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December 9, 2010

DVD REVIEW: LAFAYETTE: THE LOST HERO

Lafayette is a hero of the American Revolution. He is also LOST.



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STUDIO: PBS (Direct)
MSRP: $24.99
RATED: Unrated

RUNNING TIME: Approx. 60 Minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES:
• Scenes from the original Director’s Cut.


The Pitch

 

The Marquis de La Fayette is a hero and also lost.  Let’s learn more about him! The Humans

 

– Oren Jacoby – Director

– John Cullum – Narrator

– Patrick Bauchau – Marquis de La Fayette (voice)

Stephanie Szostak – Adrienne de La Fayette (voice) The Nutshell

 

A 19 year old Lafayette spurns a life of being an 18th century aristocratic French stereotype to come to America and fight for liberty.  Lafayette proves to be a charismatic and capable leader who contributes mightily to the American Revolution.  The Marquis proves less successful with the French Revolution that would follow.  The Marquis ends up spending several years in prison before getting one hell of a welcome in the United States on the 50th anniversary of the revolution.

  
The Lowdown

 

I didn’t know very much about the Marquis de La Fayette before I watched this documentary.  I knew he was an excitable young rich guy who traveled to America to join in the war there and ended up being a valuable officer and asset to the cause.  That was pretty much it.  I’d meant to learn more about him at some point, honest. 

I bet you didn’t know Lafayette was attacked by zombies.

 

This short documentary (a cool hour) is packed with information.  Much of what is presented is taken from Lafayette’s memoirs as well as correspondence with his wife Adrienne and George Washington.  Memoirs and correspondence letters from Lafayette are read by Patrick Bauchau, our dear Professor Lodz from Carnivàle, who brings nice gravitas to what could otherwise be boring voice over.  Bauchau’s voice work is complimented by Stephanie Szostak, who voices Lafayette’s wife.  John Cullum, who was great as Holling in Northern Exposure, narrates the documentary but doesn’t really add much to the production.  

 

Featuring Benjamin Franklin as George Washington!

 

This documentary was a lot of fun to watch, especially if you have any interest in revolutionary period American history.  The details of Lafayette’s pursuit of Cornwallis were presented in a fairly exciting manner and I found myself getting a bit worked up during that segment.  Considering how bland all of this material could be, I think it’s a real accomplishment for the film to turn out as engaging as it was.

 

“This is the second time he doesn’t give a fuck about what’s going on in front of the camera!”

 

The last thing that really struck me about this movie was how it made me reflect on the United States’ current course.  The way Lafayette spoke of this nation and the hopes that he and the men like him held for us is staggering.  After watching the documentary and hearing his thoughts, it becomes even more saddening to see the erosion of civil liberties and the United States not standing at the vanguard of personal freedom.  It’s a hell of a thing to hear that a Frenchman (those dirty bastards, amirite?) once said of this country “The welfare of America is bound closely to the welfare of all humanity. She is to become the honored and safe asylum of liberty!“

 

Those are the smuggest heads to ever grace pikes.

 


The Package


The cover art here is pretty much what you would expect from a PBS DVD, it is simple and attractive but nothing special.  There are about 15 minutes worth of additional footage in the extra features.  All of which was dropped before the film aired on PBS and for the most part it’s plain to see why.  One scene has an old man coming to a museum to take a bust of Lafayette to a party.  Thrilling.  A few of the scenes, however, are worth a look.  The film is presented in widescreen, which is nice, however the footage doesn’t always hold up having been shot on a PBS budget. 

6.5 out of 10
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