Design decadence – Vatel

Nothing can top the excesses of royal 17th century France. The fashion, the banquets, the art – everything radiated king Louis XIV’s obsession with opulence. This grandiosity is captured in Vatel, Roland Joffré’s film starring Gerard Depardieu and Uma Thurman. Julian Sands plays Louis XIV with Tim Roth is his impeccably sleazy right hand man Marquis de Lauzun. Vatel tells the true story of a famed master chef ordered to feed, entertain and impress the capricious Sun King over a weekend at Chateau de Chantilly.

The costumes are, naturally, spectacular. To draw parallels between today’s rock stars and 17th century royalty, when choosing the materials for all the magnificent gowns and frocks Joffré took the costume designer to a Parisian shop specializing in dressing famous musicians. He also advised that the actors listen to rock music in their dressing rooms to get them in the proper mood. The cast is excellent as is the acting, there is intrigue, fireworks and brazen displays of food throughout. The set are appropriately pompous and droolworthy. For all these reasons I dub Vatel required viewing.

Though the film ultimately denounces the corruption and arrogance of the nobility, I find myself shamefully enchanted by the lavish design, best showcased in the clip below the jump [enigmatically in Spanish].

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="400" height="330" wmode="transparent" /]

12 Responses to “Design decadence – Vatel”

  1. q gauti Says:

    food porn tragedy. right up there with ‘tous les matins du monde’ in powdered-wig-sorrows content.

  2. Ben Morris Says:

    Hmm…sounds like a film worth seeing. Regarding filmic opulence, have you seen Russian Ark?

  3. La Môme Néant Says:

    Oooh, thanks for this Vatel article! My french soul burns with pride. It happens that I visited th Chantilly castel on saturday and had a look at Vatel’s kitchen ( which is now a restaurant).
    It’s not much, though.

    I quite enjoyed the movie, actually. Those “flesh and blood” coloured pastries…

  4. ampersandpilcrow Says:

    *blinks* Wow. Lavish is right. *Adds to list of “Things I have to see”*

    Louis XIV’s opulence, obsessed and otherwise, was also a brilliant piece of political strategy. In a generation he managed to turn the nobility from independently powerful magnates constantly plotting against the throne into slavish courtiers constantly plotting against each other and vying for his favor, spending their own resources on ever-more impressive spectacles, instead of armies.

  5. Zoetica Says:

    Q – we shall watch this film you mention

    Ben – oh yes, and I visited the palace itself 2 summers ago – have a look, but pardon the lack of order – I took too many photos to properly sort them. For now anyhow.

    La Môme Néant, thank you so much for the photo! I’d love to visit this place next time I’m in Frace

    Tell us what you think once you’ve watched it, Ampersand.

  6. john colby Says:

    ” It is good to be king “

  7. ampersandpilcrow Says:

    Fair enough. Will do.

  8. Mark Says:

    This is rather off-topic, apologies – but Q Gauti’s use of the phrase ‘food porn tragedy’ made me wonder how many of you have seen La Grande Bouffe. (The clips on YouTube are useless and give no clue as to the content beyond a bit of seismograph-tickling flatulence, so I won’t bother with a link.)

    Anyway, it’s obviously quite irrelevant in terms of, uh, lavish 17th dress…but if voyages into unrestrained bacchanalia do it for you, then you won’t find a better (or more profoundly depressing) depiction of it anywhere.

  9. Zoetica Says:

    Mark – I adore Le Grand Bouffe! I watched it a few years ago on someone’s recommendation and dug. It’s impressive how it drags you down into a pit of despair by the end, despite the sort of fun and carefree way it begins.

  10. Sterlingspider Says:

    This movie impressed me as being a set designer/crew’s wet dream and nightmare all rolled into one.

    The most impressive scene for me visually was actually the stupidest little detail… at one point as the camera pans a table someone grabs the stem of an orange and pulls up. The whole peel unravels in a perfect spiral to expose a perfectly cleaned sectioned orange which falls open to a perfect sunburst shape. This is the tiniest most irrelevant background image, and yet someone took the time to be sure that a detail as small and decadent as that was included in the film.

  11. Dumb. Says:

    I really liked this movie. It’s a story who need attention. I admirated much the decor, the costumes and the story was very relevant because it was presented a part of life medievale and the problems who where then. It was a reality who shocked me, specially because I agree the drama’s movies. It was a pleasure for me to watch the movie.

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