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Lancelot of the Lake (1974)
"Lancelot du Lac" (original title)

7.1
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 2,083 users  
Reviews: 31 user | 33 critic

A million miles away from 'Camelot' or 'Excalibur', this film ruthlessly strips the Arthurian legend down to its barest essentials. Arthur's knights, far from being heroic, are conniving ... See full summary »

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Title: Lancelot of the Lake (1974)

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The classic story of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Luc Simon ...
Laura Duke Condominas ...
La Reine (The Queen)
Humbert Balsan ...
Vladimir Antolek-Oresek ...
Le Roi (The King)
Patrick Bernhard ...
Mordred (as Patrick Bernard)
Arthur De Montalembert ...
Lionel
Charles Balsan
Christian Schlumberger
Jean-Paul Leperlier
Marie-Louise Buffet
Marie-Gabrielle Cartron
Antoine Rabaud
Jean-Marie Becar
Guy de Bernis
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Storyline

A million miles away from 'Camelot' or 'Excalibur', this film ruthlessly strips the Arthurian legend down to its barest essentials. Arthur's knights, far from being heroic, are conniving and greedy men who, just before the film starts, have failed miserably to find the Holy Grail. Aimlessly resentful at first, the developing relationship between Lancelot and Queen Guinevere focuses their rage, leading to inevitable tragedy... Written by Michael Brooke <michael@everyman.demon.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

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Drama | Romance | War

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Release Date:

26 September 1974 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Lancelot of the Lake  »

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(Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Spoofed in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Monty Python mocked this, but that doesn't mean it's a "bad" movie
18 February 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Camelot. The Holy Grail. Lancelot. Knights of the Round Table, Merlin, Guinevere. They're all here, ripped right from the pages of history and countlessly re-told versions of the King Arthur mythology/history and made into, yes, a film by Robert Bresson. This means that those who want just a meaty action movie aren't going to be entirely happy with what they see, particularly because of its promise literally in the first minute of the film has some explicit, rampant bloodshed. It was indeed what spurred on the "It's only a flesh wound" scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And unlike the Python gang, Bresson plays it with such a straight face one will think straight away that this might be the most bloody of all of the Arthurian pieces of cinema.

It is, I should report, not that really. Oh sure, when it comes time to it, like in the last five minutes, there is quite a good deal of it, and shown in that matter-of-fact approach that gives a clinical fascination as in any Bresson picture. But you may also notice that the film has no stars that are actual "stars", or even actors for that matter (this was Luc Simon, playing the title character, in his only screen appearance), and this was the commonality with Bresson. This is what makes Lancelot of the Lake one of Bresson's most challenging pictures even for someone who respects and admires his work ("loves" may be too strong a word to associate), since it's still taking something that is kind of a fable or legend, something a child could understand with the essentials at bedtime, and does his stripping away as in stripping away the soul to the bone, so to speak.

This doesn't mean anything is taken away from the story, per-say, but it's the way he goes about it. Take the jousting tournament as a prime example. It's not shot at all in a conventional style, even if the pieces appear to be there. We get a shot of a bagpipe playing, but at an odd angle. We get maybe a shot of a knight gearing up to run. Then a cutaway to the the specific knight spectators as the joust is done off-camera. Then many shots of the horses hoofs going around, their eyes, flags waving high. It's like a puzzle that is pieced together in front of you that you can quite put together yourself. The only star of Lancelot of the Lake is Bresson himself, and goes about giving us the details of the aftermath of the failed quest for the Holy Grail with a limited scope of drama. It's about the people, but it's also about a sense of place without much hope, of a God that is cruel and dark and cold, of which Lancelot and his ilk failed to grasp a taste of from their aborted quest.

So while the film drips and oozes with incredible atmosphere, and while it's filmed beautifully and the story, with some exceptions, is presented without too much pretension, it's not for a mainstream "Braveheart" kind of crowd. I don't meant this to put down the film, or even the audience. Maybe some who are more attuned to being enamored with the period and history and Arthurian mythology will gobble it up. Others may end up finding out why Monty Python struck such rich gold out of something that did, at the least, take itself seriously enough to mock. But it is a very interesting picture, one with a question or two posed to legend itself and what it amounts to. I wasn't enthralled by it as an action picture (even if a few times Bresson surprisingly does pretty well with suspense), but rather as a moral tale pulled apart, of what men who've sacrificed themselves to something already feel and do when at the whim of Lancelot or Arthur, or God. It is, and I mean this as a compliment, hauntingly ponderous.


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