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The Duellists

4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)

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5.0 out of 5 stars A Question of Honour Feb. 2 2013
By Argus TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
Few films are more beautiful to look at than Ridley Scott's debut feature from 1977, "The Duellists." Although the bluray release by Shout Factory is only a marginal improvement on the 2002 DVD release, it might be argued that any enhancement of such a sumptuous visual treat should be welcomed.

The film rolls like a sequence of classical paintings with Scott's uncanny eye for lighting and colour applied to perfectly composed interiors and ravishing locations in the Dordogne. Uniforms, weapons, fencing techniques and hairstyles are meticulously faithful to the Napoleonic period. The illusion of historical richness is furthered by Howard Blake's evocative score and the thoughtfully elegeant script, an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's novella, "The Duel."

The story is of a long-running duel between two French cavalry officers pursued for its own sake in which ideas of honour, obsession and obligation are examined. Writer Gerald Vaughan-Hughes provides a cinematic dimension by interposing a premarital relationship for one of the protagonists, Armand D'Hubert (Keith Carradine), to accentuate the destructive nature of his contest with adversary, Gabriel Ferraud (Harvey Keitel). Keitel brings a passionate intensity to his role of a resentful man driven "to feed his spite" on a fellow officer of privileged background whom he sees as a pampered "general's poodle." As the hero, Carradine offers the counter-balance of reason with a character of easy charm but one which also raises interesting questions about life's priorities.

Good performances are also given by Albert Finney, Robert Stephens, Diana Quick, Meg Wynn Owen, Edward Fox and Tom Conti.

Special features: the bluray edition includes an exclusive new interview with Keith Carradine.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Obsession May 16 2004
By A Customer
Driven by a compulsion to fight a duel at the slightest insult, Harvey Keitel plays Lt. Feurandin the French army during the time of Napleon who lives by the sword. When Keith Carradine's D'Hubert is sent out to convey a message from their French commander to cease fighting duels after badly injuring the mayor of a town, Keitel's character finds the message and delivery insulting enough to--yes--challenge Carradine to a duel then and there. Carradine ends the duel by knocking Keitel's character out with a block from the butt of his sword.
From there they both spiral into the madness and obsession of Feruand and D'Hubert's need to win at all costs. Fighting over the years, they lose loved ones and, in a sense, lose themselves as the passion for the fight becomes everything. By the end neither man understands why they are truly fighting or what they are fighting for.
Ridley Scott's first feature film was his fourth attempt at making a full length film. Based on a short story by Conrad that eventually became part of a much larger narrative canvas, "The Duelists" catches Scott in perfect form the first time out. While Scott expanded his scope in higher profile films ("Alien", "Blade Runner", "Thelma and Louise" and "Gladiator"), his visual and narrative style blossomed in his very first "epic" (made for a paltry $1 million)film.
The powerful performances by the international cast manages to overcome the minor differences in accents (Keitel's Brooklyn accent vs. Carradine's California twang vs. Tom Conti's British accent, etc.). Visually and thematically powerful, "The Duelists" remains one of Scott's best films.
The anamorphic widescreen transfer looks marvelous despite some minor blemishes.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Point / Counterpoint March 23 2004
The Duellists finally arrives on DVD. At long last Ridley Scott's first film is available to the public and it was well worth the wait. The skimpy $900k budget looks more like $60 million in the hands of Scott. Using only real locations and splurging on costumes, this Napoleonic epic looks as good as any other, if not better. This is an intimate story and not one of those sweeping, libertine war melodramas. The story and acting are good, but what really stands out about this picture is the jaw droping cinematography. Scott employed a special photochemical process to enhance the contrast of the film. This is most noticed in the velvety depths of the shadows, and darker tones. The end result is a film that, often, looks like a moving Rembrandt. The above average DVD transfer serves to preserve this. I may be crazy, but it seems to me that Scott may be trying to provide us with contrapuntal films to those of Kubrick. I think that, thematically and stylistically, the Duellists is simply a boiled down version of Barry Lyndon. I think that it could also be said that Alien was probably the reactionary product of 2001. Anyway, the DVD extras provide some interesting vantage into the making and history of this great film.
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After directing some thousand commercials (even he's not sure of the number) over fifteen years, Ridley Scott finally got the money together to make a feature film. And for only $900,000 he turned out what must be one of the breathtakingly beautiful period films of all time. It looks like it cost $10 mil, easily! The visual are at the same level as Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon"; it's easy to forget you're watching a movie made in the 1970s and fall headlong into this oil portrait of the early 1800s. Scott shows what a visual genius and stylist he is in this first movie, and would prove it with his later classics "Alien," "Blade Runner," and "Gladiator."
The simple plot follows the conflict between two soldiers, played by Keither Carradine and Keitel. The origins of the fight are obscure, and soon neither man remembers the reason for it. But over the years they clash, whittling each other away with sabers and pistols for some concept of "honor" on which they cannot agree.
The duels are pretty spectacular, especially the saber fights. Scott tosses all the old fashioned Hollywood swashbuckler styles out and shows bloody, weighty, and furiously realistic combat. Those sabres really could take your arm right off, and they're heavy.
Keitel, of course, is great in the role, but Carradine is a real surprise, carrying the main role with great pride and seriousness. Plenty of great British character actors are on hand as well, such as Robert Stephens (love that guy's voice!). And Stacy Keach does the narration (an odd move to have American voice, but it works.)
You should see the "Duellists" for the visuals alone -- they're like romantic oil paintings come to life, but it's also a thrilling story with great performances. No wonder Scott was instantly recognized as a new talent and given the director's chair on "Alien"!
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Duelling Is An Obsession..
This was like watching a painting on a moving ship,then trying to see who moved,
but like every good ship, there're a very few merry men,who can hold their own and live to... Read more
Published 18 months ago by trek fan
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
My favorite movie of all time. Visually stunning, superbly acted. Keitel is amazing. A must see.
Published 19 months ago by Harv Basler
5.0 out of 5 stars Gem of a movie!
This is a little gem of a movie. It's cinematography is pure gold. For any still photographers out there that have studied photo composition or for that matter painters that... Read more
Published on April 3 2012 by dmcnairn
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!
One of the finest and most accurate visual depictions of very early 19th Century France combined with the viscerally tense drama of the two French cavalry officers who spend 15 or... Read more
Published on Sept. 16 2009 by David L. Hamilton
4.0 out of 5 stars VISUAL FEAST -
I enjoyed this film because the producers have captured the era magnificentley with respect to period detail as well as the language and of course the mood of the time. Read more
Published on June 10 2004 by Panos
4.0 out of 5 stars beautiful movie
the whole thing shot in natural light. Simply wonderful.
Published on Feb. 9 2004 by Gregory C Utz
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Movie
This is one of my four favorite movies of all time (in company with Lawrence of Arabia, Henry V and the Jackson Ring Trilogy--which counts as 1 in my book). I adore this film! Read more
Published on Dec 25 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars cinematography by Rembrandt?
The DUELLISTS, the first film by GLADIATOR director Ridley Scott, is the story of two soldiers in Napoleon's army who pursue a point of honor to the point of absurdity, fighting... Read more
Published on Dec 1 2003 by Simon Crowe
4.0 out of 5 stars Swords or Pistols Monsieur?
Ridley Scott's film starring Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel explores the concepts of honor and belligerence in the context of 19th century France and the Napoleanic Wars. Read more
Published on Nov. 5 2003
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