The Lady and the Duke (2001) Poster

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8/10
A Royalist view of the revolution.
Fiona-3910 September 2001
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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Storybook revolutionary reminiscences
Philby-319 March 2002
This film was shown as part of the 2002 French Film Festival in Sydney and it is certainly very French, being pre-occupied with the morality of the French revolution, here seen from the aristocratic point of view of Grace Elliot, the Scottish ex-mistress of both George, Prince of Wales (later George IV) and the Duc d' Orleans, cousin of Louis XVI (who was a supporter, initially, of the Revolution). As played by Lucy Russell, Grace is an unwavering royalist who goes on living her gentlewoman's lifestyle in and around Paris, regardless of the dangers, which are considerable for someone like her. She has no sympathy with the revolutionaries and is horrified by the execution of Louis and his Queen, which she observes from afar.

Having once walked out of an Eric Rohmer movie (`Clair's Knee') rather than die of boredom, my expectations were not high. This movie (taken from Graces' memoirs) is mostly talk - gentlewomen did not, after all, engage in much action – but she does harbour an aristocratic fugitive at one point, to the Duke's dismay. Grace's relationship with her ex-lover, the portly and rather pompous Duke (Jean-Claude Dreyfus), is an intriguing one. She is not able to exercise much influence over him, not because of any lack of persuasive powers, but because he is too weak and irresolute to follow her advice. As a foreign woman living alone (she was widowed a year or two previously), she needs a powerful friend or two, but the Duke, for all his courtly manner, isn't a lot of help.

The cast weave in and out of stylised (and digitised) backdrops and this production style fits in well with the historical setting. The sets are intended to be seen as backdrops, unlike, say, the Coliseum scene in `Gladiator'). This has the effect of focusing the audience on the actors rather than be distracted by the set. It was brave of Rohmer to adopt such an innovative format, but it works well here. There are a few dramatic moments such as when Grace is hauled before the local revolutionary committee on suspicion of spying for Britain (naturally the most handsome revolutionary takes her side). It is however basically a talk show (`what I did in the revolution I hated'), and often rather slow. Lucy Russell, though, is quite compelling as Grace, and this time at least I was not driven from the theatre.
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Human face of the aristocracy.
hodo6817 May 2002
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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8/10
Liberte, egalite et fraternite
jotix10011 July 2005
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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Yes, but. . .
filmforum11 June 2003
Eric Rohmer seems to have wanted to produce a docudrama, and has made a very interesting go of it. As film fiction, it's not very good, and not even the camera work is engaging. However, many of the film's qualities are worth considering. That gritty, antique, and "real" Paris we crave is by now a cliché. However, Rohmer's computer-enhanced tableaux of revolutionary Paris, by contrast, effectively evoke period art. Indeed they are filmed engravings. Do they "work"? Perhaps not as any sort of realism; however, they remind us that this film is history and philosophy, not just drama. I felt that their deliberate alienation was interesting. The growing terror of the revolution is Rohmer's chief concern. In this film, it is palpable and fearsome, and evokes some of the totalitarianisms of the 20th century. There is certainly a story arc and as much dramatic tension as anyone could ask for. The trial scene is both exciting and intimate. The actor Dreyfus gives a luminous performance -- passionate, thoughtful, riveting. Although this film takes a long time to get itself unwound, one might even be captivated -- de-captivated! -- by the end.
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9/10
A Riveting Historical Drama by a True Master
wjfickling17 August 2003
Anyone who finds this film boring is a hopeless bonehead who should stick to car chase movies and romantic comedies. This film is riveting and doesn't have a boring moment. Why? Because it is comprised largely of intelligent dialogue between real people in a moment of crisis and details their efforts to survive that crisis. I repeat--intelligent dialogue! That is what characterizes nearly all of Rohmer's films, and that is why a lot of people don't like them. They prefer action. Fine, let them spend the rest of their lives watching action films, while those of us with taste and discrimination will continue to seek out films like this.

Rohmer has always been accused of being "talky." Well, he is, but to me that's a compliment, not a criticism. Shakespeare was talky, too. Is there a talkier play than "Hamlet?" Whenever the subject, or theme, of a work of art consists of ideas and conflicts over values, there must of necessity be a discussion of these ideas and values, an that is largely what this film is all about. Aristocracy and noble birth vs. egalitarianism; loyalty to old friends that is put to the ultimate test when that friend takes what we believe to be a wrong path; the value of human life and the responsibility to help save that life, even if the person possessing that life is not so nice, or even despicable. (Anyone ever hear of Dostoyevsky, or "Crime and Punishment?") These are what this film is all about.

