Lancelot of the Lake

Lancelot of the Lake

Editorial Review
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 familiar vision of powerful men capable of cruelty, rivalry, disillusionment, and self-destruction. Lancelot (Luc Simon) is portrayed as a ruthless and ignoble opportunist who returns from his impossibly futile mission to locate the Holy Grail, only to callously rekindle his affair with Guinevere (Laura Duke Condominas). The emotional impact of the film is that of pure shock: the Arthurian ideal turns out to have little chance in the real world, and as there may be nothing worse than a hollow dream, the Knights of the Round Table descend into selfishness. Known as the great minimalist of French cinema, Bresson uses his trademark repression of energy--editing action sequences so that the visual emphasis is on tiny details--to create a tension that finally snaps with the mucky dissipation of the dream on unhallowed ground: Camelot ending not with a bang or a whimper but with the last clank of armor in a deluded cause. --Tom Keogh
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