SPAIN 1992
ONE WORD: The whole film is a masterpiece from beginning to the end.

Some films, and theatrical productions, try to cash in on their glitz and their stars. Other films just shine all the glitz, and come together as a masterpiece that is rarely seen. THE FENCING MASTER has an un-erring quality about its cohesiveness that it is difficult not to call the writer and director, a genius of some sort.

THE FENCING MASTER, is a film about a master instructor, and is done in the way that only a master himself could interpret. Its detail to the awareness of what it takes to make a real master in the art of fencing, is the tool used in this film. There are fencers, and then there are masters. And the masters have one thing that many of the pupils do not have.... they study the art of psychology and thinking in the heat of the battle, and learn to use it. Many masters were chosen, and graded such, because of their innate ability to slow down time and perform with such accuracy... which the film makes a point of saying that this is an extension of the mental attitude, not a point of mere physical training and trickery.

Don Jaime Astarloa, is the best known fencing master at the time, in which the monarchy is having some terrible problems, and the public is trying to start a revolution to get the prime minister system in effect, rather than the elitist system of the monarchy. And as is befitting his work, Don Jaime is less interested in politics ( it seems clear enough ) than he is in the detailed study of the movements of the fencing arm. And he gets approached by a lady one day that wishes to learn from him a maneuver which he has become famous for, a deadly one at that. The lady is insistent, and is well versed in the art of fencing as well, and after a severe test he is proud to take her on, at her place, where they might have a little privacy.

And as her lessons continue, the mysterious lady begins showing her connections as unusual, and not clear. As more time passes, many of the people around Don Jaime are becoming the target of assassination and much harassment. A terribly frustrated police inspector tries to get much information out of Don Jaime, but he realizes that Don Jaime
really does not know anything either, and if he does, he is well guarded. However, Don Jaime's preferences for the monarchy, are now clear, though he politely declines any political discussion of any kind. At this point, after learning a few more details about his woman student and obvious suitor, he foresees what is to become of his future... and he sits up waiting for the woman to show up, who presumably has been dead, something which Don Jaime seemed to make a slight face at, but did not show any inclination as to whether it was real or not. And since he is a master, he knows that he has to study the situation, and prepares for her appearance. In the middle of the night, she finally appears. And what appears to become the consummation of a love affair, will soon turn into a serious battle of wits, in a display of the best fencing that has ever been filmed.

This careful web of betrayal, deceit and plots, in this film, will keep many viewers entranced. The film is intense, and has a focal point, which is HONOR, represented by the fencing and its lessons. And the mis-use of that honor is a deadly force.

Carefully directed, and specially attuned to the details about honor and no politics, this very well photographed film with the most outstanding costumes ( who the hell could even consider Orlando or The Age of Innocence --- you ought to see the colors... ), stands out as a true beauty, with extraordinary performances by Omero Antonutti as Don Jaime, and a lovely Assumpta Serna, as Adela.

If you want to see a film, that is dedicated to the fine art of filming, and to a great story, this is it... if you want to see hype, try the three musketeers done by Disney.... you ought to appreciate this film for the great piece of work that it really is.





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