The Lady And The Duke review

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The Duke of Orleans (Jean-Claude Dreyfus) is a born-again revolutionary who sends his cousin Louis XVI to the guillotine, while English beauty Grace Elliott (Lucy Russell), the Duke's former lover, risks her life harbouring aristo Champcenetz (Léonard Cobiant).

Dry, intellectual dialogue is Eric Rohmer's trademark, and here the veteran French writer/director weaves Elliott's fascinating real-life memoir into a series of conversations. Together, they examine the moral justification and bloodthirsty fanaticism behind the French Revolution, Rohmer piecing everything together with lifeless precision. Which is disappointing, for such clockwork restraint shackles the thrilling period drama that's itching to break out, especially in the later scenes when Grace finds herself before a kangaroo court.

More irritating still is Rohmer's decision to digitally superimpose the cast on painted backdrops of late 18th century Paris. His intention may have been to go against the grain of the sumptuous, overcooked costume dramas that hold sway today, but the result is decidedly uncinematic.

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