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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
This is quite an amazing film to watch. Using digital technology, the director, Rohmer, has literally encrusted his living actors into painted backdrops. Most of the time this works brilliantly, especially at the start where the film is like a pop up story book come to life. It is less successful in a few scenes, where it limits camera angles (they had not painted the side of some of the buildings for example) but it is a very interesting way to film a historical film which is as much about our own misconceptions and limited views of history as History itself. It is narrated using the memoirs of the Duc d'Orleans' ex- mistress, Grace Elliott. So, an event usually claimed as one of their own by Marxist historians, especially in France, is here told from the point of view of a female aristocratic foreigner. Inevitably a different point of view emerges -there can be no objective representation. The use of the memoirs device does give the film a rather episodic quality. Personally, I found the story line around the King's death the most interesting. A staunch Royalist she is shocked when the Duc votes for the King's death (a basic knowledge of the French Revolution is probably helpful to follow the dialogue between Grace and the Duc here. He was Louis's cousin and had himself elected to the Assembly, where he promptly changed his name to Philip Equality). The filming of Louis's death is masterly. Grace and her maidservant are in Meudon, out of Paris, watching from a hill with a telescope. We do not see the execution, we only hear the maid's commentary, like Grace. The most dramatic event of the Revolution happens off screen. Grace cannot bear to watch her king be killed. Her view is that of an aristocrat. Any justification of Louis's death is literally beyond her vision. This is powerful, keenly intelligent film making. The love story between the duc and Grace is insinuated, never told, and is powerfully moving (tho the Duc does seem a bit of a pompous fool at times; what does she see in him? No accounting for taste). The undercurrents of madness (simply existing being enough to be a suspect) that sweep individuals along in a time such as the Revolution are illustrated as Grace's life is turned upside down, her house is searched daily, yet she still orders her servants to cook her food and is incapable of dressing herself! If you have any interest at all in a subtle, well told film, making clever use of new technology to tell an old tale, or the representation of a pivotal moment in Europe's history narrated by an aristocratic foreign woman, its ultimate outsider, then this is well worth your time. It is a little slow in places but your patience is amply rewarded.
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