The two leads in this film are impeccable, as if they were born to play these roles. Lucy Russell, who is English and speaks French as her second language, is especially brilliant. Do yourself a favor and see this riveting film. It may be the last film by this screen Master.
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An engaging film for a mainstream audience
cineman223 October 2002
The Lady and the Duke focuses on the relationship between Lady Grace Elliot and the Duke of Orleans during the French Revolution. No longer lovers, they have forged a close friendship, despite their political disagreements. They grapple with the consequences of the fall of the monarchy and the creation of a new society. An era that offers opportunity for heroism, and the threat of the guillotine one false move away. Octogenarian Eric Rohmer embraces 21st century technology to create unique but period-congruent visuals. His facility with actors is also in evidence here. Recent comments may erroneously lead readers to conclude The Lady and the Duke is a demanding, stodgy film. To the contrary, mainstream audiences willing to read subtitles will be easily engaged and moved. Admittedly, those with impaired attention spans and no historical curiosity should stick to action flicks and teen comedies. There are films-Bresson's Lancelot and Ruiz's Time Regained come to mind- made for a literate,intellectual audience. This film's rich rewards are much more accessible.
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9/10
Well worth seeing--and very different from the usual film from this famous director.
MartinHafer4 September 2012
This film from Eric Rohmer is very, very unusual. While it's not unusual to use matte paintings to create effects (such as to paint in buildings in the background to cover up modern skyscrapers for period films), here Rohmer uses another technique--one I have never seen before in a full-length film. The movie makes no attempt to blend in what is real and what isn't. Instead, in many scenes, you have folks walking within giant paintings which appear to have been painted during the 18th century--when the film was to have occurred. It is VERY striking and very unusual--and you can't help but notice it.

The story is an essentially true story about a woman named Grace Elliott--a very, very interesting lady. She was the mistress of the future King George IV of Britain and after giving birth to an illegitimate child, she left to live in France. There she became the mistress of the King of France's cousin, the Duke of Orleans. However, the timing for all this was very poor. That's because a few years later, the French Revolution arrived--and her now ex-lover, the Duke, begs her to leave the country. She insists she's safe and time passes. And, as time passes, the country becomes more paranoid and more self-destructive--killing off aristocrats and foreigners in the wake of a now insane revolution.

At this point in time, the Duke and Elliott have changed. Now, the liberal-minded Duke has embraced the Revolution and is an official in its new government. She, on the other hand, is a die-hard royalist who really should keep her opinions to herself. Yet, despite their different paths, they remained friends--though there was a lot of tension between them, as the Duke eventually consented to the execution of the King--something Elliott had a hard time forgiving. What's next for this unusual lady? See for yourself in this excellent film.

The film was based in part on the autobiography of Elliott--which was published after her death. Earlier I said the story is ESSENTIALLY true because I did some reading and found that she had a tendency to sometimes 'embellish' the facts, though what's in the film is what occurred. Overall, a fascinating look into the insanity of the French Revolution and at a particularly unusual woman. Well worth seeing.
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8/10
"The Lady and the Duke" is depressing story of the Terror
chuck-reilly17 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Lucy Russell stars as the real-life Grace Elliott in "The Lady and the Duke", a story taken directly from Ms. Elliot's memoirs of her time during the French Revolution. It's an altogether depressing tale that remains true to the facts of the period and directed with an artistic flourish by Eric Rohmer. The film is also in French with English subtitles which may turn off some potential viewers. Grace Elliott was a high-class courtesan who is most famous for being the mistress of the Duke of Orleans, a first cousin of the King of France (Louis XVI). Unfortunately for the King (and Grace), the Duke takes a position on the side of the radical Republicans and votes for Louis' death on the guillotine. The rest of the movie follows Grace as she does her best to avoid the same fate of her remaining Royalist friends. She barely makes it out alive. The Duke isn't so lucky. The Radical Jacobins turn on their own and in the ensuing blood bath (the "Terror") the Duke finds out that what comes around goes around.

