Veteran director Vicente Aranda gives us his take on events preceeding the fall of the Byzantine Empire in his lush 2006 adaptation from a book by the same name, "Tirante el Blanco" [Eng. Title: The White Knight]. I haven't read Joanot Martorell's original book, but knowing Sr. Aranda, I'm sure what seems at first sight to be a bawdy swashbuckler-romance with cheesy dialogues, is his way of satirizing the political intrigues and hypocrisy prevalent among the royals of the time, which eventually led to the fall of the Empire. But I am not too sure if he pulled it off successfully with the English dialogues - may be those in the dubbing department weren't fully aware of his intentions. There is also some tongue-in-cheek humour intended, but doesn't deliver.
Technically, apart from the battle scenes and effects, it is well done, especially the rich costumes, splendid lighting, excellent cinematography, and fine art direction - looks like they've collectively sought inspiration from the later works of Caravaggio. The Blu-ray version (from which these scenes were cut) certainly make these technical features show through in all its glory.
The story is set in the early 15th century when a knight from the Kingdom of Aragon (Spain didn't exist in its present form then) arrives with his army to defend Constantinople from the invading Moslems. He hopelessly falls in love with the princess Carmesina, played by the delicious Esther Nubiola. The film is filled with big stars - Italian great Giancarlo Giannini plays the ailing emperor, and Spanish heavyweight Victoria Abril plays the scheming Peaceful Widow, Leonor Watling, court maiden Placer de mi Vida, and Ingrid Rubio, maiden Estefania.
Scene 1: Of 'Silent Weddings' and ravished 'Maiden Heads'
I bet the title got your attention! Yes - this is about court maiden Estefania and princess Carmesina desperately trying to loose their virginity to the recently arrived foreigners - Tirante - the White Knight, and his close friend. One of them succeeds as the scene graphic below shows. There is only brief nudity in these scenes, but it's the situation and language that make these interesting to watch.
Scene set 2: The relentless 'flashings' of a conniving 'Peaceful Widow'
Viuda Reposada - Peaceful Widow goes to extraordinary lengths to prevent Tirante from marrying Carmesina, strutting her feminine charms at Tirante at every given opportunity. Having failed to keep the courtly love birds apart, she receives her comeuppance towards the end.
Scene set 3: Of 'Cougars' and Queen Bees
I've collated these scenes so it reads like a 'Decameronic' tale - I'm sure a Pasolini would have given it a more poetic touch, but this will do. The Empress, played by British actress Jane Asher, falls in love with a boy young enough to be her grandson - he is Tirante's Page. During the end scene, a suspicious Emperor barges into her 'smelly' chamber to see whether anything ontoward is going on.
Scene set 4: 'Whatever it takes' to 'Save the Empire'
These are a collection of scenes involving delicious (did I just repeat that!) Esther Nubiola and sultry Leonor Watling. Shame Ms. Watling doesn't get to present her physical assets in this film - that'll have to wait in this blog until I post scenes from a Bigas Luna flick from my DVD library. But she gives us several tatalising glimpses of her hidden charms throughout the film.