Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
When you ask someone for the truth about themselves, you may get the truth, or part of the truth, or none of the truth, but you will certainly get what they would like you to think is the truth. This is a useful principle to keep in mind during "Kings and Queen," a film that unfolds like a court case in which all of the testimony sounds like the simple truth, and none of it agrees.
We begin with a character named Nora (Emmanuelle Devos), smart, chic, art gallery owner who buys a rare illustrated edition of Leda and the Swan as a present for her father, a famous author. We learn she has been divorced twice, will soon marry a very rich man, and has an 11-year-old son named Elias. She visits her father Louis (Maurice Garrel), who is in great pain; it is revealed he's dying of stomach cancer. What does he think about his daughter, and she of him? We think we know.
We meet another character, a violinist named Ismael (Mathieu Amalric). He was Nora's most recent lover. He is functional enough in a strange way, but behaves so unwisely that he finds himself in a mental institution. We sit in on his consultations with the hospital administrator (Catherine Deneuve), who is onscreen just about long enough for him to tell her, "You're very beautiful," and for her to reply "I've been told." There is also his French-African psychiatrist (Elsa Wolliaston). Neither is much charmed by his theory that women lack souls. Ismael makes a friend at the hospital, a young woman named Arielle (Magali Woch), who is so fond of attempting suicide that it would be a shame if she should succeed and thus bring her pastime to an end.
Nora has seemed like a decent enough woman, but what kind of a mother would not want to raise her own child? The boy's father is out of the picture (in more ways than one), and she strikes on the notion that Ismael, the former lover, is just the person to adopt Elias. Ismael loves the little boy, who loves him, and if this were a different sort of a movie such an arrangement might work.