Movies of the Past and Future

So, last weekend was a busy one. I had proposals to write and revisions to tackle. And, since I am crazy, I helped a friend supervise her 11-year-old’s slumber party on Friday. When I was a kid, I never understood when people would sigh and say, “Oh, I wish I had energy like that!” Now I totally do. There was running, shrieking, trampoline-jumping, gossiping (MUCH gossiping), lipstick-trying, Wii-playing. And, when my friend and I needed quiet, there was Twilight DVD watching. The whole movie, then rewatching various scenes. It’s a hard job to gawk at Robert Pattinson for hours, but I am a good friend and did it for the kids. Uh-huh.

Then Sunday, there was Easter candy-eating, family-visiting, and one of my dogs eating purloined boiled egg yolks and getting sick at my parents’ house. No wonder Sunday night I felt a bit under the weather. So I took a break, and had a “lie on the couch watching weird movies only Amanda would like” evening. I ended up with a French movie I just got from Netflix, Eric Rohmer’s newest (and last, according the 88-year-old director), The Romance of Astrea and Celadon. One of the reviews I found online said “You’ve got to ride with this movie the whole way, or give it a pass.” Which is so true–I just let it carry me where it would, and it turned into a lovely, weird, eccentric, baffling, charming ride.

Astrea and Celadon is from a romance by 17th century French aristocrat/writer Honore d’Urfe, and is very much in the pastoral As You Like It vein, set in a 17th century French idea of 5th century pastoral Gaul. It’s very Renaissance-y in its storytelling. The plot (such as it is) concerns the impossibly beautiful shepherd Celadon and his lover, the impossibly beautiful shepherdess Astrea (almost everyone in this movie is impossibly beautiful, and they never herd sheep. In fact, I never saw a sheep the whole film). Early on they quarrel because A. thinks C. kisses another girl. She won’t listen to his explanations, forbids him to be in her sight, and he goes off to drown himself. A. discovers she was wrong, it’s too late, there’s much weeping.

But lo, C. is not dead! He is rescued by 3 beautiful nymphs, one of which falls madly in love with him (almost everyone in the film falls madly in love with C., but he loves only A.). She tries to keep him prisoner in her chateau, but one of the other nymphs helps him escape. Now–how to get around his vow never to be in A.’s sight?

There is a lot of talk about the nature of love, a little light proto-Christian theology, some Ren-faire style musical numbers, C. disguising himself as a woman (twice!), and lots of gorgeous, sunny scenery.

Anyway, my point (besides the fact that if you love oddball French movies, as I do, you should give this one a try) is this. That review also said, “If there had been movies 400 years ago…this is pretty much what they’d have looked like.” I found that a fascinating thought. Sure, it might not have been a movie to play well with the groundlings–there’s no blood or gore at all, and not a funny “bit with a dog” (though there are a few moments of semi-bawdy goofiness and some brief nudity). But I could see courtier-poets going crazy for it, debating its philosophical points about the Nature of Love.

What would a Regency movie have looked like? Like one of the Pride and Prejudice movies, or something else? What about a Georgian or Medieval movie? What do you think? (And have you seen any good movies lately??)

About Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Writer (as Amanda McCabe, Laurel McKee, Amanda Carmack), history geek, yoga enthusiast, pet owner!
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