The Taking of Power of Louis XIV

One of the most influential directors in the history of cinema, Roberto Rossellini (1906-1977) had a curious career. Its first, most famous phase begin in 1945 with Open City, and continued with Paisan and Germany Year Zero; employing a documentary-like visual directness, these postwar films were the seminal works of Italian Neorealism. Rosellini?s second, more notorious phase includes a trio of films (Voyage in Italy among them) starring Ingrid Bergman. Once regarded as footnotes to the director?s love affair with their star, they had a profound effect on the sensibility of the French New Wave auteurs. A third phase, devoted to an examination of history through television, is little known, but filled with visual and intellectual riches. A set of three of Rossellini's History Films -- The Age of the Medici, Blaise Pascal, and Cartesius -- has just been released by Criterion and is well worth viewing. But The Taking of Power by Louis XIV , available separately, best illustrates Rossellini?s command of historical reconstruction. The film portrays the young Louis XIV?s cunning stratagem of confining the court intrigue that threatened him to the palatial playground of Versailles, where the rules of the game could be controlled by the Sun King. Although the bewigged, sumptuously arrayed nobility at times seems about to stumble into a Monty Python skit, the steady seriousness of Rossellini?s apprehension wins the viewer over with its careful attention to the details -- and wonder -- of the past.

July 23: Jessica Mitford died on this day in 1996.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).

Watching Them Be

What makes a film actor into a larger-than-life movie star? James Harvey's passionate, freewheeling essays explain why there are some faces (from Greta Garbo's to Samuel L. Jackson's) from which we cannot look away.


What if you called up the spouse on the verge of leaving you -- and instead found yourself magically talking to his younger self, the one you first fell for?  Rainbow Rowell, author of the YA smash Eleanor & Park, delivers a sly, enchanting take on 21st-century love.