The Lady and the Duke

Not rated yet!
Director
Éric Rohmer
Runtime
2 h 09 min
Release Date
7 September 2001
Genres
War, Drama, History
Overview
This breathtaking, visually experimental film from New Wave director Eric Rohmer tells the true story of Grace Dalrymple Elliot (Lucy Russell), a British aristocrat trapped in Paris during the French Revolution. Determined to maintain her stiff upper lip and pampered life despite the upheaval, Grace continues her friendship with the Duke of Orléans (Jean-Claude Dreyfus) while risking her life and liberty to protect a fugitive.
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Crosswalk1
Cross Walk



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • The Lady and the Duke
    Movies from Film Forum, 05/16/02The Lady and the Duke, while not boasting the most realistic special effects, delivers groundbreaking work, using digital technology to create cityscapes, landscapes, and interiors that look just like paintings that you'd see hanging in the Louvre. When the characters come to life in exterior scenes, it is difficult to see where the Paris backdrop (rendered by painter Jean-Baptiste Marot) stops and the real props begin. It is as though 18th-century museum art is waking up and moving about. It's a fresh and exciting effect.Lucy Russell stars as Grace Elliott, an imperiled English gentlewoman who risks her life by remaining in Paris during the French Revolution. Revolutionaries warn her that she may not be spared on these mean streets that are already awash in blood. A barbaric mob is working its way from house to house killing aristocrats and shouting "Vive la Nation!" But Grace trusts that she'll be protected by her flirtatious friendship with Philippe, a high-ranking Duke (Jean-Claude Dreyfus of Delicatessen) who insists, "I'm more French than bourbon!" Her romance with the Duke gives her not only safety, but the possibility of political influence. When a politically incorrect fugitive shows up at her door, Grace's Christian faith leads her to conceal him from the bloodthirsty hunters. Can she save the criminal? Grace thinks so. But she wants even more than that. She wants to persuade the Duke to use his political clout to prevent the execution of France's imprisoned King Louis XVI. The shadow of the guillotine looms over all of her risky endeavors, and every move she makes places her and her household of reluctant servants in danger.Director Eric Rohmer is famous for his small-scale, intimate French comedies about love, sex, temptation, and faith (Claire's Knee, My Night at Maud's, Autumn Tale) rather than his period pieces (The Marquise of O, Perceval le Gallois). The comedies recall Shakespeare's own romantic capers with their mix of matchmaking, rumor-mongering, and misunderstanding. This film, however, is a more serious affair: a grim and ponderous two hours. His technique is recognizable; the film is short on action and long on exposition-heavy dialogue. We catch only glimpses of the violent conflict outside. But this is a film about the way that a hushed and private conversation shared over cups of tea can, in a few short hours, affect the behavior of a riotous crowd, and about how one person's action can change history.By the end of the film, my nerves were raw and my admiration for Grace had grown considerably. She's one of the most courageous, kindhearted, and Christlike big-screen heroines we've seen since Susan Sarandon played Sister Helen Prejean in Dead Man Walking. She has a few questionable habits—she plays at tarot cards (only half-seriously) and has led a life of questionable romantic liaisons—but her faith is clear in her speeches and in her selfless actions. Rohmer's rich, ambitious film is going to be on my short list of the year's best films. googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-1'); }); "The Lady and the Duke is an engaging historical drama," says Bruce Donaldson (Movieguide). "Grace openly credits the resolve, mercy, and bravery shown both her friends and enemies in the face of a revolution gone wild to God and her faith in Him."The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops complains that the film is unusual. "[The film] requires the audience's full concentration, which becomes tiresome as the film drags on past the two hour mark. … This visual style is somewhat ingenious, but instead of enhancing the main story, it detracts because it is so jarringly different from the usual." googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-2'); }); if (gptClientWidth >= 992 && gptClientWidth <= 1000000) googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-3'); }); Rohmer said in a recent interview, "I didn't make this film for any political reasons. I don't use it to defend any party, royalist or anti-royalist. On the other hand, I would like to help cultivate a taste for history in audiences, both old and young." It just might work. I know I'll never look at paintings of 18th-century France quite the same way again. ]]>
    ...
    (Review Source)

