A gentle, whimsical anti-war fable, King of Hearts was wildly embraced as a cult favorite in the 1970s. Even at the time, however, there were detractors who felt that the charms of the film were a bit too "soft" to compensate for its flaws. There's certainly validity to this argument, for Hearts definitely has its share of flaws. For one thing, nothing very much happens after the main predicament is established; one witnesses the former members of the asylum reconnecting with their past lives (real or imagined), without a great deal of variation. In addition, the "who is sane and who is mad" argument is a trifle precious, especially when the asylum residents are presented as exhibiting a very bowdlerized version of madness. However, most viewers are very willing to overlook these deficits, and it can easily be argued that these are not so much flaws as characteristics that add to the film's unique feel and sense of enchantment. Certainly, viewers who like Hearts like it a lot, which speaks volumes about its ability to impress, engage, and enthrall. Those who like the film will appreciate Philippe de Broca's delicate direction; those who are not taken with the film will find the direction slow. But almost all should agree that the cast is quite good, especially Alan Bates in what is essentially a straight-man role. Bates makes the character much more than an amused, bemused, or confused observer, bringing just the right amount of weight to the part without going overboard. Geneviève Bujold has never been more attractive or appealing, and the supporting cast as a whole plays their roles with just the right tone. If a viewer is able to enter into King of Hearts' particular world view, he will most likely feel as if he has made a new and very dear friend.
by Craig Butler review