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Cyrano de Bergerac Movie Review

film jean rostand depardieu

1990 – Jean-Paul Rappeneau –

Edmond Rostand's 1898 play about the famous hero that translator Anthony Burgess described in an apt phrase as “big-nosed, big-voiced, big-souled” was labeled by its author an heroic comedy. One of the most expensive French productions ever made, this film version is the first really to capture the heroic side of the story, and it makes the 1950 version produced by Stanley Kramer seem cramped and stagey. The built-in comedy of the role and its tendency toward buffoonery come across in a modernization like Roxanne, Fred Schepisi's and Steve Martin's film, just as the cleverness of Rostand's mistaken-identity plot becomes the centerpiece of The Truth about Cats and Dogs. Rappeneau's Cyrano takes the romanticism of Rostand's play and localizes it in an earthy but exuberant, seventeenth-century Parisian world where a street simpleton steals one of Roxane's letters and runs off grinningly and where battle scenes from the Siege at Arras feature 2,000 extras and hundreds of swords, pikes, muskets, and cannons. It is a lush, soaring production.

Through all the fire and smoke of battle, Cyrano's expansive soul remains unsullied, and Depardieu is more memorable than even the period sets and the beautiful photography. His excellent performance somehow always makes clear that his bear-like form and swaggering demeanor mask the timidity and vulnerability of unrequited love. Rostand's play and this production also explore the connection between verbal facility and refinement of emotions. Does a rare gift for expression lead to a better understanding of ideas and emotions, or do even the less articulate grasp just as fully the complex stirrings of emotion they can't explain? Christian (Vincent Perez), the man for whom Cyrano ghosts the love letters to Roxane (Anne Brochet), certainly thinks that somewhere inside him is the dignity of thought and feeling that Cyrano so effortlessly voices. But his attempts to sunder himself from his spokesman lead to bumbling efforts at declaring his love. Roxane tires of his desperate “I love you's.”

One of the play's infectious qualities is the way it imparts a smoothness and simplicity to eloquence, making something that is quite rare seem everyday. The English subtitles by Anthony Burgess capture the intricate rhymes of the French dialogue. Those of us verbally addled like Christian can for a moment identify with Cyrano and feel a little of what it's like to pour out the poetry of our affection into these verbal rhapsodies. Rostand, of course, like most poets, sides with his hero, and though he gives Christian a brave soldier's death, it is Cyrano who possesses both the verbal and spiritual refinement of a peerless soul.

Cast: Gerard Depardieu (Cyrano de Bergerac), Anne Brochet (Roxane), Vincent Perez (Christian de Neuvillette), Jacques Weber (Count DeGuiche), Roland Bertin (Ragueneau), Phillippe Morier-Genoud (Le Bret), Josiane Stoleru (Roxane's handmaid), Anatole Delalande (the child), Ludivine Sagnier (the little sister), Alain Rimoux (the father), Phillippe Volter (Viscount of Valvert), Jean-Marie Winling (Ligiere), Louis Lavarre (Le Facheux), Gabriel Monnet (Montfleury), Francois Marie (Bellerose), Pierre Triboulet (Jodelet), Jacques Pater (Le Tire-laine), Lucien Pascal (Academy Member), Catherine Ferran (Lise Ragueneau), Madeleine Marion (Mother Superior), Claudine Gabay (Naughty Sister) Screenwriter: Jean-Claude Carriere, Jean-Paul Rappeneau, Anthony Burgess Cinematographer: Pierre Lhomme Composer: Jean-Claude Petit Producer: Rene Cleitman and Michel Seydoux for Hachette Premiere, Camera One, Films A2, D. D. Prods., and UGC; released by Orion Pictures MPAA Rating: PG Running Time: 138 minutes Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards, 1990: Costume Design; Nominations: Actor (Gerard Depardieu), Art Direction/Set Decoration, Foreign Language Film, Makeup; Cannes Film Festival, 1990: Actor (Gerard Depardieu); Cesar Awards, 1991: Actor (Gerard Depardieu), Art Direction/Set Decoration, Cinematography, Costume Design, Director (Jean-Paul Rappeneau), Film, Sound, Supporting Actor (Jacques Weber), Score; Golden Globe Awards, 1991: Foreign Film Budget: $20M.

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