VJ Morton3
Right Wing Film Geek



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)
  • The death of Eric Rohmer
    (”The Lady and the Duke” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    The death of Eric Rohmer

    I submitted a few vacuum-packed paragraphs for National Review on Eric Rohmer, the recently dead French master who has been my favorite living director since at least the death of Ingmar Bergman. NRO published them here at The Corner — a 300-word request for which I initially submitted 850, and trimmed it back myself to the 530 you see that keeps at least one or two examples. In the couple of days since Rohmer’s death, I’ve also watched CLAIRE’S KNEE and THE BAKERY GIRL OF MONCEAU (both part of Criterion’s fawesome Six Moral Tales DVD box set).

    The thing about CLAIRE’S KNEE that just gets deeper every time is the way it plays with its own textuality, and even anticipates and auto-critiques and/or subverts a certain shallow understanding of Rohmer’s own films. So many of Rohmer’s films place characters on holiday, in a French resort, a St. Tropez villa, a symbolic vineyard, or even lunch at an odd time of the day — the ideal time for a romantic fling, the characters self-consciously realize and proceed to map out accordingly. CLAIRE’S KNEE set in a gorgeous by a lake on August vacation, and the artist Aurora thinks to set up a “vacances-romance” between Jerome and strong-headed ingenue Laura. But things really don’t really work out, even though Jerome is willing to play his part. The film, among much else, is about the storytelling process and the way people apply it to their lives, both with foresight and retrospect — which are incompatible with each other and not what “really” happened, but how people teleologically shape their biographies. Consider also how Jerome gets his fantasy of caressing Claire’s knee (initially in a brilliantly funny way), but he hasn’t done the good deed he congratulates himself for doing at the end, because he saw something that wasn’t what he thought it was (to be more precise would be spoilerific).

    As for MONCEAU, it may be the ideal introduction to Rohmer — it just requires a 23-minute investment, but, astonishingly considering it’s at the start of his career, it’s a near-perfect (and perfectly representative) slice of Rohmer’s style and themes. It was shot on 16mm for practically no money, but Rohmer gave it self-consciousness and depth through a near-constant voiceover (think GOODFELLAS — in that one way only) that both explains and undermines the main character’s actions, and indicates how much of his actions are through-the-looking-glass romantic game-playing, predicated on staying one step ahead of what he thinks the bakery girl is thinking or going to do. Rohmer used voiceover a great deal in his Moral Tales, and though he used it less in his later works, he found ways to have his characters openly discourse on their thoughts instead. But the literary style, the self-consciousness, the understated-but-precise and often lovely pictorial quality, the perfect editing and framing — it’s all there from MONCEAU on.

    I began as somewhat of a Rohmer skeptic — early 90s “exhausting the canon”-phase VHS viewings of CLAIRE’S KNEE and MY NIGHT WITH MAUD frankly did not do much for me and I never obliged to look beyond what are still probably his two most highly-regarded films. But I got turned around, first by the successful 1999 US theatrical run of AN AUTUMN TALE and then a 2001 retrospective where I saw about 8 or 10 of his films and loved them all. And his THE LADY AND THE DUKE at the 2001 Toronto festival removed all doubts and confirmed what I had just sensed, that Rohmer’s skepticism toward modernity went beyond soulcraft but even extended as far as dubiety towards the French Revolution — the worst event in human history, I’d say. From Grace Elliott’s sympathetic mouth we hear all the criticisms of the Revolution that Anglo-American conservatives make to this day. And in the name of the classical virtues and approach. Indeed, Rohmer’s period films all have the common quality of seeming to have been made in a pre-Enlightenment world where the cinema somehow existed — ASTREA AND CELADON and PERCEVAL both are deliberately performed in a period “style” as well as being set in the (even-more-distant) pasts. And Rohmer’s political pictures weren’t confined to THE LADY AND THE DUKE, as I may have implied for NRO. His little-seen TRIPLE AGENT shows anti-Communist Russian exiles being steamrolled by History, including the Popular Front victory in France. Unfortunately, his political satire THE TREE, THE MAYOR AND THE MEDIATHEQUE reputedly critical of local-government socialism, remains virtually unseeable to Anglophones. It’s never been released with English-subtitles anywhere in the world to my knowledge — hint, hint (and anyone who tells me I’m wrong on the factual point and how to take advantage of said error becomes my new best friend).

