Towards the end of his career, writer and film director Sacha Guitry made three major
historical films, each of which earned him critical acclaim and each of which has retained
an enduring popularity. Si Versailles m'était conté
is arguably the
best of the three, although its sister films Si
Paris nous était conté
are also highly regarded by many. All three films are lavish, well-scripted
episodic historical films, featuring a dizzying cast of France's best-known actors.
As the title suggests, Si Versailles m'était conté
tells the life
of the château of Versailles, the magnificent royal palace built by Louis XIV just
outside Paris - which now serves as a Mecca for tourists of all nationalities and the
set for innumerable period dramas. Instead of making this a heavy historical drama,
Guitry tells the history of the palace in the form of a visual poem, through a naturally
flowing series of sketches.
As in the other two historical frescos, Guitry is able to call upon an unprecedented cast
of some of France's finest film actors (to which we must add Orson Welles). Jean
Marais, Jean-Louis Barrault, Gérard Philipe and Micheline Presle are just some
of the stars of the period who make this a sumptuous theatrical feast. Guitry himself
appears in the film in the part of an ageing Louis XIV, appropriately looking back on
his glorious past as he faces the final curtain.
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What tales the château of Versailles could tell us if its walls could speak…
From the halcyon days of excess and grandeur under the reign of the "sun king" Louis XIV,
to the tragic years of the French Revolution which brought an ignoble end to the French
monarchy… From the intrigue of Madame de Montespan to the genius of Molière…
So many stories to tell, so many lives to remember...