music friday: the trips festival, 1966
what they said: the power of the dog and don't look up

geezer cinema: the last duel (ridley scott, 2021)

Ridley Scott is not a hack. When I see his name in the credits, I don't decide not to watch. But I don't seek out his movies, either. He's #90 on my Directors list, which sounds good but there are only 100 directors on the list. Outside of Black Rain, none of the Ridley Scott movies I've seen have been awful, and there are some good ones mixed in there as well (I am not the biggest Blade Runner fan, but I have come to accept that it's a good one). For me, though, Thelma and Louise is easily his best, so much so that I'm always surprised to remember he was involved in that one. I'm inclined to give credit to Callie Khouri, who wrote the screenplay, although to be honest I don't know her other work.

The Last Duel is one of the good ones, much better than House of Gucci, his other 2021 film. It's 2 1/2 hours long, but it doesn't feel bloated, perhaps because of its structure: a story told from the perspective of the three main participants, so that it feels more like three 45-minute movies.

Ridley and his crew do an excellent job of convincing us we're watching the 14th century. The main actors (Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and especially Jodie Comer) are great, although the supporting cast is a bit hit-or-miss, and Ben Affleck never overcomes his bizarre hairdo. Damon and Affleck wrote the script ... more importantly, Nicole Holofcener was brought in (Damon said she was added to to help them write the female perspectives of the screenplay). Comer's character, Marguerite,  is mistreated by the men in ways that seem OK to those men, who don't see what they are doing wrong, but by the end of the movie, we have seen things from Marguerite's point of view, and it is that which lifts The Last Duel above the norm.

As is the case with this kind of Rashomon structure, the question arises who, if anyone, is telling "the truth". But it's clear that Marguerite is the one to trust (Scott called people who thought otherwise "morons" and he's not far off). So you've got a movie with good star performances, good recreations of a time long past, and an interesting perspective on how people see themselves and their actions. I don't see how it's as good as Thelma and Louise, but it is indeed one of Scott's good ones.

[Letterboxd list of Geezer Cinema movies]


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