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Lancelot of the Lake (Version française) [Import]
This 1974 masterpiece by the late Robert Bresson (Mouchette) is a remarkable act of mythic revisionism. Stripped bare of its enduring romance, the Arthurian legend in Bresson's hands becomes an ugly and uncomfortably familiar vision of powerful men capable of cruelty, rivalry, disillusionment, and self-destruction. Lancelot (Luc Simon) is portrayed as a ruthless and ignoble opportunist who returns from his impossibly futile mission to locate the Holy Grail, only to callously rekindle his affair with Guinevere (Laura Duke Condominas). The emotional impact of the film is that of pure shock: the Arthurian ideal turns out to have little chance in the real world, and as there may be nothing worse than a hollow dream, the Knights of the Round Table descend into selfishness. Known as the great minimalist of French cinema, Bresson uses his trademark repression of energy--editing action sequences so that the visual emphasis is on tiny details--to create a tension that finally snaps with the mucky dissipation of the dream on unhallowed ground: Camelot ending not with a bang or a whimper but with the last clank of armor in a deluded cause. --Tom Keogh --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The script is a journey to explore without restrictions a bitter sight to the decline , the decadence and the loss of the epic sense of the life , majesty and the deep hole of uncertainity and dissapointment around the values that once were .
The tale is always permeated of a dark poetry . The images don't reflect the state of the honor . You only watch the loyalty from a perverse angle.
Watch for instance the glorious and countless sequences in which we never see the horses' faces . Bresson employed that smart device in previous films like Joan of Arc , for instance , in which we never see the faces of the executioners or A man escapes where the nazi officers faces are always hidden in a clever mix of blame and betray .
The film is loaded with countless poetic images and a clear resources economy. Bresson is concerned more in what we must imagine that in what we can see. He introduces us in a mythical journey , but at last with the fall of the last warrior and the unforgettable and awful sequence of the iron skeletons make useless any word , and the powerful images talk by themselves.
Bresson employs the words in the its exact meaning ; he avoids long speechs ; he goes to the images , whose expresiveness go far beyond any kind of language.
With the glorious exception of Andrei Tarkovsky no other film maker has employed so wisely the visual language to express with such deepness and beauty the powerful of his message.
The meaning value of the genius is that he's like anyone , but anyone is like him.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
At the centre of this film stands the love between Guinevere and Lancelot, sublimely represented in the film: Guinevere waits for Lancelot's return in silence, and suffers for her love of him. Lancelot has come to the point where he tries to resist this love, for the sake of chivalry, but it is interesting to see the way in which he fails in his attempt to relinquish Guinevere.
I dare say this film is essential for anyone seriously interested in the Arthurian legend, and for anyone who has a clear understanding that the latter is not romance Hollywood style, but much darker. This is definitely not a film for everyone. There is a lot of blood and violence in the film, its atmosphere is dark, the dialogue is designedly monotonous, to match the sombre mood of the film, and there is no musical score throughout, except a very little in the beginning and end. It is exquisite in that it tells the story of a great love, accompanied by great suffering, and in that it demystifies any romantic notions we might have had about Arthur and his knights, as seen in other films of the genre. The austerity of the interiors also does away with our romantic illusions.
The acting is amazing, and I identified with the actor playing Guinevere in particular. The last scene of the movie, in which Lancelot, dying, says only one word: "Guinevre" (French version of Guinevere), stays with the viewer forever.
It's been two years since Arthur sent his knights on a quest for the Holy Grail. Now, exhausted, defeated, at odds with each other, their numbers severely reduced by disease and fighting, the remnants have returned. Lancelot saw in a dream that he must renounce his love for Arthur's queen, but Guinevere will have none of that. Mordred lurks in the shadows, hinting and insinuating. Before long, the knights have chosen sides. A few will stand with Lancelot in defense of Guinevere. The rest will stand...not with Arthur, but with Mordred.