All things considered, "The Lady and the Duke" is a fine period piece although some might find director Rohmer's technique a bit distracting. In lieu of real scenery, he films some scenes with his actors situated directly in front of large paintings of the countryside. It doesn't cheapen the movie in any way, but it is a bit excessive and overly ornate. One of his better scenes, and where he uses a real location shot, is when Ms. Elliott rides through Paris during severe upheaval and outbreaks of horrific violence. The chaos of the times is duly recorded and once again our heroine escapes with her head still on her shoulders.

"The Lady and the Duke" features excellent performances by the two leads, Russell as Elliott and Jean-Claude Dreyfus as the Duke. The rest of the cast is uniformly good. The film is informative about the events of this tragic age and is worth viewing even if one is not a student of France's Revolution. And no wonder the French turned to Napoleon after the Terror ran its course. Compared to Robespierre, Marat and their ilk, the Emperor must have seemed like a humanitarian.
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Opinions
skayp1 December 2004
Recently I watched this movie with a friend. Our opinions differed. I kind of liked the film, despite the not so convincing background and long dialogues but my friend was completely and utterly bored. The plot is rather engaging however, and kept me watching it for two hours straight (and my friend an hour and a half before deciding she had had enough). There are some violent (but unrealistic) scenes, so if your history teacher recommends you to watch it and you have two hours to spare, then watch it. But you don't miss much from not watching it either. I didn't regret watching it like i did with some movies, so this movie is not that bad. At least it gave me some ideas about the period of the French Revolution.
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2/10
Slow and unengaging
Gazza-327 November 2001
Much has been made of Rohmer's use of digital technology to 'fill in' the background. At times it works well, the scene where Grace and her maid witness from afar the King's execution is particularly striking. At other times it gives the film a strangely amateurish look, resembling a home video. However, the major failing is that the sheer artificiality of the mise en scene creates an alienating effect in the viewer. We know that what we are watching is not real so how can we feel for the characters? To be frank, I did not care at all what happened to the Lady or the Duke.

The other major failing, I regret to say, is the performance of Lucy Russell in the leading role. She is in virtually every scene and the success or otherwise of the film rests on her performance. OK she is speaking a foreign language but she is incapable of expressing real emotion. Her emoting in the scene where she recounts to her friend Mme de Meyler (an excellent performance by the debutante Helena Dubiel) seeing the head on a pole caused some embarrassed laughter in the audience. Also, watch her hands when she is expressing emotion!

All in all a very disappointing film, particularly given the positive reviews on this site.
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Odd and tiresome
neroville2 September 2003
I've seen a lot of films set during the French Revolution, and this odd and tiresome effort by Eric Rohmer is definitely not one of the better ones. I can't help but feel that Rohmer had some grand vision for this movie, as recreating the life and vision of some late 18th century aristocrat, and he did not entirely succeed. For starters, the film seems less 18th century and more like a late 19th century stage play- filmed in the style of an early silent film, circa 1915. One almost expects the actors to begin to gesture wildly and start rolling their eyes. Character development is non-existent, and the direction, with its paucity of camera angles, is nothing to write home about. The actors do the best they can, but there is only so much that they can do, given the clunky script and direction. I didn't find the film to be boring exactly... just odd and half-baked. The much-ballyhooed digital backgrounds add to the air of weird, never-never land detachment to the entire proceedings.

All in all, this is not the worst movie I've seen, but if you really want to get into the mindframe of 18th century nobility, then I would highly recommend the 1999 Masterpiece Theater miniseries "Aristocrats," which is far more entertaining, convincing and involving than "Lady and the Duke." If you wish to see a great film about the French Revolution, then go see "La Révolution Française" with Jane Seymour and Klaus Maria Brandauer (if you can find it), or "Danton" with Gerard Depardieu. Even the 1938 "Marie Antoinette" is more interesting than the Rohmer film, and Norma Shearer's reaction to the Princesse de Lamballe's head is a great deal more powerful than Lucy Russell's.
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4/10
In one door and out the other
eldino336 October 2009
Revolutions always present opportunities for dramatic films since, in fact, most revolutions are in themselves dramatic events. Unfortunately, what this film lacks in drama is compensated for by an overabundance of boredom. One cares not who wins, loses, dies or lives--just end it as soon as possible. This is due in large measure to what seems to me to be a superficial use of background technology. Scenes of Paris and the French countryside have a cardboard quality about them. They might better be done on a bare stage and left that way. One cannot expect the amazing effects of "The House of the Flying Daggers" or "The Golden Compass," but , after all, this is a 2002 digitally mastered production. Characters seem to enter a scene for the sake of entering a scene, so much so that one loses count of the number of times character enter and leave rooms. In my view, this film turns the French Revolution of the 1790s into the "papier-mache" revolution of a "papier colle" world.
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Refined Abstraction
tedg4 August 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

