Roberto Rossellini has given us an austere spectacle of power. Many in the New York Film Festival audience were disappointed by the lack of lushness. Logic and rigor are not the most appealing graces, but there are beautiful passages of unbearable precision in the playing.
If television weren’t the mushy disaster to which we are all too well accustomed, it would more often accommodate images like those of The Taking of Power by Louis XIV (1966) and everybody would be happy. What’s most extraordinary is not that Rossellini’s TV film should be regarded as a great film and a great moment in French television history, what’s most extraordinary is that Rossellini’s lesson has been neither replayed nor understood, nor studied in the slightest.