the roles we play, etc. etc. These messages will never be dated. The film however is mostly focused on its warm characters performed by a talented ensemble of performers who have been perfectly
cast and directed with just the right kind of light touch by Phillippe De Broca . The film has been beautifully restored for it's DVD release allowing you to see the wonderful work of cinematographer,Pierre Lhomme. The film was written by Daniel Boulanger from a story by Maurice Bessy. It was first released in France and Germany in late 1966 as 'Le Roi de Coeur'.

For me it is a film of magic and contains several moments which bring pure pleasure to the audience. Moments captured just right by the director and performers to deliver a combination of the right visuals and right words to bring a smile to your face and tear to your eye at having witnessed such clever, poignant and truthful moments which amuse or touch you as so few films are able to do. My cynical side melts away during this film. I know the film is not perfect or the greatest film ever made but it's one I hold dear to my heart--it's one I love.

Oh and if you don't agree with me on this one, be decent enough to break it to me gently.

Parents should consider the film PG-13.

That's my contribution to the Over and Over, Play (See or Read) It Again Sam, Do It To Me One More Time, Instant Replay or whatever it's called... write-off started by Barbara.

Be sure and read the works created by the following talented participants:

bwyckoff1
prettyinpink
prepoia
kyalien
mtbat
naphtalia
chrisjarmick
willthing

Thanks for letting me tell you about one of the films that is very special to me.

And wouldn't it be interesting if this were to be my very last film review for epinons?

Christopher Jarmick,is the author of The Glass Cocoon with Serena F. Holder a steamy suspense thriller which is now available (glasscocoon@hotmail for details).

Original portions of this review Copyright© Christopher J. Jarmick 2001. The above work is protected by international copyright law.


Recommend this product? Yes


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older

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