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on March 8, 2017
This is the greatest Napoleonic-era movie ever made. The costumes, sets and lighting are nearly perfect. Only Kubrick came close with Barry Lyndon for this kind of period piece. Gance's Napoleon was amazing but you don't get the colour explosion. Harvey and Keith give amazing performances. Plus it's a great story!
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on February 2, 2013
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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on May 18, 1999
Overshadowed by his later, more successful works, The Duelist is one of Scott's finest films. Scott is frequently damned with faint praise about his abilities as a visual stylist. What's missing is his attention to theme, character and story details. While some of his narratives can be muddled (look at Someone To Watch Over Me or even his classic Blade Runner as examples), he never loses sight of character and theme and their importance to his films.
This film, along with Alien, Thelma & Louise and Blade Runner ranks as one of his best films.
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on June 17, 2017
surpringly effective,I am delighted it actually works...was soo impressed by it Just as described and worked great... Thanks It does a good job. Nice. Does exactly what it ways it does. very useful and adaptable
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on March 9, 2003
After 42 reviews not much remains to be said, except there is a must for Napoleonic wargamers interested on the evolution of the uniform of Hussars. Same for reenactors and lovers of the period.
A part from that for my taste is a truly masterpiece of ambiance and truly a trip backwards in time, utterly believable "mise en scene". BRAVO!.
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on May 16, 2004
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. Paramount has Packed this film with extras including a commentary from Scott: "Dueling Directors" featuring director Kevin Reynolds interviewing Scott; Scott's first short film "Boy on a Bike" (featuring his brother and future director Tony Scott); isolated score and commentary by Howard Shore as well as the theatrical trailer. The sound although not quite up to the standard of current films (it was made, afterall, in 1977), has a splendid range and there's minimal distoriton.
This sharply directed and written film deserves as much attention as Scott's other more mainstream features. Although no Scott film is without merit (even "Someone to Watch Over Me" and the Hammer-like "Hannibal"), "The Duelists" deserves its spot as one of Scott's five or six best films.
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on September 5, 2003
Ridley Scott has a fine eye. Many of his films are not my favorites because of their high-concept stories, but visually, few directors can touch Scott's sense of space, time, and composition. This little-seen gem is comparable only to Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece "Barry Lyndon" in its attempt to create the ambient light and sense of place of the late 1700's -early 1800's.
Based on a story by Joseph Conrad, chosen because the rights had lapsed, the film concerns two French hussar officers, one of whom, played with republican fervor by Harvey Keitel, is quick to anger and to duel. His nemesis is the aristocratic officer played by Robert Carradine, who doesn't understand why Keitel hates him so much. The film follows their careers in the Napoleonic wars over the course of fifteen years, from the early triumphs of l'Emporer in Lubeck, to the disaster of Russia, and the return of the Bourbon's. Despite their long-standing animosity, Carradine even saves Keitel from the guillotine, for which he his repayed with disdain and aggression.
This story is episodic, and there are many loose ends, but who cares? This is one of the most astonishing films ever made in its meticulousness, it's bravery (not cow-towing to hi-key filmic conventions), it's invention (a budget of only $900,000 dollars?!) and in the totally successful vision the filmmakers put up on the screen. Films costing 10 times as much or more are not so riviting as this film.
Scott did have to compromise; he wished for Michael York and Oliver Reed, but the financiers wanted American actors. Even though Carradine is occasionally weak, Keitel is intense throughout.
The Duellist is one of my favorite films. The DVD transfer is immaculate and the special features give us interviews with Ridley Scott, and the film's composers notes on his musical choices.
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on November 5, 2003
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.
