Cyrano de Bergerac was originally a verse-play, written by Edmond Rostand in 1897. This story set in seventeenth-century France of the ugly man who helps another in his suit for the woman that the former loves has found fame ever since. But when Roxane declares to her beloved Christian that she no longer loves him for his looks but rather for the soul that he has bared to her in the daily letters that actually Cyrano in his stead has penned from the field of battle, Christian knows that he stands no chance.
This is a lush and beautiful production. There is superb attention to detail in this film, whether at the theatre or on the battlefield. The production even rented a field and sowed it with genuine seventeenth-century wheat seed so that the grain was as high as it should be for the period.
It is when watching such films as this that one hankers to be more fluent in the French language, as so much depends on the power of language in this story. The French is written in poetic style, and thankfully much of the subtitled English translation adopts the same form in rhyme. The poetry actually makes watching the film more enjoyable and watching the DVD more than once is an advantage as one is made aware of just how cleverly the script has been moulded. But, alas, there is something missing as well in watching this film through subtitles, more so than usual. For example, as he fences with the Vicomte de Valvert outside the theatre, Cyrano composes a poem replete with mordant wit. Somehow the English translation of the subtitles fails to live up to the bite of the original.
A word or two about the extras. There is an eight-minute interview with the director, in which he relates how he received inspiration from a silent-movie version of 1923, of which excerpts are shown. Jean-Paul Rappeneau declares that, "Some people say it should always be played in its original verse, but that's untrue because the story works even in a silent movie. It even works in Japanese."
There is a very good eleven-minute interview in English with the wonderful Gerard Depardieu, and an equally good sixteen-minute interview in English with the screenwriter jean-Claude Carriere. Here we learn more about the original playwright Rostand and about the real Cyrano (though not if he had a big nose).
on 8 December 2006
Be warned! The subtitles on this release are awful! Only half of the dialogue has been transcribed into subtitles! If you love this film & don't speak fluent French you will be climbing the walls with frustration as you notice that line after line is not subtitled, compared to the full and complete subtitling available on the Taratn Video DVD edition. Buy that one instead! The 5 stars are for the film itself, which is a solid-gold masterpiece.
Jean-Paul Rappeneau's wonderfully cinematic version of Cyrano De Bergerac is one of the genuine high water marks of modern French cinema. Rappeneau is a director who really understands movement, and his far from static approach revitalizes the piece and frees it from the tyranny of the wonderful words to give it wings, while Gerard Depardieu's magnificent Cyrano keeps the film's emotions beautifully grounded. For once the supporting characters aren't played as idiots: Christian is no fool, merely an inarticulate man increasingly aware that his is a false victory, and the Comte De Guiche is allowed more dignity than you'd expect from a part that's usually reduced to mere comedy villainy.
Almost everything about the film is perfect, from Rappeneau and Jean-Claude Carriere's superb screenplay to Jean-Claude Petit's restrained score, which subtly underlines the emotions rather than play up the pathos (a shame his action cues use a thinly-disguised version of Danny Elfman's Batman theme: someone obviously fell in love with the temp track). Wonderful stuff, even if Cyrano takes longer to shuffle off this mortal coil than Brando did in Mutiny on the Bounty.
on 27 May 2013
I am not a French speaker but I did read Anthony Burgess's translation of the Rostand play before I got to see the film. (and I would urge any lovers of the film to buy the Rostand/Burgess book as well) This translation was in beautiful rhyming couplets and was a coruscating work of art in its own right.
I have watched the 'Tartan' company release and it certainly seemed to include the full (or almost full ) Burgess text. I watched another release and, though I have to caution that this was a newspapers 'promo' release, the text was considerably pared. I do not know if the other release has the same reduced subtitling as the 'promo' release but I would recommend shelling out a few quid more for the 'Tartan' version just to be sure. I disagree with the previous reviewer who opined that the text is only a part of the sumptuous whole. In this particular film it is Cyrano's word-play and lines, just as much as his swashbuckling theatrics, that are the window into his vain-glorious, yearning, poetic soul. And, just like Roxanne,I was absolutely spellbound by the words that Rostand's creation, through the unique genius of Burgess, delivers.
on 11 May 2004
Sumptuous and poetic, this is a fabulous telling of Edmond Rostand's blank verse play, adapted for the screen by director Jean-Paul Rappeneau, with English subtitles by Anthony Burgess that are superb; This is not only a great film to watch, but a great one to read.
