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3.8 out of 5 stars26
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 11 March 2004
Poor Mallefille - you really have to pity him. Not only has he become the lover of the woman who employed him to tutor her children (and whose reputation is hard to take for his pathologically jealous nature anyway); only to be dumped again in short order, when she has had enough of him and his fits of jealousy. Not only does he have to watch her exchange witticisms and confidences with a host of other men, many of them belonging to the Parisian art circles where he himself will never be taken seriously (and God knows what else they may be exchanging or have exchanged in the past). Not only is he being bossed around by a woman who has taken a male pen name, insists on dressing in men's clothes, refuses to use a woman's saddle when riding (and what a horsewoman she is!) and prefers an afternoon out hunting to one sipping tea in the company of other ladies of society. No: after having taken all that, and having dared to demand the satisfaction to which he feels so justly entitled from her latest object of romantic interest, one feeble Polish composer named Chopin - only to see the guy fainting before the obligatory count has even gotten to "ten" and never raise his pistol at all - what does the wretched woman do? She seizes Chopin's weapon, fires at Mallefille, injures his arm and responds coolly, when he has finally overcome his shock and disbelief and inquires how, after all their time together, she could do such a thing: "It was easy. You're a menace to the future of art."
As this movie would have it, the above scene (never to be revealed to Chopin, in order not to hurt his pride) brought about the final turning point in one of history's most famous love stories, the romance between prolific French writer George Sand (born 1804 as Amandine Aurore Lucile Dupin and married, in 1822, to Baron Casimir Dudevant, whom she left in 1835) and quintessential Romantic composer and Polish musical prodigy Frederic (Fryderyk) Chopin, six years her junior, who after a life-long struggle with his health succumbed to tuberculosis at the age of 39 years. While taking some liberties with the real course of events, "Impromptu" does portray their relationship up to their departure for Majorca, as well as the story's backdrop in 19th century Paris and rural France, with an admirably light touch and in loving detail; marvelously framed by a score consisting almost exclusively of pieces by Chopin himself. Judy Davis and a deliciously young and fragile Hugh Grant are the perfect embodiment of Sand and her "Chopinet" - she, a feisty no-nonsense woman used to fighting for her place in the world, who can nevertheless lose herself completely in Chopin's music, which she considers divine; he, sickly, uptight and at first severely taken aback by her manner which so contradicts accepted female behavior that he almost doubts she is a woman at all (a remark actually attributed to Chopin and resounding in the movie's interpretation of their initial encounter, after Sand has hidden in his room to hear him play and leaves her hiding place when he stops, pleading with him to continue, only to be rebuked by a seriously upset Chopin: "Rumor has it that you are a woman, so I must ask you to leave my private chambers. ... This is ridiculously improper - and frightening as well!")
Although Sand and Chopin were really introduced to each other by their joint friend Franz Liszt and his companion Marie d'Agoult (here portrayed with fervor and panache by Julian Sands and Bernadette Peters), the movie ingeniously places their first meeting onto the country estate of the Duke d'Antan and his wife Claudette, self-declared patroness of the arts (played by an exuberant Emma Thompson, who milks the role for all it's worth and then some), who has assembled the cream of the Parisian arts scene; besides Chopin, Liszt and Marie most notably Sand's former lover, poet Alfred de Musset (Mandy Patinkin) and painter Eugene Delacroix (Ralph Brown). Sand, who is actually not among the invitees, spontaneously proceeds to invite herself when she hears that Chopin will be among the guests, because she has wanted to meet him ever since she first heard him play in the Paris salon of Baroness Laginsky (Elizabeth Spriggs) - thus guaranteeing plenty of tumultuous scenes between herself and de Musset as well as between the latter and Mallefille (Georges Corraface), who (likewise uninvited) appears shortly after her in dogged pursuit of the woman who has recently dumped him; a fact he is patently unwilling to accept.
