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Perceval (1979)

Cast: Fabrice Luchini, Fabrice Luchini, André Dussollier, more...
Director: Eric Rohmer, Eric Rohmer
    see all cast/crew...
Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Fox Lorber
Genre: Drama, Foreign, Costume Drama/Period Piece, France
Running Time: 140 min.
Languages: French
Subtitles: English
    see additional details...

This dignified and stylized film, set in the Middle Ages, follows the exploits of Sir Perceval, a legendary exemplar of knightly chivalry and one of the champions of King Arthur's Round Table. The story is based on the verse tale Perceval ou le Conte del Graal. as recounted by the 12th-century French novelist Chrétien de Troyes. While living with his widowed mother, the young Perceval (Fabrice Luchini) is much impressed by the grandeur of the knights he sees, and he undertakes to become one. In one respect his sense of honor is peculiar, because he rapes several virgins in accordance with an enigmatic command from his mother. Even in this, he practically quivers with a burning desire to do good. Though the story's language has been modernized to make it comprehensible to modern French speakers, Eric Rohmer's screenplay retains the verse forms of the original. ~ Clarke Fountain, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

NOT a "medieval beer commercial" by hamano September 23, 2003 - 8:25 PM PDT
8 out of 8 members found this review helpful
In case you were led here by my slightly tongue-in-cheek blurb in the list 4Gradalis, I am posting a review which is hopefully more informative and helpful, especially in light of the fact that the synopsis offered above is accurate but suffers perhaps from being overly succinct.

If you're really in a mood to see something like a "medieval beer commercial" you should rent Brian Helgeland's A Knight's Tale starring Heath Ledger. This knight-as-rock-star tale has all the hallmarks of a new WB TV series, using songs by Queen and David Bowie to underscore scenes of jousting and banqueting. Stick around through the end credits for a round of funny farts by the principal actors.

Eric Rohmer's Perceval could be the polar opposite. It looks like the filmmakers went to the local Renaissance Fair and recruited a hippie theater troup to participate as actors. The acting style and set designs are intentionally kept very 2 dimensional. I think the intent is to reproduce the feeling of reading medieval literature or looking at medieval art. There's a high degree of artifice to the set designs (the entire film was shot in a studio) and things like scale and perspective are totally screwed up. The script is based on a 12 century unfinished manuscript by Chretien de Troyes and is faithful to the point of ending the film rather abruptly. The actors often narrate, on camera, the scenes that are taking place before or after saying their lines.

Perceval is also the opposite of Rohmer's usual films. Rohmer mostly makes realistic slice-of-life films set in modern France about people you might run into at a Paris cafe or office building. They hang out with lovers and friends, talk about work and romance, go on vacations, eat out, etc. etc. The scenes are usually shot on location, in real homes and apartments, on the beach, in a park, etc.

So it looks like Rohmer is "experimenting" here, exploring a style that is totally different from his other films.

If you like experimental or offbeat films, or if you are really a big fan of medieval stuff, this is a MUST RENT. The viewer is totally immersed in a illuminated book or tapestry brought to life. If you are a fan of action-movie style medieval fare, with flashy fight choreography and modern dialogue, stay away from this film and go have dinner at Medieval Times instead. You'll have more fun.

Notes on this edition: They used a mediocre print to make this DVD, resulting in colors that are inconsistent, damage to the original print appear, and the subtitles are HARD (always on). No extra languages other than French, and no soft subtitles in any language. Also, on my player, I got a FREEZE problem while navigating through the Cast/Crew credits in the Extras.

Notes on Babes: La Pucelle de la Tente and La Pucelle qui rit really are quite gorgeous, IMHO. And La Pucelle de la Tente later shows up on horseback wearing nothing but a worn and tattered cotton shift. The Holy Grail appears just once to Perceval, and really does look like a lamp from IKEA.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 6.18)
28 Votes
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4Gradalis - A quest for the best King Arthur Movie
Yes, Gradalis, I was the one who posted that question, not so long ago. Your reply sent me into a reverie of the echoes of coconut hooves, galloping down memory lane. Additional suggestions welcome!
2 X 26 Random Artsy Flix
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