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An episodic look at Grace Elliott (1760-1823) and Philippe, the Duke of Orleans, during the French Revolution. In 1790, they are friends, no longer lovers. He suggests she leave France, she warns him to quit the Revolution. In 1792, she must escape Paris on foot. Less than a month later, she returns on an errand of mercy and shows great courage saving the governor of Tuileries. The Duke in turn steps in to protect Grace. In early 1793, she demands a promise from the Duke that he vote to spare Louis's life; he does not, and Grace is furious. In April, he warns her of a search; she is arrested and brought before the committee. Orleans, too, is suspect. The guillotine awaits. Written by
I found this film quite fascinating apart from the fact that it is a well acted, structured story. Set in revolutionary France it tells the struggles of a Scottish emigre royalist and her life during the revolution and her somewhat complicated relationship with a former lover a aristocratic Duke with revolutionary sympathies. Despite being a revolutionary politician the Duke is eventually consumed too by the revolution.
The film is fascinating on several levels. The relationship between the Lady and the Duke is at some levels a doomed love story. They are interestingly former not current lovers but continue to have fond (if not strong) regard for each other despite differing political viewpoints and comprimised actions during the ups and downs of the revolution & I found it interesting watching the strains placed on this relationship by the buffeting of historical events. I think this relationship is at the core of the film. Though I did enjoy the political side of the film. It is somewhat refreshing to see a historical epic from the side of the losers (the despised aristocracy). Rohmer resists the obvious counter point in the film of the film in showing a side/viewpoint of the poor majority. Maybe he assumed that most film goers would be aware of the social/political/economic conditions that lead to the revolution. Whatever the reason I think the film is stronger for it because we see the events through the eyes of the Lady and the fear and terror of the Royalists (and moderate revolutionaries ultimately consumed by the more extreme fires of radicalism). The victims are shown as human beings and not some carictures.
Having said that I enjoyed some of the ambiguities of the film. The aristocrat the lady helps is someone she held no particular high regard for in the Royalist days, and indeed first helps him only out of a sense of duty. Even Robiespierre, the radical, is shown briefly in the film. Instead of some frothing of the mouth caricture he is shown as a focused almost reasonable type. He stops one of his underlings arresting the Lady at a revolutionary tribunal saying the revolution has more important things to worry about. I think possibly these interesting ambiguities arise from the fact the story is based on the actual experiences of the Scottish Lady who transcribed them after her eventual escape to Britain after the revolution.
Finally a commendation to the two actors (the Lady and the Duke) who I really enjoyed. The Duke was particulary good,he was the right mixture of idealist,charmer and self important but endearing pomposity and you can see why despite all his faults the Lady was still hung up on him.
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