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DVD: Stella Cadente | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Stella Cadente

DVD: Stella Cadente

An absurdly decadent Spanish curio about an impotent king

Busy going nowhere: Amadeo (Alex Brendemuhl) and his queen, Maria Victoria (Barbara Lennie)

This tragicomic romp is loosely based on a bizarre footnote in Spanish history. The Italian Duke Amadeo was offered the throne after the previous occupant’s violent overthrow. But when the kingmaker who invited him was assassinated just before his 1870 coronation, the new monarch went from guest of honour to gatecrasher at a convoluted constitutional party, where the last thing anyone wanted him to do was rule.

As Amadeo, Alex Brendemühl is quietly dignified, looks smoulderingly good in uniform, and yearns to bring enlightened reform to a sclerotic, corrupt nation. Humiliations are heaped on him instead, often in furtively homoerotic fashion, as when a courtier secretly borrows the royal razor to shave his pubes, or a watermelon is unforgettably fucked before reaching the dinner table. Such gilded, absurd tableaux provide surreal non-sequiturs, and glam images which luxuriate in sun and shadow. They unfold with mesmerising slowness and opacity, as Amadeo’s predicament becomes awful, yet hilarious.

Lluis Miñarro, veteran producer of fine directors such as Apichatpong Weerasethakul, proves worthy of their company in his own belated debut here. He’s likened his hapless monarch to a rock star in decline, and the languid decadence at a court with nothing to do is jolted by music from Mozart and Maria Callas to Françoise Hardy. Real love arrives with Amadeo’s Italian queen, the two foreigners clinging gratefully to each other in this hostile place, till his political impotence repulses her. The camera fixes on him as he wanders across the frame, letting himself go in his limbo.

A new digital transfer, improved subtitles and a booklet including the historical background and a Miñarro interview are added in the extras by Familystrip (2009), in which the director interviews his elderly parents. Republicans in the Civil War, combative and symbiotically close, their love adds greatly to this release.   

Humiliations are heaped on him, often in furtively homoerotic fashion

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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