CYRANO DE BERG­ERAC

NZ Today - - ON FILM -

Di­rected by Jean-Paul Rap­pe­neau Orion Clas­sics 1990

This re­ally is the film that made Ger­ard Depar­dieu an in­ter­na­tional su­per­star, even be­fore the afore­men­tioned Green Card. Depar­dieu won the Ce­sar, the French equiv­a­lent of the Os­car and his per­for­mance is an ut­ter tour de force. I re­mem­ber be­ing equally im­pressed when I saw it for the first time at about 24 years old.

In ad­di­tion to 10 Ce­sars, Cyrano de Berg­erac also won the Golden Globe for Best For­eign Lan­guage Film. It is based on the 1897 play by Edmond Ro­stand, which in turn is a fic­tion­alised ac­count of 17th century real French writer and du­al­ist, Her­cule-Savinien Cyrano de Berg­erac.

It is an in­cred­i­bly lav­ish pro­duc­tion, which draws you in im­me­di­ately with its ro­mance and po­etry. It even boasts rhyming cou­plet sub­ti­tles. As a mod­er­ate speaker of French it was very hard for me to catch many words, but of­ten that is the case with for­eign­lan­guage films, be­cause they don’t slow their speech for the non-na­tive view­ers!

For those who don’t know the story (and Steve Martin gives it a very good mod­ern twist in his film Rox­anne, which you may re­mem­ber from the late 80s), it is the clas­sic tale of beauty ver­sus talent. A beau­ti­ful maiden falls for a dev­as­tat­ingly hand­some sol­dier hav­ing never heard him speak. The sol­dier reaches out to large-honkered Cyrano hop­ing for some in­spi­ra­tion. Se­cretly him­self in love with Rox­ane, Cyrano agrees to be­come the sol­dier’s voice in the hope of vi­car­i­ously liv­ing through the cou­ple’s love af­fair.

Depar­dieu is ut­terly swash­buck­ling. I liked his solid size and per­fectly over­sized nose. As Rox­ane, Anne Bro­chet is his foil, the ul­ti­mate in un­re­quited love.

The du­elling and the­atrics are highly colourful and dra­matic. I felt trans­ported to mid-17th century Paris, re­plete with vagabonds and vil­lains.

My only crit­i­cism would be the drawn out fi­nal scene. I felt as if it would never end. That said, it prob­a­bly gave Depar­dieu his most poignant and dra­matic mo­ments. Mo­ments that set him up for in­ter­na­tional star­dom.

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