In 17th century France, a royal command performance doesn't mean the monarch can simply sit back and admire the spectacle. At the court of Louis XIV, the King is the show.
Gérard Corbiau's lavish costume drama "The King is Dancing" vividly illustrates how the young Louis used dance to project his image to the world and strengthen his hold on power during a turbulent time for the kingdom.
The King's rise is told in flashback through the eyes of the court composer, Jean-Baptiste Lully (Terral). Together with the poet and playwright Molière (Karyo), they create elaborately choreographed ballets in which the agile young king takes the leading role. Sublime exercises in self-promotion, these dances see Louis transform himself from a shy, immature dauphin into the all powerful Sun King - the embodiment of his realm.
In his 1994 Oscar-nominated film, "Farinelli Il Castrato", Corbiau turned the world of baroque music into kinky melodrama. He does the same here, as we watch the bisexual Lully oscillate between debauched hedonism and his platonic love for the King.
Corbiau is well served by his cast, with Benoît Magimel ("The Piano Teacher"), in particular, making a charismatic if aloof Louis. Lully's music, expressively performed by Reinhard Goebel and Musica Antiqua Köln, also impresses. But while Corbiau succeeds in ravishing the eye and ear, his direction is too stately and his characters too remote, to fully engage the viewer.
In French with English subtitles.