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  Walk with Love and Death, A Doomed Romantics
Year: 1969
Director: John Huston
Stars: Anjelica Huston, Assi Dayan, Anthony Higgins, John Hallam, Robert Lang, Guy Deghy, Michael Gough, George Murcell, Eileen Murphy, Anthony Nicholls, Joseph O'Conor, John Huston, John Franklyn, Francis Heim, Melvyn Hayes, Barry Keegan, Nicholas Smith
Genre: Romance, HistoricalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: During the Hundred Years War in France, student Heron of Fois (Assi Dayan) leaves his Paris schooling behind when spring arrives to roam the countryside in search of the sea, which he has never seen. However, he soon runs out of food and one day, walking through a field he encounters a peasant who he asks to give him sustenance. In return for a coin, Heron receives a bottle of wine, then notices the building ahead. On reaching it, his requests to the man in charge safe passage through the territory, but he orders him to be locked up. This does not happen, but Heron learns the harsh realities of life during wartime...

A Walk with Love and Death is an oddity in director John Huston's filmography, concerned as it is with a sincere love story where all the conniving and corruption stems from the characters the two lovers meet on their travels. Note well the year this came out: 1969, at the height of the Vietnam War which was still very much in the headlines and the minds of protestors, the most vocal of whom were among the young, just as Heron and his new romantic partner Lady Claudia (Anjelica Huston) were.

Yet the parallels with the modern age seem a little forced here, not least because standing up for what they believe in and protesting the war they're caught up with seems to be the last thing on this pair's minds. Giving Huston, the father, a story that sings praises of the purity of love comes across as misguided, and Dale Wasserman's script, adapted from the novel by Hans Koningsberger, only fits his style when the personalities on the periphery, the ones who would jeopardise the happiness of Heron and Claudia, take centre stage.

However, usually at the heart of the piece are our hero and heroine, who meet when Heron is invited in for a meal by Claudia's nobleman father as he goes on his way. They are quite taken with each other, and she becomes his new patron, offering him her silken scarf as a token of her devotion, and as a token of his he accepts it. Some days later, word reaches Heron that Claudia's castle has been torched, and he doubles back with the assistance of a hastily bought horse to find her. She is still alive, but has lost just about everything, although now what means the most to her is the company of Heron.

Anjelica and Assi (who would go onto be a prolific Israeli filmmaker) make a charming enough couple, but they cannot help but look wishy washy when compared to, say, the monks who threaten to castrate Heron to induct him into their puritanically religion-crazed way of thinking, the pilgrim who has a collection of dubious relics to sell, or John Huston himself as a nobleman who backs the peasants in their fight against the upper classes. In A Walk with Love and Death's attempts to bring the past up to date with its allusions to the present, as it stood in the late sixties anyway, it never rings entirely true, even if some of those elements are more subtle than others. Still, the film has a keen eye for the landscape, and the fourteenth century mood feels authentic even as the story moves in fits and starts. Music by Georges Delerue.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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