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Cinema: French Revolution

2 minute read

Lafayette. The covered wagons sway in from over the hills, the Indians busy themselves with bows and arrows, white men in buckskins make the air pop with gunfire, the sound track throbs with folk-heroic music. Then, to a skirl of bagpipes, the Redcoats come over the ridge. For a moment it looks like the realization of a Hollywood nightmare: the day the Western epic and the historical spectacular arrive for shooting on the same location. Maistiens—it is only the American Revolution as conceived by the French producers of this Super Technirama, 70-mm.-Technicolor, Copernic Cosmos (out of Maco) tableau vivant.

Lafayette focuses on the 19-year-old Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, who makes things unpleasant for the British from Brandywine to Yorktown. Michel Le Royer plays the teen-age major general as a cross between Nelson Eddy and Prince Valiant; he wears a blond pageboy bob and glow-in-the-dark dentures, while everyone else has a blue-rinsed peruke. The sets are reminiscent of Agincourt: Washington’s headquarters is a cluster of pretty round tents with scalloped tops and silk banners snapping in the breeze. For Lafayette’s triumphal farewell to America, joyous peasants stand waving in the courtyards of thatched cottages, little girls pelt the hero with flowers, Washington says “And now we part, Mushoor luh Markee,” and all that is missing is toasts in Pouilly-Fuisse 1776.

Lafayette cost a reported $3,000,000 to make, and is France’s latest entry in the superspectacle sweepstakes. With the palace at Versailles and a string of chateaux as backdrops, the French are on safe ground when on home ground, but their Louis XVI version of events on the American side is too fanciful to swallow. The only thing to do is to repay them in kind —perhaps a movie about Black Jack Pershing, with troupes of saucy mam’zelles following behind the tanks and kissing doughboys behind the hedgerows while France is being saved by the A.E.F. But mushoor, it’s been done.

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