This is the third installment in the Gower Project: “The Tale of Florent.” It may look modern, but it’s thoroughly medieval, so by our standards it’s quite politically incorrect. ;)** How does a promising but naïve young man redeem himself by guessing what all women want? And how will he deal with an unattractive bride? This is Gower’s version, and not Chaucer’s, so the guy is a whole lot more likable and the story a whole lot more light-hearted. Made for the third International Conference of the John Gower Society, University of Rochester, NY, June 30-July 3, 2014. Faithful, but with some poetic license. ;) I am grateful to Janine Portal for letting me use her stunning painting "Oracle" (exhibited in SL) as the back drop for this film. It has all the qualities of nature and design that maintain the medieval (and yet not) Fairy Tale properties of this little story.
**The sexism and ageism in this story may bother (it worried ME a bit), so one could ask why even try to modify a fourteenth-century "loathly lady" story? There are at least three famous ones in and a bit after Chaucer's day not including the Ballad of King Henry and the Irish Sovereignty Tale (The Sons of Eochaid Mugmedon). As Gower says in a Latin colophon to Book I: Naturatus amor nature legibus orbem subdit. "Love fashioned for nature's ends subjects the world to nature's laws." Desire is so hard to control. We like to think that we can marry someone for their character, but sexual desire is subject to the physical as well as the psychological. The theme of all these films is Kinde, both "nature" and "natural," "kindness" and "kind." We marry our kind. It is unnatural, said the medievals, for a young, lusty man to desire an old, ugly woman especially when forced to. That's why, perhaps, both men and women want mastery over love, because it's just as hard to stop desiring someone who doesn't desire you back as it is to be told to desire someone. (That's actually the frame story Gower provided for these tales: an unrequited lover.) Yes, Florent's reward for humiliating himself and admitting he's been a privileged prick is a beautiful young woman. But I tried to temper that by making her leap back into what she really wanted to do: be a mechanic dressed in her overalls (not in Gower!). He has given her mastery not just over love (it was "mastery over MEN's love" in Gower), but mastery over her MIND. Rhyming with "kind" which is a pun on "nature." She fixes his bike and he builds their house, doing something constructive for the first time in his life.
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