Carradine and Keitel play the roles of two French officers in Napoleon's army who find themselves engaged in a perpetual series of duels lasting over 20 years. Their duels seems to reflect an ongoing thematic clash between belligerence and honor and how each seems to feed the other. Both characters mirror each other in how they develop throughout the story until the end. Keitel plays the role of the belligerent officer who seeks to establish his honor and importance by agression; no pretext is too small or absurd for a duel to the death. Caradine is his antagonist as one who will defend his honor to the last; even when the pretext of insult is so groundless as to be even too comical to fight over. Scott also seems to present an analogy between Keitel's belligerent nature and that of Napoleon's imperialistic ambitions. At the end of the movie, Keitel is interestingly the one who, in a wretched state of poverty, remains a loyal supporter of Napoleon to the last while Caradine has moved on to associate himself with the returned aristocracy and cozy entourage of King Louis XVIII. The last scene shows Keitel with his Napoleanic hat staring over a valley and green fields in an almost imaginary trance. This seems to parallel an image of Napoleon as he would have looked over the seas in either St Helen or Elba still inisting to be called emperor and imagining of his future conquests to come which, of course, would never come again.
As usual, Ridley Scott immerses the audience in a plush, almost dreamlike, imagery of the European landscape with all the pageantry of the Napoleonic era. All of his scenes are rich in color and mood. The movie almost becomes a little too slow in its transitions but this is minor. A good movie that has all of the right elements and appeals to all genders.
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on July 8, 2003
This first film by Ridley Scott blew me away when I first saw it. With some of the finest cinematography, by Frank Tidy, I had ever seen and meticulous period detail, this story of two officers in Napolean's army that engage in a series of duels over the 16 years of Napolean's reign in between his various wars, was a gem of economic story-telling, and provided an interesting slant on duty and honor.
Keith Carradine as Armond D'Hubert and Harvey Keitel as Gabriel Feraud may seem odd choices for the leads, and some may be unable to look past their accents, but the two actors bring the correct personalities and attitudes to their characters. Carradine's D'Hubert has reluctantly been drawn into these deadly contests in the name of honor by the unremitting, mulish obstinancy of Keitel's Feraud. Carradine's lanky correctness is countered by Keitel's ferocious intensity. D'Hubert is a thoughtful, dutiful man; Feraud is a mean little cuss and obstinancy personified.
There are some memorable scenes in the film: an early morning duel with golden light bathing the stone walls of a manor; a wounded Carradine in a bathtub, terrifed to sneeze; a ferocious fight in a barn shot in diffused natural lighting; the ice and snow of Napolean's retreat from Russia, with the mute eloquence of the frozen dead; the final duel in the gardens of a ruined castle. Wonderful stuff.
Carradine's character shows us the fear and frustration of facing the blind and unreasoning enmity of Keitel's character. As his mistress says to Keitel "you feed your spite on him". The various duels are great, thanks to the choreography of Bill Hobbs who shows dueling as FIGHTING(as he did in the Musketeers movies). It all culminates in an ending that is most satisfying.
With terrific costumes and hairstyles that change over the period covered, and aided by cameo performances from Tom Conti, Robert Stephenson, Albert Finney, and Diana Quick and Christina Raines, this overlooked gem is well worth your while.
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on October 12, 2003
Director Ridley Scott (Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, Alien) made his directorial debut with this overlooked gem - THE DUELLISTS, based on a story by Joseph Conrad. Released in 1977, the movie didn't make much of an impact in the US, although it was nominated for the Golden Palm at Cannes and won Scott the coveted Best First Work at that festival.
The movie chronicles the long-lasting feud between two French officers, the hot-headed Feraud (played by Harvey Keitel) and the more even-keeled D'Hubbert (played by Keith Carradine), during the Napoleonic wars. The feud has murky beginnings, but it lasts for decades due to the lead characters' desires to avoid losing their "honor." As they cross paths during various parts of their lives, they duel.
The duel scenes are well-filmed and add a great deal of excitement to the plot. The main story is also interesting, as the men's duels forge an unlikely relationship between them. The lead actors do a passable job in their roles, although they seem out of place amongst the largely British supporting players; Keitel actually seems more at place in the film, despite his eastern accent. Finally, the cinematography is stunning, and it's one of the most beautiful looking films of its period; the look of the film is a bit like "Barry Lyndon," although the tone is warmer. Overall, this film is an intriguing part of the Ridley Scott canon; it stands among his best works and one of the most overlooked films of the 70s.
DVD extras: director's commentary with Ridley Scott, and director Keith Reynolds also interviews Scott.
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