The Duellists (1977)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Period Film  |   Run Time - 97 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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The Duellists (1977) may look an awful lot like Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon (1975), but first-time feature director Ridley Scott can hardly be faulted for picking such a sumptuous model. Based on a Joseph Conrad story (yet also structured around a series of duels like Barry Lyndon), adman -- and camera operator -- Scott turned The Duellists into a lusciously photographed spectacle of Napoleon-era France, complete with chiaroscuro interiors and painterly landscapes akin to Kubrick's vision of 18th century England. Along with the almost palpable visual atmosphere, particularly in the ice-cold sequence of Napoleon's Russian campaign, the kinetic dueling scenes between Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel revealed Scott's well-honed control over the medium long before Gladiator (2000). Though Carradine and Keitel might not seem the obvious choices to play French army officers, their pointlessly adversarial relationship becomes as metaphorically effective as the actors' surroundings in communicating the psychic fallout of war and politics. Critically hailed as one of the most beautiful films of the year, The Duellists won Scott the Best First Film prize at the Cannes Film Festival and earned a BAFTA nomination for cinematographer Frank Tidy.