Saturday, January 23, 2010


I should have paid more attention to my world history class in college.  I know we talked about the French Revolution.  But Dr. Longfellow, I'm sorry, I just don't remember much about it.  I do remember reading a novel about the French Revolution for Dr. Longfellow's class that had Jacques-Louis David's painting "The Death of Marat" on the cover; of course, I don't remember the name of the novel (Found it!  The Gods Will Have Blood, by Anatole France).  Danton was a contemporary of Marat.  In Danton, there is a scene in David's studio, where Robespierre poses for a painting.  In that scene we see an unfinished "Death of Marat."

What I do know about the French Revolution makes me thankful that even though it shares some of the intellectual basis of the American Revolution, which occurred at about the same time, the American Revolution did not experience the same kind of aftermath.  In France, the tyranny of the monarchy was quickly replaced by a worse tyranny of the revolutionaries, their committees, and their reign of terror.  Danton, still a hero of the people, was deemed by the committee to be too moderate, not revolutionary enough for their tastes.  His trial, along with some like-minded partisans, was a sham.  He was convicted and sent to the guillotine.  (Ironically, those who sentenced him were, three months later, tried and executed in similar circumstances.)

In this 1983 production, Danton is portrayed by Gerard Depardieu.  Remember him in the 1990 romantic comedy Green Card?  That was his debut in American film, but he is an award-winning actor in French film.  I don't know French, but even so, I was very impressed with his performance in Danton, especially the courtroom speeches.

I am assuming Danton is faithful to the historical events.  Like I said, who am I to judge?  I do know this: I would have appreciated this film a lot more if I had a better concept of French history, not to mention the French language.  As it is, I was busy reading subtitles and marvelling at the audacity of the goofy ruffles on their shirts, dumb-looking wigs, and big feathers in their hats.  I know these are aristocrats, and I'm a peon, but couldn't they tell how silly they look?

Bottom line, I can't even rate this movie.  If you're French, probably 4 stars.  If you're me, 2 stars, but only because I'm an ignorant dolt.

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