CYRANO DE BERGERAC
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.