King of Hearts
(Le Roi de Cœur)

1966 _ It's October 1918, and British soldier Charles Plumpick is sent on a recce mission to a small French village which has recently been evacuated. He discovers that the residents of the psychiatric hospital have been left behind, and are running the town according to their own whims and fantasies. With the war far away, the patients welcome Plumpick into their world as the 'King of Hearts'.
Le Roi de cœur, de Philippe de Broca

© 1968 STUDIOCANAL - MGM United Artists

October 1918. Before leaving the small Northern French town of Marville, the German troops hide a large quantity of explosives, hooking up the detonator to the cathedral’s mechanical bell-striker. British army HQ dispatches Plumpick to find out where the explosives are hidden.

Plumpick finds a town deserted by all its inhabitants apart from the residents of the psychiatric hospital, who have been left behind. They’ve occupied the local buildings and made use of them as they see fit: a man who thinks he’s an army general has set up in the fire station; another, believing himself a bishop, is installed in the cathedral, while the ‘Duke of Clubs’ has taken the château, certain women have moved into the brothel, and so on.

Plumpick finds the oddness, politeness, kindness, and cheerfulness that greet him both appealing and disconcerting. When the so-called Duke of Clubs ‘recognizes’ him as being the ‘King of Hearts’, everyone is delighted and the archbishop sets about organizing the coronation.

A fantastic procession follows, which the ‘King of Hearts’ happily takes part in, despite his worries about still not having found the explosives. By chance, Coquelicot, a china doll of a girl who has been promised to the king, helps him learn how and where the detonation is set to take place.

With the explosives defused, the English troops enter the town, greeted by a terribly loud firework display. Thinking their explosives have gone off, the German troops return too. The two forces engage in a battle so fierce that there are no survivors. Seeing this, the lunatics wisely shed their clothes and return to the asylum, making sure to lock the gate behind themselves.

Plumpick receives a hero’s welcome from his countrymen, and is given a new mission: one of demolition this time. So he shows up at the psychiatric hospital, stark naked, in order to be allowed in.

 

Production: Fildebroc – Les Artistes Associés (Paris) – Compania Cinematografica Montoro (Rome).
Screenplay: Daniel Boulanger et Philippe de Broca d’après une idée de Maurice Bessy.
Script: Daniel Boulanger.
Director of photography: Pierre Lhomme.
Cameraman: Pierre Goupil.
Editing: Françoise Javet assistée de Kenout Peltier et Monique Baronnet.
Music: Georges Delerue.
Sound technician: Jacques Carrère.
Sets: François de Lamothe.
Set decorator: Robert Christidès.
Costumes : Jacques Fonteray.
Make-up: Louis Bonnemaison.
Hairdresser: Maud Bégon.
Production manager: Jacques Juranville.
Assistant directors: Marc Monnet, Marc Grunebaum, Renzo Cerrato.
Script : Patrick Aubrée.
Photographer: Vincent Rossel.
Choreography: Valérie Camille.

 

Cast

Alan Bates (Charles Plumpick, ornithologue – le Roi de Cœur).
Pierre Brasseur (le général Géranium).
Jean-Claude Brialy (le duc de Trèfle).
Geneviève Bujold (Coquelicot).
Adolfo Celi (le colonel Alexander Mac Bibenbrook).
Françoise Christophe (la duchesse).
Julien Guiomar (Monseigneur Marguerite).
Micheline Presle (Madame Églantine).
Michel Serrault (Monsieur Marcel).
Palau (Albéric).
Jacques Balutin (Mac Fish).
Madeleine Clervanne (Brunehaut).
Marc Dudicourt (le lieutenant Hamburger).

Durée : 110 minutes
Tournage : 12 April -10 June 1966
Location: Senlis
Distribution : Les Artistes Associés.
Release in Paris: 21 December 1966.
Box office: 39 141 tickets sold in nine weeks in six Paris cinemas.