    On the day of Ernst Lubitsch’s funeral, Billy Wilder said to fellow director William Wyler, just to break the silence, “No more Lubitsch.” And Wyler responded, “Worse than that — no more Lubitsch films.”

    No more Rohmer films.

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    2 Comments »

    1. “The Tree…” was shown last year in NY with subs during a Fabrice Luchini festival. I have seen it (not there)–one of the running jokes is that everyone involved is a leftist at pains to prove their ideological purity; the mayor’s a “new socialist” and thinks environmentalists are reactionaries, the journalist profiling him insists he’s really a rightist, etc. Not being that familiar with Rohmer at the time I came away with the impression that his own sympathies were kind of left conservative–somewhere between Wendell Berry and Lasch, perhaps.

      Regardless of politics he was one of the greats, and I look forward to seeing “Lady and the Duke” and remedying the other gaps in my viewing. Good points on “Claire’s Knee”, though for me Jerome is not just self-deluding but downright monstrous–the “climactic” scene with Claire was excruciatingly creepy and repulsive. The moral tales are really about moral excuses, and Jerome’s seem the most frightening.

      Comment by bunbury | January 16, 2010 | Reply

    2. The French Revolution is the worst event in human history? Really? Explain.

      Comment by James | January 17, 2010 | Reply


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  • TIFF Capsules — Day 9
    (”The Lady and the Duke” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    TIFF Capsules — Day 9

    ROMANCE OF ASTREA AND CELADON, Eric Rohmer, France — 6

    I’m afraid I may be becoming an auteurist zombie with my grade on this movie, an adaptation of a 17th-century novel in the chivalric style, about a 5th-century love split by a misunderstanding. ROMANCE is the weakest film I’ve ever seen by my favorite living film-maker, but not an uninteresting one, exactly because I had such difficulty with it.¹ To state what is most obvious, ROMANCE is very badly acted movie. Atrociously acted. At the bad middle-school, Max Fischer Players level of reciting clearly-memorized lines. It’s so bad that it HAS to be deliberate … this is Eric frickin’ Rohmer, right? And he did make PERCEVAL, a medieval-set heroic tale that was just as stiffly and artificially acted. Right? He did. Except … PERCEVAL was clearly performed as an onscreen text — absurdly artificial cardboard sets, characters self-narrating their actions, a visible music chorus, complete with Foley artists in costume. I can’t entirely embrace PERCEVAL, but it was clearly an anti-realist period film (though I think THE LADY AND THE DUKE much superior in that vein). But there’s none of either earlier film’s visual strategy in ROMANCE, which is shot plain-vanilla style in natural settings that neither evoke the past or signify anything at all. And seeing ROMANCE the same day as THE VIRGIN SPRING didn’t make me more receptive to the “medieval stylization” claim. Theo pointed out to me later that Rohmer begins ROMANCE with a card saying the film would try to recreate how a 17th-century audience would imagine this chivalric-romance story. Which I got, but doesn’t seem like an explanation. Would (or could) Enlightenment audiences have imagined an-already-past piece in the style of cinematic realism? I have such regard for Rohmer that I have no doubt he achieved what he wanted to. I just don’t have the foggiest notion of what exactly that was. And why.

    THE WALKER, Paul Schrader, USA — 7

    In the midst of all the snooty art films at a festival like TIFF, the good ones and the bad ones, you still need at least a couple of palate cleaners: English-language entertainment films with few ambitions beyond telling a story, making you laugh, giving you a thrill/chill or two. So for the ninth day of a fest, THE WALKER is a perfectly confectionary film. Schrader pretty much made this movie 25 years ago. A “walker” is basically a publicly-presentable escort/companion for older socially-prominent women (no sex occurs, and gay men are particularly valuable since can appear publicly with women without suspicion). In this Washington-set movie, Schrader more or less tells the story of AMERICAN GIGOLO with Woody Harrelson as a gay Richard Gere. There’s a dash or two of political intrigue added in, the latter of which is little more than another example of what I call “liberalism as product placement.” But Schrader handles the mechanics of the semi-political thriller deftly, Harrelson effectively plays both sides of the street — a bon-vivant and a man unexpectedly finding himself pushed into a corner. And any movie with a Diva Row like this one — Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily Tomlin, Lauren Bacall — can only be called “fabulous.”

