Cyrano De Bergerac Movie Review
After surviving Steve Martin's 1988 comedic translation, Roxanne, Cyrano has been resurrected for the screen again, this time in its native French. This latest version, is involving and depressing. See it alone, or go with someone you love who can cheer you up afterwards.
For those unfamiliar with the story, it takes place amid the swarming streets of Paris, where cadets go out to "make cuckolds" every night. Cyrano de Bergerac (played by international up-and-comer and France's answer to Michael Caine, Gerard Depardieu) is a man to be reckoned with, thanks to his poetic gifts, ostentatious swordplay, and giant nose (the largest in France, we are told). His ugliness, however, denies him the joys of female companionship, as he explains at great length (length being the problem, after all). "My nose precedes me by 15 minutes," he muses.
Of course, it is one woman in particular who concerns him: his cousin Roxane, played by Anne Brochet. Roxane, however, is attracted to a pretty, airheaded young cadet, Christian de Neuvillette (Vincent Perez), but Christian lacks the gift of gab so important to the passionate affair. Curious to see if the combination of his words and Christian's looks can win Roxane, Cyrano offers to provide Christian with the "wit and eloquence," he needs. Cyrano writes Christian's love letters, tells him how to talk to Roxane and even speaks for him in a balcony scene. She's won, and she declares her love for Christian's "soul," which in a sense is really Cyrano's.
Though romantics have embellished his life, Cyrano de Bergerac was a real person, a French soldier who fought gallantly in the Spanish War and subsequently wrote comedies. The filmmakers have painstakingly recreated the period, though their effort seems slightly wasted - the story has little to do with the century (the 17th) or the war Cyrano and Christian are fighting (which war it is doesn't really matter, since somebody was always fighting).
What matters is that, after decades of pretense, the French have finally learned to make gripping films. In making his rich and colorful movie, Rappeneau distances himself somewhat from the sweeping story, allowing the events to keep moving without disengaging the audience. At its best the film imitates life almost perfectly, as in the dark rainy night that hides Cyrano as he declares his emotion to the unseeing Roxane, or the lovely garden setting in which Roxane meets Cyrano. Not that the film shows off - to borrow a phrase from Cyrano, its elegance is interior.
As for le lug, Depardieu is no Jose Ferrer (who played the first screen Cyrano in 1950), but he is well suited to the role.
Under the control of Depardieu's tyrannical wit and physical presence, Cyrano rampages across the screen. The character is a compelling combination of strength and weakness: He is admired for his freedom of thought, yet chained by his repressed emotion. All who have loved unsuccessfully, or whose love has been thwarted by cowardice, find in him their demon. Our sympathies go with him.
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