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Tuesday, 29 September 2015

The Duellists

I may have mentioned this in a previous post, at least in passing.

Is there a greatest poem, a greatest novel, a greatest painting? There will never be consensus; but there will always be contenders.

I think that Ridley Scott’s The Duellists is a contender for the greatest movie. I can think of others.

The film is based on a story by Joseph Conrad, a Polish contender for the title of greatest novelist writing in the English language.  Apocalypse Now is also based upon a work by Conrad.

I have just watched The Duellists for, possibly, the tenth time. It didn’t disappoint. It is stunningly beautiful. The French countryside is beautiful. Keith Carradine is beautiful. Diana Quick is beautiful.

The acting is impeccable. Harvey Keitel is better than impeccable. When I first encountered him, in this movie, in the 1980s, I was sure that he was a contender for ‘best actor of his generation’. Aside from Keitel, there are masterpieces from James Fox, Albert Finney, Tom Conti and half a dozen others. Nobody puts a foot wrong. Scott must have thought he had died and gone to heaven, to have a cast like this.

I once showed this film to someone I hoped would like it. She didn’t. She thought that the ‘honour code’, which obliged DuBarre to submit to Ferraud’s notion of honour, was stupid. Duh? That is what the film is about.

I hope you will watch it, if you haven’t already. Perhaps you will contend for another movie. Pulp Fiction (for me another contender) happens to feature Harvey Keitel.

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