The Lady and the Duke

(L'anglaise et le Duc)
France 2001. Dir: Eric Rohmer. 129 min. 35mm

35mm PRINT! Rohmer entered the aughts, as well as his eighties, with this hyper-stylized costume drama, the director’s first literary adaptation since his astonishing, misfit masterpiece Perceval (also screening) 23 years earlier. Based on the memoirs of Scottish courtesan and spy Grace Elliot, who aided monarchists in France during the Reign of Terror, it casts Lucy Russell (Toni Erdmann) opposite Jean-Claude Dreyfus (Delicatessen) as the titular aristocrats and former lovers — she a royalist sympathizer, he a throne-renouncing revolutionary. Rohmer, ahead of the curve, shot the film on burgeoning digital video and used blue-screen exteriors to superimpose his costumed players onto an uncanny, 18th-century Paris fabricated through CGI and matte painting. The result, elegant and unusual, adds a ravishing visual palette to this talkative tale of political intrigue and right-leaning historical revisionism. “Exquisite ... Visually innovative and intellectually astute” (Glenn Kenny, Premiere). Print courtesy TIFF’s Film Reference Library.




"History comes alive with verve and cold-sweat suspense in The Lady and the Duke ... An ambitious change of pace for Rohmer."

Variety | full review

"The director manages to evade both the stuffy antiquarianism and the pandering anachronism that subvert so many cinematic attempts at historical inquiry ... [The characters] seem at once entirely real and utterly of their time. And the time itself feels not so much reconstructed as witnessed."

New York Times | full review