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  Stella Cadente King HellBuy this film here.
Year: 2014
Director: Lluís Miñarro
Stars: Alex Brendemühl, Bárbara Lennie, Lorenzo Balducci, Lola Dueñas, Francesc Garrido, Àlex Batllori, Gonzalo Cunill, Francesc Orella, Sebastián Vogler, Dimitris Daldakis, Andreas Daldakis, Glòria la Tortuga, Jimmy Gimferrer, Màriam Celaya, Pilar Gómez
Genre: Weirdo, Historical
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: This is King Amadeo of Spain (Alex Brendemühl), and he is here to tell us of his brief, frustrated reign which he acknowledges right up front was not everything he hoped for. He left his castle in his home nation of Italy and travelled to the west and another castle in Spain, where he was essentially held under guard while the populace grew closer to revolt, the last thing they were interested in being a new monarch when there were so many other pressing issues to be taken care of, though getting rid of that monarch was rather higher on the list than many in the authorities were comfortable with. Thus Amadeo was left alone aside from his servants and advisors, utterly powerless...

Director Lluís Miñarro had been a successful producer for a number of years when he decided he could have a go at helming his own projects, and in his autumn years he started doing precisely that. Stella Cadente was his second feature and won more acclaim than his obscure first, or at least it did among those receptive to the artier, nay, weirder films to emerge from Europe. What deceptively appeared to be a stuffy historical drama, based loosely in fact, quickly transformed itself into a study not only in eccentricity, but in stifling boredom that some accused this of not entirely escaping itself. If the thought of nearly two hours of watching a King and his underlings arseing about appealed, dive in.

The trouble for Amadeo is, he may well have all these grand ideas about reforming the nation's infrastructure and modernising the government, not to mention the increasingly out of date public services and education system, but he quickly realises he has not a chance in Hell of carrying them out. Nope, this King is strictly a figurehead with no real power who is simply kept around to give his blessing to the machinations of others who care not a jot for his hopes for the country, and once that has sunk in, he has nothing to do but wander about the castle grounds and interiors, pottering around with no real tasks to take care of, and nobody really caring about his strongly held opinions and beliefs.

There was more to Stella Cadente than watching the leading man busy doing nothing, as there were other characters too. The officials and religious leaders barely interacted with Amadeo, presumably, as you surmise, because they had no interest whatsoever in what he had to say; he doesn't lose his temper with them, merely looks on in bemusement as they politely listen to his ideas then utterly ignore them, not even complimenting him out of politeness on his pioneering notions. More interesting were those servants, though the word "interesting" needed to be qualified as you could never tell if they were on the side of the King or winding him up, indeed, they may have been up to both, sometimes lightly and at other times in the most revolting manner possible - there were some explicit scenes here, be warned.

One of the manservants, for instance, shows his lack of respect that he would never admit to the monarch's face by taking one of the melons he is going to serve to him and boring a hole in it which we then spend some time watching him having sex with. Such was the inscrutable nature of much of what we saw, you had to assume this was a bit of comedy, particularly when in the next scene we saw Amadeo partaking of the fruit, but it was more strange than funny, and seemed to be a reaction to his vegetarianism, albeit in a context of just about all the food we saw looking disgusting (barnacles apparently scraped from a ship's hull, anyone?): even the fruit was allowed to spoil and rot. When Bárbara Lennie showed up in Part II as the Queen, Amadeo thinks he can at last have proper company, but the boredom gets to her too, leading to him left to play voyeur with the servants and in one sequence try and fail to have sex with the Rubenesque, sensual cook (Lola Duñeas). It may raise the odd laugh (a dance sequence to sixties pop?), but it was more confounding in its combination of surreal irreverence and political despair.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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