Bresson has taken the Arthurian legend and turned it into a tale of hopeless pessimism. If you don't care for spoilers, read no further. How hopeless? Nearly everyone dies except Guinevere. There is no Robert Goulet in paper mache armor singing "If Ever I Should Leave You," no Nicol Williamson urging Arthur to do the right thing. It's difficult to say who is the more pig-headed...Guinevere for adamantly refusing to release Lancelot from his vows of love, or Lancelot later deciding that love is all. By the time they realize that Guinevere must return to Arthur, it's far too late.
The legend of Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot, and of Mordred and Gawain, is emotional and powerful. Bresson takes it and squeezes it down until it is nearly wrung dry. Loyalties are as much based on self-interest and delusion as on true fealty. Love is as selfish as it is consuming. There's no room for hope, or even noble tragedy, in Bresson's version of the myth. Making the movie even more difficult to access is the Bresson style. Even in the most charged moments, the characters speak in a monotone. Bresson's penchant for amateurs and a flat style of delivery can work wonders in some of his movies (just look at Au Hasard Balthazar), but here everything is just flat. The photography is fascinating -- particularly the tournament sequence; all close-ups of the sides of galloping horses, just the legs of the knights, the sound of lances crashing into armor -- but it also is self-conscious. More than once I caught myself thinking, "Wow, this shot is sure pure Bresson." That may do much for cineastes appreciating an auteur director; I'm not sure it does much, in this case, to advance the emotions of the story. And yet, the film picks up a lot of steam. The last half hour is a beautiful, powerful picture of pointlessness. Mordred and his followers are going to usurp Arthur. Lancelot and his followers will ride for Arthur. And we see a shot of a riderless horse galloping through the forest, then a cut to a knight on the ground bleeding to death, then yeoman in trees firing arrows, then the sequence again, and again, and again. No music, just the twang of arrows, the sound of hooves, the muted clanking of armor. And then we see a pile of dead and dying knights. There's no winsome little boy to carry the tale of Camelot this time.
On balance, I enjoyed the pessimism, the rhythm of the movie and some of the sequences. The film is worth seeing, but I just don't think this is one of Bresson's successes. The DVD has a fairly good film transfer. There are no extras.
Bresson without spiritual strength is all formality and pretense. Just imagine if Bresson made this film back in the 1950s or even 60s when he was on top of his game! What a masterpiece this could have been! As it is, this is not a film without merit but it lapses into stylized parody. Was Bresson even conscious of this or did he not care one bit like usual? Take the jousting sequence for one example. Endless shots of a musician playing the pipes, then endless shots of a flag being raised to denote a particular combatant, then endless shots of midsections of horses and combatants, then endless shots of crowd reactions. You could never tolerate anything like this from anyone but Bresson but here he's pushing it. Lancelot and Guinevere meet in secret to discuss their love and to discuss Lancelot forsaking that love to embrace a promise to God. The actors are rarely allowed to look at one another, their icy stares pointing downward. They meet again and again, say something half profound while staring at the ground and leave the scene. I can't go without mentioning Bresson's famous sound design. In prior films it is one of his strongest attributes, here in Lancelot of the Lake it turns into near comedy with the knights coming and going and their armor constantly clinking and rattling in every scene. It becomes ridiculous and even the most ardent of film fanatics will start to grin and possibly break out in a hearty laugh or two. It's a wild movie, what can I tell you. It is perhaps an anti-movie or one of the best examples of that.
Robert Bresson's work from the 1950s and 60s contain some of my all time favorite art in film form. Films like "Diary of a Country Priest", "A Man Escaped" and "Pickpocket". Quintessential films and not just for the movie buffs but for anyone capable of response to great art. Bresson's late period, from which all his color films spring, sport the same monumental technique but without the spiritual catharsis or rapture of the earlier work. If you are watching a black and white Bresson film, it will contain hope. If you are viewing a color film by Bresson, it will contain not much other than nihilism and despair. Well, it's all in French, so that makes it ok!
The film begins with the information that "The Grail has not been found" and ends with a single word and image that implode a whole universe of myth.
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