Friday, August 18, 2006

A tale of Le Roi de Coeur

In his commentary track for “The Four Blows” on the Criterion dvd, Brian Stonehill reveals that he is an American in a rather surprising way. In the carnival ride sequence, he points out Philippe de Broca’s cameo and identifies him as “the director of ’The King of Hearts’”. Now, that film which is a cult classic in America is not so well In Europe and rarely seen there.

Recently, I made a quick study of de Broca’s film “King of Hearts” on the IMDb site. 1202 users had weighed in with an opinion on the film on that site’s “User Ratings” category. to put that into perspective, only 2 Chabrol films have a higher total of users, both of recent vintage “La Cermonie” and “Merci pour la Chocolate”. Only 2 Louis Malle French language films have more user in that category, “Au Revoir, Les Enfants” and “Ascenseur pour la l‘Echafoud“. No film by either Jacques Rivette or Eric Rohmer has gotten that many votes in the user ratings category.
Comparing de Broca’s film to Claude Lelouch’s “A Man and a Woman”, two films that were released within a year of each other. These two films are rather close in number of users offering ratings, “The King of Hearts” (1202 users) and “A Man and a Woman” (1358 users) but consider this almost half of the users for de Broca’s film (572) identify themselves as USA to 176 for non-USA, while with the Lelouch film almost half are non-USA (646) to 309 for USA users.

The reason is that “King of Hearts” which was a mega-bomb in France when it opened in 1967 - reportedly, some Paris exhibitors opened the doors to try to paper the house and hope that word of mouth might rescue the film, an effort which failed, became in the USA a long running hit and a cult classic. For instance, it opened a run at the Central Square Theater in Cambridge Ma on February 10, 1971 and it did not close until April 13, 1976.


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