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The Fencing Master


The Fencing Master

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Political skullduggery, romantic intrigue, elaborate murder, and some damned good dueling—that's what all these wig movies have been missing until now. And all of these elements are deftly interwoven in The Fencing Master, as Omero Antonutti—the last fencing master in 19th century Madrid and tutor to the aristocracy—takes the beautiful Assumpta Serna as a rare female pupil. A lonely older man whose career is becoming obsolete, Antonutti is enchanted by Serna's skill with the sword, and teaches her his signature beat-feint-and-thrust to the throat, all the while realizing that he is falling in love. As Madrid approaches a state of revolution, Serna disappears, and Antonutti's friends begin turning up dead from, of course, sword thrusts to the throat. As a political murder mystery, The Fencing Master is just passable, and the plot itself creates little drama or suspense. But Antonutti and Serna deliver fine performances in limited roles, each of them exuding such a powerful balance of romantic tension and self-possession that they easily transcend the story's thin premise. And to see the two of them fencing is just short of magical.