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Lancelot of the Lake
Lancelot of the Lake
Actors: Luc Simon, Laura Duke Condominas, Humbert Balsan, Vladimir Antolek-Oresek, Patrick Bernhard
Director: Robert Bresson
Genres: Indie & Art House
NR     2004     1hr 25min

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 famil...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Luc Simon, Laura Duke Condominas, Humbert Balsan, Vladimir Antolek-Oresek, Patrick Bernhard
Director: Robert Bresson
Creators: Pasqualino De Santis, Robert Bresson, Germaine Lamy, Alfredo Bini, François Rochas, Jean Yanne, Jean-Pierre Rassam
Genres: Indie & Art House
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House
Studio: New Yorker Video
Format: DVD - Color,Anamorphic,Letterboxed - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 05/25/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 25min
Screens: Color,Anamorphic,Letterboxed
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 10
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: French
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

A masterpiece, though not for everyone
Dorie | 07/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is a sombre version of the Arthurian legend, and in my view very much in tone with Thomas Malory's 15th century version. The latter is dark and foreboding, and so is this film. The deeds of arms of the knights are represented in terms that undermine the ideals of chivalry. There is only death, blood and severed body parts everywhere. The heap of bodies on which the last shot of the film focuses is the climax of this violence.

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.

Old Legend , New Content
Doug Anderson | Miami Beach, Florida United States | 01/29/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The Arthurian Legend is the most interesting and powerful blend of Christian virtue and Medieval valor in literature. In Bressons hands, however, the search for the Holy Grail does not inspire acts of virtue or valor. In fact the search proves to be quite demoralising and leads to a lot of infighting. Once faith is lost so is unity and all that is left is a grab for power. Arthur is barely a character, he simply is the one who is slightly older and has slightly shorter hair and wears a crown. Lancelot is a kind of Hamlet who can't decide what he stands for. He loves Guinevere but he wants to do what is right for the kingdom as well. Ultimately he does the right thing and returns her to the king but too late--the favoritism shown him by both Queen and King has turned him into a target to the other Knights. Mordred is his most powerful detractor and the more Lancelot wavers the stronger and more resolute he becomes. In subverting the Arthurian legend or secularising it Bresson has turned the story into a Shakespearean tragedy about loyalty and betrayal. He's turned a story which dealt in absolutes (or at least in a search for absolutes)where people are defined by actions which can be deemed good or bad into a story which deals only in relative truths where all acts are marked with uncertainty and doubt. He's turned an old story into a new one."
A Magnificent Study of Honor
Jeffrey R Galipeaux | 04/06/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The story of Lancelot is one of loyalty, and who better to agonizingly dissect such a concept than Robert Bresson? His film is an investigation of the conceits of "unifying poetic myth," and none of the values allegedly transmitted through shared tradition emerge without the taint of flawed humanity. As always, Bresson darkens and reduces: Arthur is an anti-figure, Camelot is stark and roughhewn (though it is never dwelt upon, his vision of the round table, and the chairs around the table, are to my mind as stunning a bit of set design as you will ever find), nowhere does magic or myth pervade the storyline. The camera moves with guilty severity, Guenivere is near comatose, a voice of (t?)reason frozen in rigid profile. There is no "spectacle" (the famous jousting sequence is consciously anti-spectacular, but still a riveting use of camera and sound), the sumptuous beauty of the film comes from Bresson's compositions of human figures, stark lighting, and muddy green-brown colors. Lancelot du Lac is a magnificent, beautiful movie, a perfect setting and story for Bresson's signature touches. Those looking for a swashbuckling Arthurian epic will be disappointed; those looking for a rigorous but rewarding investigation of conscience, fate, and tradition will be deeply rewarded.
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."
It's not for everyone...
Joe Sixpack -- | Middle America | 02/20/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)

"French director Robert Bresson crafts this grim, anti-romantic, and super-artsy, somewhat low-budget deconstruction of the Arthurian legend. As the films begins, the Knights return from a futile and spectacularly failed attempt to find the Holy Grail; Arthur's Camelot is a miserable, somewhat grubby encampment -- when riders from a neighboring hamlet come to challenge the remnants of Arthur's army to a jousting tournament, one senses that the "king" has lost his power amid a cloud of failure, impotence and doubt. In terms of the story itself, in how Bresson subverts and undercuts the glamour of legend, this is an interesting film. However, as an actual movie, it's rather stilted and pretentious, and not very enjoyable, outside of the ironic intellectual and filmic parameters set by the director. It's practically a "dogme" film: the sound design is rather poor, and the camera work is (purposefully) irritating: the film's lasting motif is the constant tracking of legs -- the stockinged legs of the knights as they slowly traipse about, the legs of their horses which are shown in place of the action when the warriors ride to battle. For much of the film, visually speaking, the actors do not exist above the waist... it's an artsy break with cinematic convention that's meant to wow films students and which mimics the loftiness of the direction. Cool for academics, I suppose, but if you're looking for a sword-'n'-sandals flick, this one might really bug you. I'm sure the guys from Monty Python must have been lampooning this when they made "Holy Grail," but for many viewers, Bresson's version will seem funny-bad enough."