In a world
where nothing is truly
reasonable, nothing is
I discovered this quirky British film quite by accident -- and learned what serendipiy means. The Advocate might have done better at the box office had the marketing campaign been minimally competent, or even truthful. Hmm, there's a concept for you! Anyway, The Advocate or, as it was marketed in Europe, The Hour of the Pig (I prefer the former title), is a good film with solid acting. Too bad it tried to ride the coattails of The Crying Game (it's nothing like that 1992 film), then later tried to push the sex-and-seduction angle (which is really secondary to the main story). This film brings to life a more superstitious age for our mostly skeptical time, and does it better than The Name of the Rose (1986), another murder mystery.
In 15th century France, as the Plague approaches, in certain provinces animals were subject to the same laws as humans. Burned out from defending clients in corrupt Paris, advocate Richard Courtois (Colin Firth) and his clerk (Jim Carter) take up residence in the countryside, where life is simpler and people are more genuine. In fact, they are highly superstitious and fearful, and content to live that way. While resident in Abbeville, Courtois befriends an apostate priest (Ian Holm), crosses swords in court with a jaded local prosecutor (Donald Pleasance), and is pressured to marry the daughter of the Seigneur (Nicol Williamson). To his chagrin, Courtois finds the country air no better than the city air, and finds himself investigating a murder that may have upper class connections -- and defending a pig owned by a beautiful and compelling Gypsy woman (Armina Annabi) against the charge.
I have a particular interest in religion and superstition, and The Advocate, based on the life of a real 15th century advocate, puts a 600-year-old society into sharp focus. The courtroom drama is well done, mixing Latin, law and superstition. The murder subplot is well worked and the resolution surprising, as it was meant to be. The characterizations were vividly drawn and, especially in the case of Firth's Courtois, real enough to make me care about the character.
The Hour of the Pig (1993) 102 mins. Directed by Leslie Megahey. Written by Leslie Megahey. Cast: Colin Firth as Richard Courtois (the Advocate), Ian Holm as Albertus (the priest), Donald Pleasence as Pincheon (another advocate), Amina Annabi as Samira (a Gypsy woman), Nicol Williamson as Seigneur Jehan d'Auferre (a rich landowner), Michael Gough as Magistrate Boniface, Harriet Walter as Jeannine Martin, Jim Carter as Mathieu (Richard Courtois's clerk), Lysette Anthony as Filette d'Auferre, Sophie Dix as Maria, Vincent Grass as Bailiff Labatier, Elizabeth Spriggs as Madame Langlois, Raoul Delfosse as Blind George, Justin Chadwick as Gerard d'Auferre, Jean-Pierre Stewart as Sheriff. Also known as: The Advocate (1993) (US title).
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Ronald Bruce Meyer is a freelance reviewer.
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