‘Queen’ proves royal pain

Spat help flick find B.O. success

Arthouse directors often complain that their films don’t get enough media attention. But Gaul’s Arnaud Desplechin has more than most thanks to his latest pic, “Kings and Queen.”

The film, a rambling tale of contemporary life and love starring Emmanuelle Devos, wowed Gallic crix, many of whom say it is his strongest film to date. It also recently won France’s prestigious Prix Louis Delluc for best French film of 2004.

But what has really gotten French derrieres into cinema seats — the film has grossed $3 million and is still notching up steady ticket sales three weeks after its Dec. 22 release — is the very public spat it prompted between Desplechin and actress Marianne Denicourt, an ex-girlfriend of 10 years ago.

The thesp, who starred in three of Desplechin’s previous films, claims “Kings and Queen” shamelessly culls from painful episodes in her private life. These include the accidental death of her unborn son’s father, whom she married posthumously so the child could carry his name, and her father’s death from cancer.

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Denicourt didn’t take the portrayal happily, and tasted revenge Jan. 5, publishing “Mauvais Genie,” a thinly disguised roman a clef telling her side of the story. The short but vitriolic book’s protagonist is one Arnold Duplancher, a parasitic film director who feeds on others for inspiration.

“He poked about in my life and my family’s in a very ugly way,” says Denicourt, ” I couldn’t let him get away with that.”