Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"King of Hearts" Is Offbeat Treatment of War Theme

Cleveland Press September 12, 1967

In a sort of "the meek shall inherit the earth" motif, director Philippe De Broca and writer Daniel Boulanger have fashioned a movie about a group of gentle lunatics who take over a tiny town.

The name of it is "King of Hearts" and it is a slightly wacky, slightly fey and thoroughly disarming film comedy.

The scene is France during World War I and retreating German soldiers have abandoned a French town after mining it with explosives. The townsfolk flee as well to avoid destruction.

A nearby Scottish regiment learns that the explosives are about to go off and the commanding officer decides to send in a demolitions expert to prevent this. He sends in Alan Bates, actually a pigeon trainer.

BATES ARRIVES to find that the town has been taken over by the inmates of a lunatic asylum. They have taken over the shops and houses, assumed the roles o£ normal people and are having a happy and blissful time.

They greet Bates as their King of Hearts and they offer him as his royal consort Genevieve Bujold, an inmate who is an acrobat and dancer.

De Broca sets up interesting parallels without hammering at them -- the stupidities of war by so-called normal people, the calm acceptance of fate by the unbalanced, their happiness and their preoccupations.

In the midst of all this, Bates struggles to save these blissfully ignorant people, practically gives up as he becomes entangled in their antics.

Bates and Genevieve Bujold strike the right note of melancholy in their portrayal of a bitter-sweet romance which adds another dimension to the movie.

ODDLY ENOUGH there is nothing grotesque in the presentation of the lunatic characters. De Broca makes broad caricatures of the military men however.

For all o£ its laughter, its ironic twists, its moments of suspense, "King of Hearts" is a thoughtful motion picture, a comedy painted against a dark, brooding background, a diverting and entertaining film.