Mar 12, 2008

16th March 2008; Screening of Cyrano de Bergerac

Cyrano de Bergerac

A Film By Jean-Paul Rappeneau
Runtime:137 min
Country :France
French with English Sub titles
16th March 2008 ; 5.45 pm
Ashwin Hospital Auditorium
Call 9443039630

At the heart of 19th-century playwright Edmond Rostand's popular "Cyrano de Bergerac" is a great story about unrequited love and a nobleman whose soul is as beautiful as his nose is unsightly.

In Jean-Paul Rappeneau's French production of "Cyrano de Bergerac," the director streamlines much of that flabbiness, preserves the iambic verse (with thoughtful, subtitled translation from Anthony Burgess) and creates, for the most part, a pleasurable interpretation with costume-bedecked romance, intrigue and comedy.

As the title character, Gerard Depardieu, France's one-man acting industry, brings to the role not only his own formidable nose (which nevertheless nuzzles under a special-effects schnozz) but also a swashbuckling swagger that enlivens the production.

"Lug your guts away, Salami," he bellows at a stage performer whose overacting he particularly despises. "Or I'll remove you slice by slice."

When Cyrano cannot have his beautiful cousin Roxane, he helps his friend Christian. He ghostwrites letters and ghost-recites speeches in the moonlight, and because Roxane senses that the words come from a heart brave and true, she pledges herself to Christian.

This 138-minute film, comprising two thousand performers and a helluva lot of musketry, has several good scenes, including the well-known one in which Christian utters romantic praise to Roxanne from below her balcony, while de Bergerac feeds him lines.

The moral may be uniquely French, but the story remains a universal treasure. One of the nation's most expensive productions ever, it is fairly jostling with musket-armed extras and details of the 17th century, in which the story takes place. There's a Dickensian look to the movie, so shadowed and dark it's as if Rappeneau didn't really want us to get a good glimpse of the storied nose. But as Roxane, the French ingenue Brochet brings light and grace to the proceedings.

"Cyrano de Bergerac" is played full tilt, like Don Quixote against the windmills. An enthusiastic melodrama, it spills emotions like stars across the noble screen.

Jean-Paul Rappeneau

Born 8 April 1932

Jean-Paul Rappeneau entered films in a traditional way, as a second assistant to Jean Dréville on Suspects, as collaborator on Vilardebo's short film Entre la terre et le ciel, and as the director of the short Chronique provinciale. During the next few years he concentrated on writing, and acquired a solid reputation with scripts for Signé Arsène Lupin, two films by Louis Malle, Zazie dans le métro and La Vie privée, and a short film by René Clair in La Française et l'amour. The commercially successful L'Homme de Rio, directed by Philippe de Broca and starring Jean-Paul Belmondo, was followed by an international co-production, La Fabuleuse Aventure de Marco Polo.

These films had crystalized his own tastes and ambitions, and in 1966 he directed his first long film, La Vie de château, a brilliant comedy situated in Normandy on the eve of the invasion by the allies during the Second World War.The film is revealed as the work of an elegant filmmaker who is also sensible to the playing of the actors, particularly Catherine Deneuve, Pierre Brasseur, and Philippe Noiret. His next film was Les Mariés de l'an II, a comedy where heroism is mixed with romance and burlesque with tragedy.

After working previously with his own original scripts, Rappeneau turned his attention to adaptation, and to works he deemed initially to be unfilmable: Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac and Jean Giono's Le Hussard sur le toit. With Gérard Depardieu cast as the larger-than-life, swashbuckling romantic hero, Cyrano deservedly brought Rappeneau international attention. The director's meticulous preparation is evident from the opening sequence in the theatre, the carefully choreographed sword fights and the impressively orchestrated battle scenes involving over 2000 extras. Careful attention to period detail once more characterizes the director's approach in his beautifully crafted evocation of 1830s France. Both films, along with productions such as Berri's Jean de Florette, Manon des Sources, or Germinal, are indicative of a particular trend in French filmmaking (not so far removed from post-war literary cinema) in which classic texts are transformed through film to become a new cultural phenomenon: heritage cinema.

1 comment:

Srikanth said...

I was introduced to Herzog only through your club which I attended 2 years back in coimbatore........ This is a wonderful effort and I appreciate this a lot. It opened windows to me to explore Goddard, Bresson, Ingmar bergman etc..

Great stuff on the blog !!! I long to come back to coimbatore next month to join the club again.