Entrancing; somewhat "historical," but totally stylized
I am truly a lover of Rohmer's films in modern settings. Although the dialog is elevated and more self-aware than any found in real life, the dilemmas of the unusually beautiful people who ponder their way through Rohmer films are always involving and relevant.
But the latest Rohmer historic film, The Englishlady and the Duke, was quite leaden, despite the use of digitized versions of classic paintings as backdrops. The characters were too involved in their narrow revolutionary or anti-revolutionary politics, and the opportunity to relate to those characters was nil.
So I was not looking forward to Perceval, but I was completely entranced by it. It is somewhat "historical," but totally stylized. It is largely narrated by madrigal singers who wander in and out, sometimes portraying characters. The lead, Perceval (Fabrice Luchini) is a nice-looking youth, but not one to make you swoon. He's attractive in a Jean-Pierre Léaud way--objectively odd-looking, yet appealing.
The plot involves Perceval's admittance into the world of knights, gallantry, and chivalry. He is so awestruck by knightly notions that he takes to knighthood, and is taken into knighthood, with no challenge that he cannot surmount. He arrives at Arthur's (Marc Eyraud's) court, finds it feeble and on the verge of hostile takeover, and singlehandedly restores it to glory. He meets women and treats them with respect and reverence, serving them and protecting their virtue.
The plot winds away from Perceval toward the final third of the movie, focusing on Sir Gawain (André Dussollier) and one of his exploits. But I assume that this follows the source material. The movie ultimately reaches a nicely French, existentialist conclusion.
I don't know who this movie is for: perhaps for Rohmer, myself, and a few French & Francophile intellectuals. But I thought it was quite lovely.
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