A WALK WITH LOVE AND DEATH (John Huston, 1969)

Although he eventually directed her to a richly deserved Oscar for her sly, manipulative Maerose in the satirical crime comedy Prizzi’s Honor (1985), John Huston openly regretted starring teenaged daughter Anjelica, in A Walk with Love and Death, too early. In the face of the largely derisive notices Anjelica received, the elder Huston felt guilt. As it happens, Anjelica Huston was “ready,” giving an outstanding performance—proud, sensitive, volatile—as Lady Claudia, a 14th-century aristocrat who falls in love with a student during the Hundred Years War.
     The protagonist of this anti-war film is really the boy, Heron du Fois, who abandons his studies to trek across France to the sea, which he longs to see for the first time. He thus traverses a war-torn, corpse-strewn landscape, during which he meets Claudia, all but falls in love with her on the spot, wears her protective blue scarf, leaves, and then furiously rides back on a white horse he has bought upon hearing that the castle of Claudia’s father has been burned down by revolting peasants. It turns out that Claudia has survived. The pair join fragile forces. Huston had telescoped their single fate in the film’s preface: “In the 14th Century, England and France were engaged in a war that would last a hundred years. Claudia and Heron were born after the war began, and would die before it ended. . . .” The penultimate shot shows the lovers clinging to each other as their death approaches—a scene rendered especially poignant by the brief first and last use of Heron’s voiceover narration. Dale Wasserman adapted Hans Koningsberger’s 1961 novel.
     How successfully Huston’s medieval drama reflects the U.S. trauma in and over Vietnam in the sixties is subject to debate. It is a pity that his initially strong, sardonic film grows slack, peters out.
     Assaf (Assi) Dayan, son of Moshe, at the time Israel’s defense minister, is adequate as Heron.
     Georges Delerue’s music haunts.

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