Lady And The Duke

aka L’ANGLAISE ET LE DUC
Movie Review by Alice Castle

Starring: Lucy Russell, Jean-Claude Dreyfus, François Marthouret, Leonard Cobiant
Director: Eric Rohmer

Feted at London and Venice Film Festivals, Eric Rohmer’s historical drama tells the story of Grace Elliot, a feisty Scots woman trapped in Paris during the French revolution. A true story, Elliott, a committed and outspoken royalist wrote an account of her house arrest and experience as mistress of the Duc de L’Orleans. Cousin of King Louis XIV, the Duc de L’Orleans, played by the actor Jean-Claude Dreyfus, was a staunch supporter of the Revolution in its earliest stages, but was later denounced as an aristocrat and sent for the chop. Elliot, his faithful lover insisted on staying on in France to be with him and show her support for the King and Queen rather than flee back to Britain like many of her fellow countrymen.

French New Wave Director Eric Rohmer, now in his eighties, has used DV film to create a range of images of Paris during the Revolution. Tired of seeing the same old scenes in films on the subject, Rohmer decided to create his own. Characters promenade through scenes like chocolate box illustrations and make the watercolour backgrounds spring to life.

The main focus of the film is on newcomer actress Lucy Russell who plays Grace. Russell was selected from a list of hopefuls because she was the only blonde, blue-eyed Englishwoman with fluent French who had made the effort to read Elliot’s memoirs. Grace’s salon is where most of the film takes place. Here she discusses her political views with friends and associates – and even hides one of the Revolutionaries ‘most-wanted aristos’ under her bedclothes. When the question of whether the King should be executed is discussed, Grace cannot hide her disgust at her lover the Duke for his faltering sympathies and takes to her bed like all pre-emancipated female heroines. Under Robespierre’s new Republic, Orleans’ Regal connections will not be as advantageous as they once were.

Excellent performances by Russell and Dreyfus, who will undoubtedly join the highly esteemed line-up of Rohmer’s memorable casts.

4 out of 6 stars

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