I am a newcomer to Rohmer?s work, having seen only two before this. But this is so intelligent, so imaginative, I must rush to see what else I can. He works with the nature of the telling by focusing on the manner of telling. Here, he selects a subject that concerns artifice and abstraction (the aristocratic manners with a former mistress, and theideals of the French revolution). And he presents them according to his understanding of how artificial and abstract they are.

The presentation is shocking. If you haven?t seen it, he has flattened all the sets by literally using paintings with people superposed. This is done inside as well where all the walls are flat and have texture painted on them. Doors, cupboards also. We are transported to a theatrical world where the actors not only perform for us, the characters perform for each other. Very clever notion that reminds us how synthetic ?normal? film is.

At the same time, we have Rohmer?s constant fixation with how abstract notions interact with reality. Here we have the French revolution. Unlike that which took place in North America the decade before, this was pure ideals not at all practicalized. (Dr Franklin was appalled.) And it was heavy with opportunists and posers. The notion of how things were, how they should be, how one should comport, what constitutes a ?nation,? or ?liberty? -- all abstractions. Presented in the form of dialog between two people who could not shape it.

Sex is the driver here, at least of the characters we see. But it is so refined, so submerged one completely forgets the moist clutch and replaces it with the unctious glance.

It seems to me that Rohmer?s relationship with his actors and the text is slight, as it should be, allowing him to focus on the space around them. Other filmmakers frame their shots around the principles and a few elements from the environment. Rohmer frames his entirely from the environment, which incidentally flattens everything -- even without the painting trick.

This is the logical extension of "Marquis," May Rohmer live long enough to go further.

Ted?s Evaluation: 3 of 4 : Worth Watching.

IMDB: 10
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Depressing The Tale of the French Revolution
Chuck-18520 November 2002
"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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7/10
Erich Rohmer uses the latest in digital technology to tell the tale of a Scottish upper class lady who gets caught in Paris during the outbreak of the French Revolution.
claytonlowe30 September 2001
Erich Rohmer's "L'Anglaise et le duc" makes a perfect companion piece to Peter Watkins' "La Commune (Paris 1871)." Both films -screened at this year's Toronto International Film Festival- ironically illustrate how history is shaped to by the tellers of the tale. Ironic, given the tragic events that were taking place in the U.S. during the festival.

Set in Paris during the French Revolution, the movie, based on Grace Elliott's (Lucy Russell) "Memoirs," is a first-hand account of how she survived those heady but dangerous days. She also details her relationship with The Duke of Orleans (played by Jean-Claude Dreyfus), who, in contrast to herself, is a supporter of the Revolution.

True to form, you don't know whose side of history Rohmer is going to come down on. One of the earliest of the French "New Wave" filmmakers, Rohmer has often been criticized for being too conservative. After all, in the midst of the rebelling-youth-Viet-Nam days of the late 60s and 70s, he was filming romantic little confections like "Claire's Knee." But don't sell the old boy short, folks, he's always been a student of human nature, not an ideologue, and "L'Anglaise et le duc" continues to bear this out.

Rohmer's characters are never the "bad guys" nor the "good guys'; they are first and foremost human beings who are capable of exhibiting a full range of human potentialities -and limitations. That's why his movies are always provocative, and this film is no exception.

Now for the technological nuts and bolts.

Rohmer, though making his way into his 80s, is still on the cutting-edge of cinematic innovation. The look of "L'Anglaise" is like something you've never seen before. You guessed it, the old guy -like several of the festival's directors this year- has gone digital.

All of the movie's exterior scenes look as though they are taking place in their original 1780s Parisian settings. As a matter of fact, you may get so distracted from marveling at the authenticity of the film's look you may have to go back for a second screening to catch the subtleties of the film's psychological -and yes, I'll say it- political insights.

