This isn’t really a Jean Renoir-originated film. It was commissioned by a historical society to commemorate 500 years of history in whichever French city it was that this was made. Portions of the film are apparently lost, and what I saw was a three-reel reconstruction made much later, probably by the BBC. It runs about 30 minutes. It kind of tells a complete story.
It’s a fairly large-budget, swashbuckling costume drama set in the 16th century in the court of Catherine de Medici. She, at the time, was trying to reconcile Catholic and Protestant factions in France. She promises to marry one of her ladies-in-waiting to a prominent Protestant nobleman (who’s portrayed as the bad guy in the piece), in exchange for his promoting peace. But the lady has already promised herself to a Catholic nobleman, whom she loves, and who is a good buddy of her brother’s. The Protestant taunts the brother about how he’s going to have his sister; they fight a secret, illegal duel, and the brother gets killed. Finally, there’s a big tournament between the rival lovers, the Catholic and the Protestant, with jousting and swordplay and whatnot. The Protestant is winning. But while this is going on, the he is betrayed by a former lover, and revealed as the murderer of the brother. Catherine de Medici orders a group of her men-at-arms to arrest him, but he refuses to be taken alive. He fights to the death. As he lays dying, he asks his mother–the so-called ‘Queen of the Protestants’–to forgive. But she has a vengeful look on her face… The Catholic nobleman and the lady are back together, smiling. Some dust blows in the wind. The end.
I’d be curious to know how long this film originally ran, and whether there were additional sub-plots that are now missing. What remains feels kind of skeletal in the way of those very early silent dramas of the 1900s and early 1910s–it just hits the main points of the plot and leaves the rest up to your imagination. It’s not terribly engaging drama, as in scenes aren’t really developed or built up to; they just sort of happen. But I guess that’s to be expected if really significant portions of the film are missing. The costumes and the sets seem nice, as is some of Renoir’s camera work, but the print I saw was incredibly shoddy and non-restored, barely watchable.
412MB | 35mn 5s | 640 x 480 | avi
Subtitles: English intertitles,English.srt