Although initially rejected by Chopin, Sand is not in the least willing to give up on him; and she greedily accepts Marie's advice after their return to Paris: "He is not a man; he's a woman. ... You must win him as a man wins a woman. If anyone can do it, you can." And while Marie's counsel is far less disinterested and well-meaning than George thinks, in the end her new tactics do the trick; albeit only after a series of heated encounters between the two would-be lovers, Chopin and de Musset and Chopin and Marie; and not before Sand has lost her mother (Anna Massey), her most undying champion. Chopin and Sand eventually become friends and - we are told - finally lovers after Mallefille has forever left the battlefield in shame.
Although there would be an estrangement between the star-crossed lovers shortly before Chopin's death, he did remain, as Sand wrote in her autobiography, the greatest love of her life; and in turn, the years they spent together are considered by many the most fertile years of his musical career. They both will live forever in their works - and this movie, which unfortunately went virtually undiscovered upon its 1991 release, is a wonderful, gentle reminder of the wealth of creativity and emotion they had to share.
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on 10 June 2009
To start with, the actors produced great performances in Impromptu! I am very impressed from Judy Davis and how she coped with a complicated character like Sand. Many people find Grant's Polish accent funny in this movie, but I think it suits him somehow. Emma Thompson was really entertaining and Julian Sands was a very good choice for Liszt!

No need to say that Chopin's music is poetic and expressive, he is one of the greatest composers of all time. This movie deserves to be watched by many people. Highly recommended!
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I found this to be is a far more enjoyable film than it really ought to be, given that it isn`t anywhere near funny enough to appeal to a wide general audience.

If you know who all the real-life characters are, it just about gets by; while most of the cast do their best with a script that only allows for rather two-dimensional characterisations, Judy Davis carries much of the film with a spirited, fairly convincing depiction of George Sand. Together with Hugh Grant as Chopin – which, from what I know of the composer, comes across as a reasonable characterisation – the film works well enough as a comedy; historical accuracy isn`t a primary consideration and if that is realised by the viewer from the outset, it becomes a much more pleasurable affair.
With high production values, settings and a good visual attention to period detail (in so far as it matters) this is a soufflé that didn't quite rise, but still entertains; there are some excellent contributions from Emma Thompson and Anton Rodgers and the rather contrived plot hobbles along on the edge of farce for much of the duration, the silliness pretty much saving the day.

A fair and amusing period romp with some good music thrown in; worth a view on a wet night or a quiet afternoon. It`s not a great film, but it isn`t a dreadful one either.
3 ½ stars, ideally.
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on 21 April 2004
Poor Mallefille - you really have to pity him. Not only has he become the lover of the woman who employed him to tutor her children (and whose reputation is hard to take for his pathologically jealous nature anyway); only to be dumped again in short order, when she has had enough of him and his fits of jealousy. Not only does he have to watch her exchange witticisms and confidences with a host of other men, many of them belonging to the Parisian art circles where he himself will never be taken seriously (and God knows what else they may be exchanging or have exchanged in the past). Not only is he being bossed around by a woman who has taken a male pen name, insists on dressing in men's clothes, refuses to use a woman's saddle when riding (and what a horsewoman she is!) and prefers an afternoon out hunting to one sipping tea in the company of other ladies of society. No: after having taken all that, and having dared to demand the satisfaction to which he feels so justly entitled from her latest object of romantic interest, one feeble Polish composer named Chopin - only to see the guy fainting before the obligatory count has even gotten to "ten" and never raise his pistol at all - what does the wretched woman do? She seizes Chopin's weapon, fires at Mallefille, injures his arm and responds coolly, when he has finally overcome his shock and disbelief and inquires how, after all their time together, she could do such a thing: "It was easy. You're a menace to the future of art."