Gerard Depardieu is perfect as Cyrano. One of the most versatile actors alive, here he gives a many-layered, robust performance, with lots of sword fights, lots of wit, and lots of heart.
A winner of numerous international awards, "Cyrano" was a lavish production by French filmmaking standards, and we get authentic looking costumes and sets depicting 17th century Paris (the theater, with its chandeliers full of candles, is an amazing re-creation), cinematography that is a visual delight by Pierre Lhomme, and a lovely score by Jean-Claude Petit.
Roxane, played by the stunning Anne Brochet, is in love with Christian's form and Cyrano's soul, so typical of women throughout the ages, ever yearning for "the perfect man", both sensitive poet, as well as impetuous lover; she goads Christian into speaking and writing his love for her, and does not realize it is Cyrano who is responding. Vincent Perez is excellent as Christian...this part was what put him on the cinematic map, which he cemented two years later as the romantic lead in the extraordinary "Indochine", another film that should not be missed.
This is a film that has many marvelous aspects, but two that tower over everything, the language, and Depardieu. Total running time is 2 hours and 17 minutes.
In a Parisian theater, where Cyrano has just run off a portly, mannered spouter of bad verse, a man makes the error of noticing Cyrano's nose. "Why are you looking at my nose? Does it disgust you," Cyrano asks with dangerous politeness. "No, not at." "Is it soft and dangling/" "I did not look at it!" the man protests. "And why did you not look at it?" Cyrano persists. "Sickened you, did it? Is the color all wrong? Is it obscene?" "Not at all," the man says, looking for a way out. "Why, then, do you criticize? Do you find it too large in size?" "It's terribly small, miniscule," the man stammers. "What was that?" Cyrano glares, "Is that an insult? My nose is small then, eh? My nose, sir, is enormous! Cretinous moron, a man ought to be proud of such an appendix. A great nose may be an index of a great soul...kind, endowed with liberality and courage...like mine, you rat-brained dunce, unlike yours, all rancid porridge. It would be grotesque to fist your wretched mug, so lacking as it is in pride, genius, the lyrical and picturesque, in spark, spunk...in brief: in nose!"
Cyrano (Gerard Depardieu) is a man with heart and spirit as large as his nose, a man who loves deeply, yet must love through another. When Roxane (Anne Brochet), his cousin whom he loves more than his life, gives her heart to Christian (Vincent Perez), he is so determined to bring her happiness that he provides the passionate words that this handsome young man, whose brain is as thick as mutton, will use to win her. Cyrano is convinced that his face will forever doom him to solitude, much less enable him to speak his heart directly to Roxane. "I can never be loved," he says to le Bret, one of his few friends, "even by the ugliest. My nose precedes me by fifteen minutes. Whom do I love? It should be clear. I love the prettiest far and near...the finest, the wittiest, the sweetest...the wisest...yes, Roxane." There will be years before Roxane realizes she had loved the man whose words she loved, not the man whose handsome face she saw.
Cyrano is a swordsman, a poet, a soldier, a playwright. He uses words with as much skill as he uses his blade. He'll fight a duel while reciting a poem he creates as he fights...and at the end...hit. If someone is rash enough to comment on his nose, he'll make a fool of the fop by describing all the comparisons a truly imaginative man would have used. He will never bend the knee, accept a sponsor, praise a mediocrity or knuckle to authority. None of that is for him; what he wants is to "sing, dream, laugh...move on...be alone...have a choice...have a watchful eye and a powerful voice...wear my hat awry...fight for a poem if I like...and perhaps even die."
