Ridley Scott’s THE LAST DUEL is rightfully an epic given the stars and the vast production. And surprisingly, Scott has chosen a story that challenges the current social climate of The Woke Army. Will Adam Driver be the next Cancel Culture victim?
Dave Chappelle’s recent Netflix special, ‘The Closer” has been strongly criticized as transphobic by LGBTQ+ advocates, artists and employees.
Employees are now demanding to dictate corporate creative policy? What about the people who pay a lot of money every month for a Netflix subscription, that keeps going up every year? Shouldn’t subscribers be the ones who decide what is on Netflix?
Well, next up for condemnation will be THE LAST DUEL.
The screenplay is credited to Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Nicole Holofcener. It is based on a true story set during the reign of King Charles VI.
As in most conflicts in life, there are always each participant’s version of the truth. Here, there are three versions: de Carrouges, Le Gris and the aggrieved party, Marguerite.
Even enemies will not tell the truth if the truth reflects poorly on them. Hypothetically, of course, let’s say “A”, an influential man obsessed with his public reputation. He has sex with “B” a mature, known adult porn star. When this “scandal” becomes public, the issue of money is never brought up. “A” would never admit he needed to pay anyone for sex. “B” would never admit being paid for sex because that would disgrace her professional “reputation” and acknowledge she can be paid for sex. The two opposing parties must agree to never admit the truth.
Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) is a soldier dedicated to the king and fiercely subservient to the ideals of loyalty to France, the monarchy and God. He’s one of those insufferable men who hold honor above everything else and lords it over everyone. He’s an older man, with a slight height and facial scars, as proof of his virility. At court de Carrouges meets a nobleman’s young daughter, Marguerite (Jodie Domer) and begins a marriage contract with her father, Sir Robert (Nathaniel Parker). De Carrouges wants Marguerite’s dowry to include a prime piece of land.
Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver), a prized soldier and favorite of the king’s cousin, Count Pierre d’Alencon (Ben Affleck) who oversees the King’s Normandy holdings. Le Gris has the sexual dynamism that the court’s ladies admire. Even Marguerite thinks Le Gris is handsome and his flirting with her enrages de Carrouges. It’s the long hair, prominent nose, strong build and especially his knowledge of his beauty that is viewed as highly seductive. Driver plays this with graceful abandonment. As d’Alencon’s favorite, he is given the task to collect the monies owed to the count.
When Le Gris meets with his old friend de Carrouges who has a debt with the count, he agrees to delay the full payment and to talk to the count of his behalf. Le Gris does not allow Sir Robert a similar reprieve. He owes a vast amount of money and the only way Le Gris sees for him to settle the debt is to give the count the land he promised to de Carrouges as a condition for the upcoming marriage. Upon learning of this, de Carrouges is furious but the marriage goes forward.
Then de Carrouges finds out that the count has given the valuable land to Le Gris!
De Carrouges loses it and confronts the count and Le Gris. He spits furiously and embarrasses himself. He demands the land back. Even when the king knights him, he is still bitter. Being knighted brings him into another conflict and he leaves his castle to fight an uprising. When he returns from losing the battle, Marguerite tells him Le Gris raped her.
Now Le Gris has his version of what happened. He says that Marguerite expressed a quiet passion for him and when he found out she would be alone, he entered the castle under a ruse and made love to her.
We see Marguerite’s side of the encounter. Le Gris violently rapes her and then leaves. His squire knows the truth.
Scott kept the violent rape in the film. Affleck, on Entertainment Tonight, spoke about the original version of the scene in which his character makes Damon’s character a knight and kisses everyone on the mouth. But the scene with the mouth kissing between the characters was never even filmed because Scott cut it in his revision of the script.
Did the screenwriters envision a sensual, open mouth kiss?
De Carrouges demands a duel to the death with Le Gris to avenge the rape of his wife and the King agrees.
The American Film Institute ranked “Gone With the Wind” as the No. 4 Best American movie of all time, after “Citizen Kane,” “Casablanca” and “The Godfather.” Adjusted for inflation, “Gone With the Wind” remains the highest-grossing film at the box office ever. When HBO MAX removed and then reinstated GONE WITH THE WIND after social pressure, the film starts with a disclaimer saying the film “denies the horrors of slavery.” But Rhett Butler raping Scarlet is not offensive.
Matt Damon and Adam Driver are terrific and Affleck plays the count with an amusing, low key flourish.
THE LAST DUEL is a pleasure to enjoy and has the emotional heft of GLADIATOR. But there is always PROMETHEUS. And Scott must like Driver, he cast him in HOUSE OF GUCCI.
For a complete list of Victoria Alexander's movie reviews on Rotten Tomatoes go to https://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/victoria-alexander/movies
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