Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Fabrice Luchini, André Dussollier, Solange Boulanger, Catherine Schroeder, Francisco Orozco
Director: Eric Rohmer
Genres: Indie & Art House
This unique retelling of the tale of Perceval is a great and glorious anomaly in Eric Rohmer's career. Adapted by Rohmer from the 12th-century book by Chrétien de Troyes, it marries ancient theater, medieval painting, mus... more »
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Cynthia L. Mclendon | Memphis, TN USA | 12/28/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Eric Rohmer's "Perceval" is one of the most stunning films I've ever seen. Based on Chretien de Troyes' unfinished story, this movie is amazing. The scenery and acting are exquisitely stylized, and the story is presented in a blend of medieval-style song, dialog, and narration--all in Old French. It's like watching a medieval pageant come to life. Rohmer's adaptation is remarkably faithful to Chretien's story. I particularly adored the film's depiction of the episode of Gawain and the Damsel of the Small Sleeves--the girl in the film is splendid. Fabrice Luchini portrays Perceval perfectly--naive, callow, youthfully self-centered and determined. I can't praise this film highly enough. If you love the romances of Chretien, this is a must-see. I wish Rohmer had done "The Knight of the Cart," too..."
Ian Myles Slater on: A Wonderful Production
Ian M. Slater | Los Angeles, CA United States | 01/25/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I originally saw Eric Rohmer's "Perceval" during its American theatrical release, and, on a large screen, the impression of watching an illuminated manuscript come to life was overwhelming. On a small screen, it is still impressive, although a bit more like watching an animation of the beautiful book itself. Not, that, unfortunately, we have such a manuscript of Chretien de Troyes' Old French "Perceval, or, The Story of the Graal," illustrated with anything like such fullness, detail, or precision. But if there is a Platonic archetype of an illuminated manuscript of the poem, I think that Rohmer must have come close to it. That it is a remarkably faithful adaptation of the story, as well as a visually stunning one, accounts for many features of the production.
As director-screenwriter, Rohmer thoroughly integrated the verbal and visual. The characters move through sets which seem to be cut from medieval illustrations, going through stylized movements which show how well or ill-adapted they are to court life. Chorus-like figures from time to time deliver comments, and even address the viewer as if speaking for the author -- a sort of cinematic equivalent of hearing the story from a gifted reader, which was probably how Chretien's public first experienced it. The initial impression of judicious fidelity to the original survived having a translation of the romance open in front of me. There are omissions, but what is on the screen is a plausible interpretation of what is on the page.
Chretien, who died around 1185, left our oldest surviving Arthurian Chivalric Romances (as distinguished from material embedded in pseudo-historical "chronicles," and Welsh stories that are closer to both myth and fairy tales), the rest of which are "Erec and Enide," "Cliges," "Yvain, or the Knight with the Lion," and "Lancelot, or, The Knight of the Cart." They have been translated several times in recent decades, including three "complete" renderings of the romances -- one of them raised the bar by including the non-Arthurian "William of England" to round things out. They were not well-represented in English when Rohmer's film was made; in fact, finding a complete version of "Perceval" was then a little difficult. If you don't know early Arthurian literature -- as opposed to modern versions -- you might try a library (or Amazon) for one of the renderings of Chretien's poem before watching Rohmer's version -- not, however, any of the many *other* versions of the Grail story, especially those featuring Galahad, which in this case will merely be confusing. Nigel Bryant's translation of "Perceval" includes selections from the Old French "Continuations" -- the original turned into a sort of sequel-generating franchise. Bryant has translated two other Old French retellings of Perceval's story, and there are Welsh, Middle High German, Old Norse, and Middle English versions, too.
As we learn in the opening few minutes, the titular hero is the son of widow, brought up by his noble mother in the forest, so that he will be ignorant of the larger world, and not follow his father's fatal career as a knight. Naturally, the first time the youth sees some of King Arthur's knights, he isn't sure what they are, but, once he learns that they aren't angels or devils, wants to be one, anyway, and runs off in search of Arthur. He is also literal-minded to an extreme degree, and soon finds himself in serious trouble, over and over. He is saved mostly by the fact that he is incredibly strong and agile -- living in the wilderness has its advantages. His remarkable good looks -- and here the casting was crucial -- help for a while. So do well-meaning acquaintances, none of whom ever seem to grasp just how *much* of a bumpkin young Perceval is. Having been admonished not to ask questions, which have been making him a nuisance, and revealing his absurd ignorance, he, inevitably, fails to ask one at the Grail Castle, when it was not only appropriate and expected, but actually necessary.
On the whole, the naive Perceval himself comes across less like Tarzan than like George of the Jungle (the animated version), stumbling his way through rescuing damsels and delivering besieged castles -- Chretien seems to have been having fun with what were already cliches, and Rohmer follows him. The film-maker follows the poet in other ways, as well. Rohmer could have stayed with Perceval, and picked up additional material from the post-Chretien Grail-Quest literature. Instead, the film switches for a time to Chretien's secondary hero, Arthur's nephew Gauvain (Gawain), who has accomplished the great feat of conversing with Perceval without getting in a fight with him. Gauvain is the perfect warrior, the perfect courtier, and the perfect lover -- a James Bond in shining armor, and the mirror image of that yokel, Perceval. All of which qualities make him enemies, and he is left in a hostile town, facing a ring of attackers, and armed mainly with a chessboard and large chess-pieces.
"Perceval," to the lasting frustration of readers, and to the great benefit of future generations of storytellers, broke off in mid-adventure for both heroes, for reasons unknown. (The author's death is an obvious explanation, but can't be documented in relation to the poem.) Rohmer does the same, although he includes a (perhaps relevant) "Passion Play" sequence at a point at which Christianity is finally being explained to Perceval. This rounds things off, and suggests a religious meaning to the enigmatic tale.
Sorry folks, that's all there is."
Wonderful film for medieval music lovers
jamesiegod | Oak Park, IL United States | 04/16/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Interesting everyone here seems either to hate this film or love it. Little in between. I found the "fake" sets fascinating because they were very effectively evocative of medieval manuscript illuminations -- in fact the whole film seemed like a manuscript motion. The way the musicians stand in consort, the way the ladies hold their hands, etc., resemble countless examples seen in paintings and manuscripts of the 15th century and before. The music is unfailingly authentic: any that is not sung to actual 13th century French melodies is stylistically perfect. Then there are the occasional snippets of actual well-known pieces, such as the lament of Richard the Lion-Hearted that appears briefly in purely instrumental form. I recommend it, but if you would tend to be turned off by the things the negative reviewers harp on, see something else. The things people have written here are factually correct; whether it strikes you as fabulous or unconscionable will depend entirely on your personal sensibilities and taste."
Psychadelic and gothic dreamyness prevails
MegaMegaWhiteThing! | Brooklyn, NY | 08/05/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Combine some modern - looking sculpted metal stage props with neon sand, then add rich gothic singing, and you have Perceval. At first, I sat watching the movie thinking "ok what did I get myself into?" because the singing irked me at first. Then I got used to it, and it became a chief and quite ingenious form of communication between the narrator, the actors, and the audience. Knowing a little bit of French eases the rapidity of a foreign language versus flashy subtitles. The story fails to get boring at any point, and the film is upbeat and interesting from every angle you look at it.Perceval is a lovable film with romance, duty, and gothic mysticism interwoven throughout. There's a small bit of nudity, but nothing offensively portrayed in a hardcore fashion. It's not your typical independent French film!"