The Lady and the Duke | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Lady and the Duke

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My favorite Eric Rohmer features are mainly his period films--Percival, then The Marquise of O (despite its emotional toning down of the Heinrich von Kleist novella), and now this fascinating antirevolutionary take on the French Revolution. Inspired by the memoirs of Scottish royalist Grace Elliott (beautifully played by Lucy Russell), it centers on her relationship with Philippe Egalite, erstwhile duke of Orleans (Jean-Claude Dreyfus), who brought her to France in 1786. Their romance had ended well before the revolution (and before this picture begins), but they remained close friends in spite of their growing political differences. Percival was shot on studio sets, The Marquise of O on location; for the exteriors of this film, Rohmer uses digital-video technology to superimpose the actors against painted landscapes, and the results are charming as well as historically plausible. Influenced by the use of stationary camera setups in D.W. Griffith's Orphans of the Storm, this is absorbing throughout--not just a history lesson but, as always with Rohmer, a story about individuals (2001, 129 min.). Music Box, Friday through Thursday, June 7 through 13.

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