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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
"The Lady and the Duke" is based on a true story and taken directly from the memoirs of Grace Elliott, a well-to-do Scottish woman who lived in France during the French Revolution. The film concentrates on her months in Paris during the later years of the revolution (1793-1794), better known as the Reign of Terror. Director Eric Rohmer took the unusual and odd step of filming his actors superimposed over 18th Century scenic paintings. Perhaps it was his intention to contrast these inanimate objects with the real-life pain and utter misery of his subjects' existence. Lucy Russell is elegant and believable as Grace Elliott, a woman torn between loyalties to an old lover and her former aristocratic way of life. As the Revolution becomes more horrific, she sees all her friends who haven't been wise enough to leave France annihilated, and begins to wish she had left the country herself. Jean-Claude Dreyfus is also excellent as the Duke of Orleans, Grace's former lover who still remains a close friend. Although a royal himself, he makes the ruinous decision to vote for the King's death which has disastrous results for both himself and his country. Grace and the Duke's relationship are the centerpiece of the movie juxtaposed against the changing times and the coming doom and radical phase of the Terror. Director Rohmer's movie is both exquisitely mounted and historically knowledgeable. He has taken one of history's more volatile times and brought the audience into all the suffering and injustices of that period. Although one might need to know a bit of history regarding the French Revolution beforehand, this movie can still be viewed by anyone who has sympathy for the human condition. Man's inhumanity to Man is well on display in "The Lady and the Duke".
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