I should state two things up front. 1) I don’t have a deep knowledge of film; I doubt if anything I mention here is going to be all that obscure or unusual. Especially in this category, although my desire to learn French has meant a large number of French films and my affection for Gerard Depardieu (as an actor) has meant that many of those films are his. 2) Any film mentioned this month is a favorite of mine. So, if I list a movie here, it’s because it has my affection, which may or may not say good things about my taste for film. That being said …
I’m going to cheat a little on this category – only one listing and it’s a current film.
Cyrano – As I mentioned earlier, I adore Gerard Depardieu as an actor. I could probably have listed a number of his other films, but Cyrano’s the only one (other than Loulou) that I’ve seen more than once. I absolutely adore his work in this movie.
Cyrano’s story has been told before, once with Jose Ferrer in the lead, once in a contemporary American setting (Roxanne, with Steve Martin in the Cyrano part and Daryl Hannah playing the titular lady). This Cyrano follows the original Rostand novel word-for-word, with English subtitles written by Anthony Burgess. I’m still learning French, but I understood enough to realize that Burgess did a very good job.
Depardieu’s Cyrano is bold and brash and an unabashed romantic. He’s not afraid to speak his mind on anything or take on anyone — except when it comes to matters of the heart. He loves his cousine Roxanne passionately and at a distance. He imagines his large nose to be an obstacle to any woman loving him, and specifically to winning Roxanne’s affections.
Of course, Roxanne has her own interests, and when the man she loves joins Cyrano’s Gascon troops (who are great fun in their own right — I wish we’d seen more of them), she asks her cousin to watch out for her lover. The only problem is, he’s more decorative than thoughtful, so Cyrano begins ghost-writing his love letters to Roxanne for him (and a good thing, too. The one time Christian is left to his own devices, he’s pretty pitiful.) As you can guess, she falls for this deception and Cyrano manages to get the two of them married, putting aside his own feelings and managing to anger the Comte de Guiche, who was also courting Roxanne and had, for her sake, kept the Gascons out of the war.
There are a lot of fun minor characters — Ragueneau, a baker who wants to be a writer and whose wife takes his writing and turns the papers into bags for people to carry baked goods out of his store, the aforementioned Gascon troops, Montfleury, his friend, who knows that Cyrano’s outspoken candor has earned him enemies.
Cyrano has a choice to make when Christian is killed in the war. Christian knows that Roxanne’s ultimate love for him is a result of Cyrano’s letters, and as he dies, he tells Cyrano to let Roxanne know. But when Cyrano sees that Roxanne truly loved Christian for himself, he decides to let the secret die with his friend. It’s only many years later, too late, that the truth gets out.
The only weak part of the movie, in my opinion, is the death scene. I was irresistably reminded of the skit on SNL with John Belushi as Rasputin, where you think he’s dead and he keeps getting back up. Cyrano does the same thing, unfortunately, although he still winds up with the last word — “And tonight when I, at last, God behold, my salute will sweep his blue threshhold with something spotless. A diamond in the ash which I take in spite of you; and that is — my panache!”
Panache he has. And a heart bigger than his nose. Did I mention I love this movie? 🙂
p.s. Yes, I know “panache” in this sense means the white plume on his hat, but I couldn’t resist.