As this movie would have it, the above scene (never to be revealed to Chopin, in order not to hurt his pride) brought about the final turning point in one of history's most famous love stories, the romance between prolific French writer George Sand (born 1804 as Amandine Aurore Lucile Dupin and married, in 1822, to Baron Casimir Dudevant, whom she left in 1835) and quintessential Romantic composer and Polish musical prodigy Frederic (Fryderyk) Chopin, six years her junior, who after a life-long struggle with his health succumbed to tuberculosis at the age of 39 years. While taking some liberties with the real course of events, "Impromptu" does portray their relationship up to their departure for Majorca, as well as the story's backdrop in 19th century Paris and rural France, with an admirably light touch and in loving detail; marvelously framed by a score consisting almost exclusively of pieces by Chopin himself. Judy Davis and a deliciously young and fragile Hugh Grant are the perfect embodiment of Sand and her "Chopinet" - she, a feisty no-nonsense woman used to fighting for her place in the world, who can nevertheless lose herself completely in Chopin's music, which she considers divine; he, sickly, uptight and at first severely taken aback by her manner which so contradicts accepted female behavior that he almost doubts she is a woman at all (a remark actually attributed to Chopin and resounding in the movie's interpretation of their initial encounter, after Sand has hidden in his room to hear him play and leaves her hiding place when he stops, pleading with him to continue, only to be rebuked by a seriously upset Chopin: "Rumor has it that you are a woman, so I must ask you to leave my private chambers. ... This is ridiculously improper - and frightening as well!")
Although Sand and Chopin were really introduced to each other by their joint friend Franz Liszt and his companion Marie d'Agoult (here portrayed with fervor and panache by Julian Sands and Bernadette Peters), the movie ingeniously places their first meeting onto the country estate of the Duke d'Antan and his wife Claudette, self-declared patroness of the arts (played by an exuberant Emma Thompson, who milks the role for all it's worth and then some), who has assembled the cream of the Parisian arts scene; besides Chopin, Liszt and Marie most notably Sand's former lover, poet Alfred de Musset (Mandy Patinkin) and painter Eugene Delacroix (Ralph Brown). Sand, who is actually not among the invitees, spontaneously proceeds to invite herself when she hears that Chopin will be among the guests, because she has wanted to meet him ever since she first heard him play in the Paris salon of Baroness Laginsky (Elizabeth Spriggs) - thus guaranteeing plenty of tumultuous scenes between herself and de Musset as well as between the latter and Mallefille (Georges Corraface), who (likewise uninvited) appears shortly after her in dogged pursuit of the woman who has recently dumped him; a fact he is patently unwilling to accept.
Although initially rejected by Chopin, Sand is not in the least willing to give up on him; and she greedily accepts Marie's advice after their return to Paris: "He is not a man; he's a woman. ... You must win him as a man wins a woman. If anyone can do it, you can." And while Marie's counsel is far less disinterested and well-meaning than George thinks, in the end her new tactics do the trick; albeit only after a series of heated encounters between the two would-be lovers, Chopin and de Musset and Chopin and Marie; and not before Sand has lost her mother (Anna Massey), her most undying champion. Chopin and Sand eventually become friends and - we are told - finally lovers after Mallefille has forever left the battlefield in shame.
Although there would be an estrangement between the star-crossed lovers shortly before Chopin's death, he did remain, as Sand wrote in her autobiography, the greatest love of her life; and in turn, the years they spent together are considered by many the most fertile years of his musical career. They both will live forever in their works - and this movie, which unfortunately went virtually undiscovered upon its 1991 release, is a wonderful, gentle reminder of the wealth of creativity and emotion they had to share.
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on 25 December 2003
This fantastic film with Hugh Grant(Chopin) and Judy Davis(Georges Sand), along with Emma Thompson, Bernadette Peters, Mandy Patinkin(as Delacroix), and Julian Sands(perfectly cast as FRANZ LISZT!) is BRILLIANT for anyone who loves 1. any/all of these fantastic actors, 2. anyone who loves the Chopin/Georges Sand love affair story, 3. this amazing period in French art/music/literature history. The soundtrack is full of Chopin's lush tunes, of course, and the scene with Judy Davis under the piano is a must-see for anyone who loves Chopin's music. Emma Thompson's cameo as the bumbling aristocrat who patronises the arts is not to be missed. And finally, a historical reason for Hugh Grant's hair - it flops to perfection! I loved this film in 1991 and can't believe I will soon own it on DVD!
