Lancelot Du Lac Review

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King Arthur's knights go in search of the Holy Grail as a relationship develops between Lancelot and Guinevere.


Of all cinema's undoubted geniuses, Robert Bresson may well be the least known outside film buff circles. His films display an aesthetic rigour often focusing on insoluble spiritual crises to such an extent that he makes Ingmar Bergman seem like Mel Brooks. Having established a reputation with films like Pickpocket and Diary Of A Country Priest, which use contemporary or near-contemporary settings, Bresson turned, in 1974, to Europe's great romantic and spiritual myth and created a lavish costume drama on an Arthurian theme, albeit taking an approach vastly different from the conventional heroic epic.

In Bresson's Camelot, Sir Lancelot (Simon), haunted by his failure to find the Holy Grail, is torn between religion, duty and lust. Guinevere (Condominas) is a neurotic flirt who keeps trying to get around the vows Lancelot has made to God that he's not to become her lover. Paying attention to religious impulses which are all but incomprehensible in the 20th Century, Bresson conjures up a God-bothered middle ages that is harrowing but not, it must be said, terribly exciting.

By an unfortunate coincidence, Bresson's take is surprisingly close to that of Monty Python And The Holy Grail, as knights struggle inside clanking armour and spout Peckinpah gore when wounded. It's short enough not to be tedious, though its suggestion of the past as an alien world makes it hard to get involved with.

More approachable than Bresson's truly great films, this is a fine shallow-end introduction to one of the movies' great minds.