Today, there is no question that King of Hearts is a you-had-to-be-there experience, whether “there” was the ’60s or the ’70s. Its combination of smugness and sentimentality has aged poorly, and its take on mental illness as a delightful gift to a universe in need of fractured viewpoints is cringe-inducing. As a movie, it’s the equivalent of the despairing tweet/meme “lol nothing matters,” but longer and more Gallic.
It's as if the suppressed horror and disgust of those years had at last surged into his filmmaking. We are sunk here—as we had been too, with a lighter tone, in That Man from Rio—into a space where there's no place to take shelter, where each moment has to be squeezed dry for all the excitement or pleasure it can give, and where any opening for comedy or pictorial beauty or wistful eroticism has to be seized. There might not be another.