Château du Prince de Condé, late April 1671 François Vatel is the faithful and devoted attendant to the proud yet ageing and financially ruined Prince de Condé. The Prince needs to gain favour with King Louis XIV and hopefully receive command of a new militry campaign against the Duth.Condé will submit to no-one but his king, yet for this occasion, he places himself and the welfare of his château in the hands of Vatel, assigning him the difficult task of receiving the Court of Versailles in its entirety at the Château de Chantilly. The festivities shall last three days and three nights and must be dazzling to say the very least. To ensure success in his duties, Vatel heads an army of servants, men and women, young and old, working incessantly to surprise, amaze and satisfy the king. Vatel sedigns the festivities by theme, with extremely elaborate menus and grand thatrics of which the king is most fond. In the midst of this bustle, Vatel is seduced by Anne de Montausier who is close to the queen and coveted by Lauzun and the king himslef. Anne gives herself to Vatel who cuts the figure of a grand master of ceremonies despite his plebeian origins ; he is above all man of great heart and conviction. The festivities are drawing to close. Judging by the atmosphere of good humour, success seems close. But on the evening of the third day, the fish for dinner does not arrive…
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What I like about this film is that Vatel doesn’t go seeking compliments. He just does his job. The rest doesn’t concern him, he’s not interested in what happens upstairs. Just like Renoir’s “Rules of the Game,” there’s an upstairs and a downstairs – aristocrats above, servants below. What I like about the movies is the way various episodes can take off in so many directions. The magic created by an actor in a scene can occur despite him, without him knowing. In fact, it’s better if he doesn’t know. Actors’ greatest moments come when they’re not aware of it, when they’re deep in their work, just doing their job.
Gérard Depardieu, actor