The Lady And The Duke (Cert PG)


Two cheers for the French

writer director Eric Rohmer, who is still

extending his range at the age of 81.

His new costume drama plays with

digital technology to place his

actors inside paintings of the late

18th century.

It is these shots -

often ravishingly beautiful - that

will stay in my mind, and deserve to

act as inspiration to younger, less

original film-makers.

Rohmer tells the true story of the

Englishwoman Grace Elliott (Lucy

Russell) who lived through the

Terror after the French Revolution,

and enjoyed an up-and-down

relationship with one of its leading

characters, the Duke of Orleans

(Jean-Claude Dreyfus).

There are two fine sequences -

one when she protects a man she

hardly knows by hiding him in her

bedchamber, the other when she is

on trial for her life for possession of

a supposedly incriminating letter.

These suspense-filled scenes count

for little, however, because they are

surrounded by acres of arid

conversation, with the most important

events occurring offscreen.

For a woman who made her career as

a mistress to the English and French

aristocracy, Grace seems curiously

asexual. The central relationship

lacks fire, and the exciting politics of

the period are made uninteresting.

Above all, the film lacks energy.

It looks, unfortunately, as though all

Rohmer's attention has gone into

mastering the digital technology.

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