This version of Cyrano features terrific production values, with great attention to settings, costume and style. The story moves along with duels and battles, love and lost love. Most of all, it moves along on the language and on the situation of Cyrano, himself. It's a French movie, but the subtitles were written by Anthony Burgess. The are soft and caressing, pungent, funny and sad. At times they move so effortlessly into couplets that it's only after you've read them that you realize how much they added to a scene. Depardieu is one of the great contemporary actors, and he creates a riveting Cyrano. Depardieu is a big man with thick shoulders and a deep chest. No one would likely call him handsome. He is a phenomenal actor, however. His Cyrano is imposing as he strides along a cobblestone street in his red cloak and black, plumed, wide-brimmed hat. Depardieu creates a Cyrano easy to imagine you might be a little like, or could be...if you had Cyrano's panache.
Tragedy, Cyrano isn't, but it's a wonderfully robust, sad, romantic melodrama.
on 22 January 2001
This DVD has appalling image quality which is a terrible shame as the movie itself is wonderful. I returned my copy as I felt a VHS video would provide comparable is not superior image quality. There are no advantages to owning a DVD copy of this film, the extra features are very poorly done, and there is no facility to turn off subtitles. Shame as I was waiting for the DVD release of this French masterpiece with anticipation.
on 13 September 2000
Often cast in contemporary films, Depardieu seems most in his element in classical and historical roles. The role of Cyrano is, of course, a feast for any actor, but Depardieu seems especially attuned to its physical and verbal demands. He's so assured in the part that he doesn't require the heavy makeup used in the Martin and Ferrer movies. This Cyrano almost doesn't need a monstrous nose to lend poignancy to his unrequited love for Roxane.
It is no accident that Depardieu is recognized more for the larger-than-life characters he played in Danton and The Return of Martin Guerre than for the modern neurotics of Too Beautiful For You or Mon Oncle D'Amerique. He directed an unfortunately neglected 1984 adaptation of Tartuffe, in which he also made the most of the leading role; it remains the only film he's chosen to make on his own.
Cyrano isn't all Cyrano, fortunately. Anne Brochet makes a splendid Roxane, as demanding in her way as Cyrano, and Vincent Perez is convincingly callow as Christian, the young soldier who loves her but is forced to use Cyrano's words to tell her. Jacques Weber, a well-known stage Cyrano, does a fine job of emphasizing the complexity in the role of De Guiche, who is, for a while, the arch-enemy of both Cyrano and Christian.
Exceptionally well-photographed by Pierre Lhomme (Maurice, Camille Claudel), with a suitable score by Jean-Claude Petit and deftly written, rhyming English subtitles by Anthony Burgess, this Cyrano will introduce Rostand to the same generation that had its first brush with Shakespeare last year with the release of Henry V. It's a more traditional adaptation, with nothing radical to add, but it demonstrates the virtues of making the play the thing.
on 7 May 2012
I am 33, French, and I had never watched this film till a week ago.
It is an absolute marvel. Depardieu is superb in it (I had heard he was but didn't realise how much) and the story is really taking and well acted. It is a bit sad of course, but it is at the same time satisfying and beautiful; there is a big moral at the end, and this film raises a lot of emotional reactions in those who watch it. My partner who never cries, really reacted to this film.
Beautiful and highly recommended.
The battle of love between the rich and the not so rich set during the wars of religion. France assists the Dutch against the Spanish in the 30 years War. The frission of love tears hearts asunder as Hugenots battle Catholics for the heart and soul of the established french church. A fertile period for Gallic film making it involves massacres whislt plotting a luscious will to power bodice ripping succulence.
This is the film that brought French cinema to a wider Anglo audience. It builds on the medieval archaic glories of architectural France, the scenery is always A star; a culture that never seemingly bull dozed itself into Barrats world torpor of Anglais.
The settings are magnifique, the art work superb and the acting drenching the emotions in pools of saltwater, as unrequited love dominates the story throughout. Exploration of beauty and inner emotions are part of the French palette, transmiting across to a bing bang emotionally autistic Hollywood genre. The film ensnares the breath and vivance of post medieval France. Depardieu plays a Falstaffian character with the relish of Errol Flynn in 5D, except he exists within character
If you want to commence the immersion into France after experiencing post Hollywood blues, then plunge into this film and scythe through the water from here. You will not be disappointed.