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Duellists, The [DVD] 
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Two officers from Napoleon's army violently confront each other in a series of savage duels over the course of 15 years. Ridley Sco tt's directorial debut. Based on Joseph Conrad's story "The Duel."
One of the great directorial debuts, Ridley Scott's The Duellists is an extraordinary achievement which weaves an epic-in-miniature set around the edges of the Napoleonic Wars. Based on a story by Joseph Conrad, in turn inspired by real events and filmed in part where those events took place, this is the tale of a 15-year conflict between two French army officers: the level-headed Armand D'Hubert (Keith Carradine) and the obsessive Gabriel Feraud (Harvey Keitel). Each time they meet they duel, until the original purpose of the conflict is all but lost. Beyond the two American stars, who fill their roles with rare commitment--accents not withstanding--Scott assembled a stellar cast: Albert Finney, Edward Fox, Pete Postlethwaite, Diana Quick, Cristina Raines, Robert Stephens, Tom Conti, John McEnery, Maurice Colbourne and Jenny Runacre.
The production values are astonishing and the film revels in the exquisite painterly visuals which have become a Scott trademark. Howard Blake's elegiac theme adds immeasurably to the impact of a film influenced by Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon (1974), and anticipating Scott's own Best Picture Oscar-winning Gladiator (2000). A haunting work of spectral beauty, it is also a worthy companion to Scott's shamefully neglected 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992).
On the DVD: The Duellists is transferred at 1.77:1 with full sound atmospherically remixed in Dolby Digital 5.1. A new 29-minute documentary finds Scott discussing The Duellists with Kevin (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) Reynolds, which is particularly enlightening given the relative merits of the two swashbucklers. Scott's absorbing commentary track provides an in-depth look into the film-making process. Equally, film music aficionados will be delighted to find not just an isolated music track, but an informative commentary by composer Howard Blake, though he does sometimes talk over the beginning or end of cues. Most unusual but very welcome is the inclusion of Scott's first short film, Boy and Bicycle (1965), a 25-minute b/w mood piece starring Tony Scott, with music by John Barry. Other extras are a storyboard-to-screen comparison, the American trailer and four galleries of posters, stills and production photos. --Gary S Dalkin
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Top Customer Reviews
The two antagonists begin their series of bloody encounters when D'Hubert is ordered by his commanding general to arrest Feraud for wounding the local mayor's nephew in a duel. Feraud, in a hopelessly irrational state, challenges D'Hubert to a duel, which is carried out more or less on the spot. D'Hubert comes off slightly better in the initial encounter, which only serves to fuel Feraud's rage, and the course of the film is set.
The cinematography of this film, shot by Frank Tidy, is almost beyond comparison. The previous versions on VHS simply looked muddy and rather washed out. The colors lacked any real saturation, rendering Feraud's bottle-green dolman black and it almost looked like a poor quality black and white in some scenes, especially those set in Napoleon's abortive Russian campaign.
The DVD transfer, by contrast, is staggeringly beautiful and releases colors, which I did not realize existed in the original. I am, by coincidence, a professional cameraman and I rate this as the best shot film I have ever seen. The only criticism I have is a somewhat inconsistent use of graduated filters, which, whilst they were probably quite innovative for their day, don't always work well. Grads are always a problem and any film made since will tend to suffer the same way. A very minor point.Read more ›
Plot finds Keitel and Carradine as officers in Napoleon's army, who after an incident brings them into conflict, sees them duelling over a number of years. Something that greatly affects the lives of both men.
Ridley Scott has never hid from the influence of Kubrick's Barry Lyndon on The Duellists, and why should he? For The Duellists is every bit as noble and enjoyable as Kubrick's lengthy picture. Here on his first feature film assignment the director has crafted a picture of lush visuals, while also garnering great performances from his two leads. Story ultimately is a bit thin, but Scott explores interesting themes and keeps things ticking over nicely for the hour and forty minute running time. The characters are intellectual, the dialogue sharp, the Napoleonic period splendidly recreated with thought and attention to detail. While the sword fights are intense and credible and never once does it feel like Scott is slotting in a duel purely for action's sake.
A darn great film for the period film lover to gorge on, where the futility of war and men's obsessions blend seamlessly with visual splendour. 8.5/10
The plot of the film is about two men locked in a duel of mortal combat, the tail end of the aristocratic honor code as the modern age dawns with Napoleon. Though an aristocrat, one man (Carradine) is rather civilized, given the task of hauling the other, an incorrigible brute, into prison for the murder by sword of a politician's relative. After a silly insult, the result is an explosive hatred, with the macho aggressor (Keitel) imposing the fight and his own code on his adversary. Carradine would like to stop the madness, but carries on for the sake of his reputation. All of this is played out against a vivid historical backdrop, the Napoleonic Wars and the restoration, which are evoked with splendid intelligence and subtlety.
The action scenes - the fights - are of a bloody realism that I have rarely seen in an action film, but then, this is a historical drama of wonderful accuracy. In a variety of contexts, you watch the men go at eachother with a blood lust, with a youthful energy that slips away before the viewer's eyes, with a growing sense of futility and emotional scars. It is an extraordinary transformation.
The cinematography of the film is also second to none: from the odd angles of provincial French architecture to the flourishes of the most Baroque aristocratic homes, you witness the men as they pursue their careers. Truly a feast for the eyes, utterly mesmerizing, breathtaking. Iconic images are a Ridley Scott hallmark.
Finally, the extras on the making of the film are very nice. You get context with the usual hollywood fluff treatment. Recommended with the greatest enthusiasm.
After umpteen viewings of this beautifully photographed work I still devour each scene. Although the costumes and accompanying paraphenalia give an air of the finest BBC costume drama, the atmosphere created is one of frill-free realism.
The two main protagonists, both men of honour and professional soldiers, are studies of reason and unjustified hatred. They are brought together by pure chance yet their destinies seem to be interlinked over a period exceeding two decades. Throughout the entire film, I desperately wanted to shake Keitel's character and make him realise how wrong he is to pursue Carradine so relentlessly. They should really be able to have a beer and forget their differences, but then again, I suppose that would have made a pretty poor film.
The action scenes are graphic without being gory, each duel a miniature peak in an enthralling landscape of characters.
I won't spoil the story by giving away the ending, but I don't think that I've ever seen a better denouement in a British film. Let's just say that by the time the titles come up, both characters have had an experience of justice and that any spectator must sympathise and empathise with both men. Given the extremely diverse nature of their two characters, this is perhaps the main triumph of the film.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A good story about two French officer during the Napoleon era who understand honour, pride and ambition in a deferent way. Read morePublished 5 days ago by Pietro Bembo
Ridley Scott's first film and sets the cinematographic bar all the way up for everyone.Published 2 months ago by Colin
This is region A will not play on uk xbox ones as i found out today.Published 7 months ago by ben walker