This latest film from 82-year-old French New Wave stalwart Eric Rohmer is enough of a departure that it may either confound or irritate his fans. Unlike his usual stylistically restrained explorations of morals and manners (My Night at Maud's, Claire's Knee), The Lady and the Duke, based on the journal of real-life Scottish ex-pat Grace Elliott, is set among the aristocracy during the French Revolution. One senses that what really attracted Rohmer to the subject was the excuse to play with digital video; rather than rebuild 18th-century Paris, he has composited his characters into deliberately unreal painted backdrops. The result is odd and striking. The blatant sense of artifice lends a feeling of theatricality...or, for those who don't respond to it, staginess. Still, for all its potentially off-putting problems--the staginess, the talkiness and the two-hour-plus running time--The Lady and the Duke surprisingly manages never to grow boring.
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