Perceval (1978)

“Make me a knight, sire!”

Synopsis:
In medieval England, a callow youth named Perceval (Fabrice Luchini) goes against the wishes of his widowed mother (Pascale de Boysson) and sets out to become a knight under King Arthur.

Genres:

Review:
Eric Rohmer’s strategically stylized adaptation of Chrétien de Troyes’ unfinished 12th century manuscript will, once you’ve adapted to its unusual style, likely strike you as the best possible way to approach this decidedly challenging material. By never attempting to make the characters “realistic” in any sense of the word (at times, they actually speak about themselves in the third person), and by using deliberately artificial settings (reminiscent of medieval paintings and tapestries), Rohmer effectively allows viewers to relax into knowing that they’re simply watching a filmed adaptation of an epic historical poem — nothing more or less. Indeed, Rohmer is apparently so faithful to his source material that he allows the narrative to radically shift gears during the final half-hour, such that we’re suddenly following an entirely different character altogether (Sir Gauvain, played by André Dussollier). Your enjoyment of the film will depend primarily upon two factors: how easily you can handle watching the rather obnoxiously callow and arrogant young protagonist mistreat his mother and a defenseless damsel while climbing the ranks and bedding a beautiful noblewoman; and how patient you are during what ends up as a rather long (2+ hours) and slow narrative haul. However, this one is ultimately too unique to miss checking out at least once.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Boldly artificial sets

Must See?
Yes, as a most unusual outing by Rohmer. Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book — and it seems to have remained so, among a sub-group of devoted fans.

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