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on 20 February 2012
It appears people either love or hate this film. The best bit about it is the music, particularly the fantaisie impromptu. The bit where Chopin and Liszt are playing Liszts transcription of Beethoven's 6th is also one of my favourite scenes. The characters are also believable, especially Julian Sands looks just like the real Liszt. However I personally I don't understand the need for the actors to put on accents, especially Liszt's Hungarian and Chopin's polish accents.

The script lacks subtlety on several occasions, and could be better. Chopin says "I shall give you one minute.." (plays minute waltz). Another time (Raindrop prelude plays) "I say, that sounds like rain!" (This piece was actually composed in Majorca after the Sand and Chopin departed) It's like the script writer wanted to get in as many references to the names of his pieces as possible.
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on 25 May 2003
This may not be to everybodies taste - however this is the exploration of how the preditorial George Sands (real name Aurore Doudevante) hunted down the frail & hyperpolite Fryderyk Chopin in 1830's Paris. Charmingly done with moments of brilliant wit and generally acurate (though I'm not sure of the reasoning the film gives to Chopin's dedication of the op 25 Erudes to Liszt's mistress! - in actual fact I'm not convinced that Marie D'Agoult had such interest in Chopin himself). The casting is excellent, Chopin is played by a young Hugh Grant, Franz Liszt by Julian Sands and Davis plays the sexually aggressive (and excentric) George Sands. All cast members look eerily similar to the artist and gentry they represent and the chemistry and interplay is fantastic. A must for any music student in terms of historical context - a "strongly recommend" for general viewers wanting a bit of light entertainment.
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on 16 May 2011
I very much enjoyed this movie. It is stylish and I love the sense of humour. Hugh Grant is fabulous as wonderful, shy and super talented Chopin. A stylish and entertaining movie. Something to watch over and over again. A must for all lovers of Chopin.
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on 28 March 2012
This film disappoints from the off. George Sand is unconvincing and she is probably the best depiction in it. Chopin coughs his way through the film and has a terrible phoney accent. He is portrayed as a fainting wimp and Liszt (Julian Sands) is no better. If they have accents why doesn't George Sand? albeit of a different nature. There is no plot. Emma Thompson flits through the film like an aborted butterfly and really there is no direction. The film is flat. Where is the passion, the romance? The film takes all its time to bring Chopin and Sand together and then ends. It says nothing of the tumultuous and passionate affair. This film is as exciting as a wet fish slopped around your face. Best forgotten!
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on 11 October 2010
It's always interesting to see early Hugh Grant films and this one has the added interest that it's on a historical subject. Because of this we get lots of beautiful music (Chopin & Liszt) and we see snatches of the lives of these famous musicians. George Sand was also famous at that time and set off romantic flares in upper class ladies of the time, encouraging them to lose the restrictions of family and high society. On the one hand this helped them to see themselves as human beings, equal to men, but on the other hand, her 'All for love' approach destroyed many relationships - Check out Alexander Herzen and his wife.

Having said this, we don't see much about Chopin, Liszt, his daughter (who married Schuman) and George Sand in terms of their contributions to artistic and social history, but then we wouldn't expect to in this sort of film. However, it's nice to have this historical background, and wonderful to see the actors trying to navigate the subject matter. If it encourages anyone to look into the lives of the people being portrayed, that will be a bonus for them.

Chopin and George head off for Madeira at the end of the film in what appears to be a happy ending, but in real life was a very sad time for them. I suppose the key approach to this film is to sit back and enjoy it. It could even be used by music teachers to introduce the subject matter, before asking the students to do some research and find out what really happened.
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