Toronto features some of the world's edgiest young filmmakers this year, as well as some of the world's oldest. And the old masters are standing there on cinema's cutting-edges right alongside the young ones.

Long live youth. Long live old age. And long live Erich Rohmer.
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Not sure what to think of this... mostly negative
rooprect22 December 2008
Acclaimed director Eric Rohmer tries to pull off some revolutionary ideas, but I'm not entirely convinced of a success. Perhaps the most striking deviation from classic film is his use of hyper-saturated digital colours. As other reviewers have pointed out, this is Rohmer's way of creating a living 18th century oil painting. But as the other reviewers also have pointed out, it's not always convincing. Indeed there are a handful of magnificent scenes where he succeeds. For a split second you're not sure if the camera is focused on a fancy Rococo painting...until suddenly the characters begin to move and talk. But the problem arises once the gimmick wears off, and those same vivid images begin to look like cheap CGI trickery, common in low budget made-for-TV films.

The next biggest flaw--an bizarre oversight which I can't fathom--is the lack of music except at the very beginning and the very end. If this movie is indeed an aristocrat's view of late 18th century France, complete with impeccable costumes and fancy furniture, shouldn't there be, at the very least, an occasional Mozart, Rousseau or Bréval sonata in the soundtrack to help us settle into the period? Instead the scenes are awkwardly silent. I never realized how distracting it can be to NOT have music in a film!

Last topic: character development. We get a nice performance from Lucy Russell as the "Englishwoman" (she did an excellent job of creating a Parisian accent tainted with Scottish roots, and when she "dumbs it down" in the scenes where she's pretending to be a tourist, it's very impressively done). But unfortunately I feel like hers was the only character that had any soul. Jean-Claude Dreyfus (the Duke), who was riveting in DELICATESSEN as the heartless villain, and equally memorable in CITY OF LOST CHILDREN as the big ole softy, never seemed to have a clear character in this film. This, I believe, is the fault of the director. He should have given Dreyfus a few closeups to allow us to see that very expressive face of his. Instead, I recall seeing only full body shots and profiles where we're not sure how genuine he is. The result is that you never trust the Duke at his words; you never know if he's a "good guy" or a "bad guy". It also doesn't help that the Lady is constantly flip-flopping her affections/hatred toward him. The resulting character confusion leads to us, the audience, becoming apathetic and distanced from the Duke.

The story itself is very interesting, but I won't get into that because I don't want to ruin anything if you decide to see the film. Overall... I really don't know what to think of this. It held my interest for two hours but was never quite satisfying. Watch it on a rainy day and judge for yourself.
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4/10
Stolid and static
paul2001sw-113 July 2007
Eric Rohmer's 'The Lady and the Duke' is based on the journals of an English aristocrat who lived through the French revolution. But it's a stilted affair, with its strange, painted backdrops and mannered conversational tone. Most notably, this portrait of age of terror takes place almost entirely at one remove from the real action; one sees very little of ordinary people in this movie, and little of the chaos, poverty and terror that unfolded away from the drawing rooms of the persecuted, but spoilt, aristocratic classes. The result is frequently dull, and ultimately unenlightening about the forces that sometimes drive societies to the brink of destruction; it's a disappointing film from an acclaimed director.
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Digital sets aren't enough
jxhensley1 September 2002
I'm worried that a trend is developing (call it "Lucas's Disease") in which moviegoers care more about digital sets than the story being told. The digital sets in this film are very attractive and are used much better than in "Attack of the Clones." The performances are moderately good (The heroine's dependence on servants reminded me of Scarlett O'Hara).

Neither of these makes up for the poor script, though. The heroine's royalist sentiments are zero-dimensional ("But he's the king!"). Her flight from Paris is completely devoid of suspense. There's no indication of the smouldering romance that supposedly exists between the lead characters. But the worst part is the repetition! Characters repeat what they said in the previous scene, which was a summary of what happened in the scene before that. I sat through this twice (the flight from Paris and the return to Paris), but when it happened again (the vote), I WALKED OUT. I can't wait for digital sets to become the norm, so that people will again pay attention to the rest of the movie.

Oh, and I hope the next film about the French revolution doesn't have Republican soldiers who act like the Keystone Kops.
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3/10
Rohmer Makes the French Revolution Boring
noralee14 October 2005
As a fan of Eric Rohmer's studies of the contemporary war between the sexes, I was very eager to see "The Lady and The Duke (L'Anglaise et le duc)" for how he would treat men and women during a real war, the French Revolution.

