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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
Eric Rohmer's "The Lady and the Duke". could have used a better translation for the title. "The English Woman and the Duke", perhaps, would have been more accurate. While it's obvious this film is not for everyone, judging by the comments to this forum, it is worth watching because in spite of the intricate pattern of the story, Mr. Rohmer has created a movie that could be seen as an art exhibit in a museum. The mixed technology used in the movie, ultimately, works well.
The strange story of Grace Elliott, a noble lady who had been the mistress of the king of England and of the French Duc d'Orleans, holds our attention. The setting is Paris during the days that followed the French Revolution. The country was in turmoil and the power was in the hands of the people, who couldn't care less for the aristocrats. The images show the agitators running around with heads of famous people right after their trip to the guillotine.
Grace relation with the Duc had ended, but she remains a true friend to the great man that is in danger, himself, of losing his own head. Grace moves through all the horrors around her without being able of an escape. She even has an enemy in her own house, in the form of the cook, Pulcherie, who would not hesitate to denounce her at the least provocation.
Watching the movie, at times, gives the viewer the impression one is going on a trip through the Louvre watching those huge canvases that depict this crucial era of the French history. Rather than finding the digitalization process distracting, we found it to enhance the film in many ways.
Lucy Russell, as Grace Elliott, does a fine job to portray this woman who saw a lot during her lifetime. Her French seems to be excellent, as it appears she is fluent in it. As the Duc d'Orleans, Jean Claude Dreyfus made a fantastic contribution making us believe he is the nobleman himself without any effort. The supporting cast also was great. As an ensemble piece Mr. Rohmer gets good performances all around.
For lovers of history, "The Lady and the Duke" will be an interesting movie to watch thanks to the vision of Eric Rohmer.
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