Friday, August 2, 2013

A Walk With Love and Death

Another movie that's currently in heavy rotation over on the Fox Movie Channel that I've never blogged about before is A Walk With Love and Death. It's airing tomorrow morning at 11:15 AM on the Fox Movie Channel, with two further airings in August.

The movie starts off ith on-screen text telling us that our story is set during the Hundred Years' War, and involves the story of two young lovers who were born after the war began, and were fated not to see the war end. Considering that the war actually continued off and on for over 110 years, it shouldn't be much of a surprise that people lived their entire lives during the war. But the introduction also foreshadows that people aren't necessarily going to live happily ever after -- as if you couldn't get that from the title.

Anyhow, Heron of Fois (Israeli actor Assaf Dayan) is a student at the Paris university at some point in the Hundred Years' War. Well, he was a student. One day he walked out of class because he decided he wanted to see the sea, and from there go wherever a boat would take him. The movie is more or less the story of that quest, and the people Heron meets along the way. Now, you'd think that being in Paris, which is right on the Seine river, Heron would have been able to find a boat that was going down the river, which would get him to his destination quickly. One has to guess that because of the war, travel by river wasn't possible, so Heron starts off going on an overland journey, with the first boat he sees belonging to what is basically a cult leader who thinks women are evil, and that our hero needs to give up earthly desires, presumably by having himself castrated. But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

Heron had in fact met a woman. At one of the places he was allowed to stay for a night he sees the duaghter of the estate, the lovely young Claudia (Anjelica Huston). As Heron is preparing to leave to continue on his journey, they meet, find love at first sight, and exchange gifts: he gives her a poem, and she gives him a piece of her outfit. Claudia is the reason Heron can't join the "pure" Christian sect. And who would want to join such a wacky sect, anyway? But with the country being in the midst of war, and with the depradations war has brought upon the people of the countryside, perhaps some felt that this is a better way out. Who's to say whether it's a better or worse pilgrimage than the one Heron himself is taking?

Heron finally gets to the sea, or at least the other side of some high dunes across which he'll be able to see the sea in the morning. It's there that he meets a group of troubadours who have a rather odd performance. But less important than the performance is the conversation Heron has with them. Since they're a group of itinerants, they've been able to see a good deal of the countryside, and were at Claudia's estate. Not long after Heron left, a bunch of peasants sacked the place, killing everybody inside. Claudia, however, was fortunate enough to escape into the forest and avoid death. Heron, however, decides that finding Claudia is more important than getting to the sea, and on the cusp of his goal, decides to go back for Claudia.

A Walk With Love and Death, and Heron's pilgrimage, isn't quite up to the level of the one Art Carney's Harry takes across the US in Harry and Tonto. That's partly down to Dayan not being as good an actor as Carney, and not giving us a reason to care about his journey as much as Carney does. But it's also in part because of the people Heron meets. They don't have anywhere near the emotional impact that and of Harry's fellow travellers do. With the war raging around them, everybody in A Walk With Love and Death has sheer simple survival on their minds, and Heron's pilgrimage is, for the most part, a contrast to that. In fact, a pilgrimage by land seems like it would be impossible, with Heron and Cluudia on more than one occasion being saved by coincidence. This, I think, is also to the movie's detriment.

That having been said, A Walk With Love and Death is an interesting idea that deserves a viewing, since it's so different from what we normally think of from John Huston that it's clear he cared about this movie. It also deserves a restoration of the original widescreen print, since what FMC is running is a pan-and-scan version that takes away from what would presumably be some nice location cinematography. (IMDb says that Italy and an Austrian castle substitute for French locations.) Fox's MOD archive collection has released A Walk With Love and Death to DVD, but I don't know if the DVD has the original aspect ratio. There aren't any reviews on Amazon, but I'veread from other reviews that Fox's MODs have done a terrible job of not doing anything to improve the TV prints before releasing the movies to DVD.

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