The film looks beautiful, with each scene designed as a period painting, like a tableaux vivant. And I expected much talking, as that's Rohmer's style. But maybe Rohmer was restrained by basing the screenplay on a real woman's writings is why this mostly felt like a docudrama version of "The Scarlet Pimpernel."

As awful as the excesses of Robespierre et al, how about some recognition that the French aristocrats were spoiled brats? I kept humming to myself: "Marat, we're poor/and the poor stay poor;" you could also pick a tune from "Les Miz."

I wasn't all that sympathetic as the central figure has to go back and forth between her city home and country manor to stay ahead of the Revolution. At one point her maid claims the pantry is bare but sure manages to lay out a fine repast. I simply didn't understand her, an English sympathizer who alternately rejects and defends her former lover and patron as he and the Revolution keep shifting political focus; I think I was supposed to sympathize with her consistency more than their political machinations, like a character out of "The Scarlet Pimpernel." Hey, the only reason she didn't go back home was her disgrace after an affair and child with the Prince of Wales or somebody.

Usually in a revolutionary period there's some groundswell of change going on in relations between men and women, but I saw none here. I once went to a Herbert Marcuse lecture that concluded with a lengthy Q & A; the last question, from an audience member far older than the rest of us acolytes, heck she had gray hair, was "Why are revolutionaries so grim?" She was hooted at and Marcuse didn't deign to respond to it seriously -- but it's the only thing of substance I remember from the whole evening. Rohmer demonstrates that counter-revolutionaries are also grim and didactic.

(originally written 8/11/2002)
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Oh, those digital blues
taylor988529 September 2002
I guess when you reach the age of eighty or so, as Rohmer has done, there is a certain loss of energy. Your horizons are no longer vast, your vision becomes cramped. Rohmer has seized upon digital technology to get him through the ardors of telling a simple story. I can't think why he uses fakery when the real buildings in which these events took place are still standing. Every director of his generation did an historical film--even Truffaut (L'Enfant sauvage)--and they made them look real without the dubious benefits of c. g. i.

There is some of the charm of Ma nuit chez Maud or Le genou de Claire, but this one leaves the impression of hammy acting mainly. Jean-Claude Dreyfus started making TV commercials then graduated to bit parts in small budget pictures (he's the butcher in Delicatessen). He does pretty well with Philippe-Egalite, but there are plenty better actors in France (what Jean-Pierre Marielle could have done with this plum). Lucy Russell does a very good job with a French role; I wanted to award her with the John Malkovich Prize for Second-Language Achievement.

The lack of any forward motion in the story-telling leaves us with just a series of animated engravings to look at. There is zero excitement; I spent most of the running time walking around the back of the theater, trying to get my pulse going.
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7/10
Like a living museum...
rainking_es17 May 2008
Rohmer strays from his usual portraits of french middle class to tell this costume drama about the difficulties of an aristocrat lady during the french revolution. What's more attractive about "La Anglaise..." (apart from the story itself) is the fabulous aesthetics that Rohmer has achieved. The images have been digitally decorated too make them look like baroque pictures. In some moments you can't really say whether your watching a movie or a series of pictures in Louvre Musseum. Every shot is like a piece of art.

*My rate: 7.5/10

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10/10
Courage and Integrity
mflint224 July 2002
I was particularly moved by the understated courage and integrity of l'Anglaise, in this beautifully acted, intellectually and visually compelling film. Thank you so much, Monsieur le directeur Rohmer.
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8/10
Great movie with very reactionary politics behind
Andy-29629 December 2006
Rohmer returns to his historical dramas in the real story of Grace Elliot, an Englishwoman who stayed in France during the apex of the French Revolution. One always suspected that Rohmer was a conservative, but who knew he was such a red-blooded reactionary. If you can put aside Rohmer's unabashed defense of the monarchy (and that is not an easy thing to do, given that, for instance, the French lower classes are portrayed here as hideous louts), this is actually an elegant, intelligent and polished movie. Lacking the money for a big cinematic recreation of 18th century France, Rohmer has instead the actors play against obvious painted cardboards. It is a blatantly artificial conceit, but it somehow works. And newcomer Lucy Russell succeeds in making sympathetic a character that shouldn't be.
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