    ERIK NIETZSCHE: THE EARLY YEARS, Jacob Thuesen, Denmark — 3

    When reviewing a 1981 film, Roger Ebert asked himself the following question, the most basic one a film critic can ask: “Why is Heaven’s Gate so painful and unpleasant to look at?” and answered that “it is so smoky, so dusty, so foggy, so unfocused and so brownish yellow that you want to try Windex on the screen” and concluded that “a director is in deep trouble when we do not even enjoy the primary act of looking at his picture.” Since the momentous December 1996 day when I walked half-awares into an Atlanta theater playing BREAKING THE WAVES, Lars Von Trier the director has never failed to make my annual Top 10. But Lars Von Trier the writer, when directed by others, has never avoided an all-caps CON (the only other such title is DEAR WENDY), and both WENDY and NIETZSCHE, a roman a self-clef about LvT’s years in Danish film school, have (among others) the same basic primary visual problem: a beige-brown palette that is simply ugly and dirty to look at. You DO want to try Windex on ERIK NIETZSCHE. The material isn’t all that bad — the pseudonymous “Nietzsche” finding his way through film school — and often very funny (the portrayals of the other students and professors have the feel of getting back on your own high-school class). But it’s extremely one-dimensional and the LvT self-promotion bandwagon has worn out its welcome. And the film’s as ugly as ass.

    THE VIRGIN SPRING, Ingmar Bergman, Sweden, 1960 — 8

    I’ll describe my particular interactions with presenter Max von Sydow in another post, but to speak strictly of SPRING as a movie (we have all seen it, right?). Von Sydow pointed out after the film how the central scene of discovery, when the mother sees her daughter’s clothes among the thieves’ belongings, Bergman simply held on the mother’s face for a very long time. No cutting away and no underlining score, or any of the other things that a film-maker would do today. “He takes the time to make you feel her loss,” Von Sydow said (quoting from memory; may be a little off). He’s obviously correct about Bergman taking his time when he needs to, but I was struck just as much by almost the opposite reaction — just how efficiently-paced SPRING is. Bergman doesn’t waste a moment in a film that is as lean and fast (but without seeming hurried or harried; that’s the genius) in its storytelling as NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. Whatever may be said about his other movies, Bergman knew that medieval legends went straight to the point. Uniting my observation and Von Sydow’s — every scene is exactly as long as it should be. SPRING may also represent the peak (or at least “most typical”) example of Bergman’s black-and-white visual style: a bold chiaroscuro with harshly-defined lines around the objects, but with the pearl-gray ambience producing soft shadows, the result of using a kind of diffused light typical of the overcast North. Given that Bergman so comprehensively creates texture, this movie’s medieval setting and parable story produce the effect of looking at tableaux or a series of church icons (like the Stations of the Cross, say) from a time where movies didn’t exist. The thing that struck me most anew in this viewing of SPRING, my third or fourth, was how spoiled and naive is the young girl of the title (like Narcissus, she pauses to admire her own beauty in a pool of water), and how Birgitta Petterson’s performance, effective in this context though it is, seems to belong in another movie. She’s all sunny and light-hearted, as if she doesn’t realize that she’s living in medieval times. Camille Paglia would no doubt have a field day applying her theories of date rape to this girl’s reckless behavior, plus the archetypes Bergman plays to the nines — blonde-vs.-brunette, say. But I will always think that Gunnel Lindblom as the pagan maid isn’t giving is a bit … much of the smoldering hatred act.

    —————————————————–

    ¹ I hasten to say that ROMANCE is not at all “difficult” in the LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD sense of “hard to follow.” Indeed it’s almost too simple, a romantic misunderstanding followed by efforts to straighten things out.

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  • Top 10 of 2002
    (”The Lady and the Duke” is briefly mentioned in this.)
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