Best French Films - Cinéma Saturday - Cyrano de Bergerac
From last week's hilarious comedy, we go to quite another branch of French cinema - the heritage cinema of the 1990s. One of its finest examples is this week's choice which has definitely stood the test of time and is as beautiful, witty and weepy as it ever was.
This week's film is Jean-Paul Rappeneau's classic Cyrano de Bergerac featuring Gérard Depardieu, Anne Brochet and Vincent Perez .
Cast & Crew
Director: Jean-Paul Rappeneau
Cast: Gérard Depardieu, Anne Brochet, Vincent Perez, Roland Bertin, Jacques Weber.
Screenplay: Edmond Rostand (play) adapted by Jean-Paul Rappeneau and Jean-Claude Carrière
Cinematographer: Pierre Lhomme
Producer: René Cleitman and Michel Seydoux
Genre: Historic romantic comedy drama
Awards & Accolades: 11 César awards, a Golden Globe Award, Nominated for five Oscars (won Best Costume design), won four BAFTAs (nominated for eight), British Society of Cinematographers award for Pierre Lhomme and won and nominated in various international critics' awards. To see them all, check imdb.
Cyrano, a swashbuckling hero with a gift for verse - and a prominent proboscis - is madly in love with the most beautiful woman in Paris. Deterred though by his feelings of physical inadequacy, he instead uses his poetic skills to support another hapless suitor. But will the object of their affection realise who she’s really falling for?
What I liked about this film
French cinema enjoyed a kind of golden age of so-called heritage cinema in the 1990s, which brought historic stories to life often in beautiful and successful films. Full of beautiful landscapes in France, gorgeous costumes and people and places anchored in French culture, this week's film is no exception.
In Cyrano de Bergerac we have all the joy of French history, culture, food, conviviality, bravery, poetry and romance all mixed together in what is essentially a film of a very fine play. Rostand's Cyrano is a wonderful play which has been produced and re-imagined many times over in its history. Jean-Paul Rappeneau here gives us a rich tapestry of characters, beautifully shot and with a wonderful (English subtitles) translation by the great Anthony Burgess. The verse actually still 'works' for anglophones (it's no longer in French Alexandrines but, who's quibbling?) - so good news if your French is not quite up to historic drama.
What I love about this film is exactly this playful verse alongside the sumptuous setting and costumes full of candlelight and carriages, daring swashbuckling swordsmanship and plotting intrigues. It is full of warmth, comedy, drama and romance and it would be hard not to get swept up in the joy of all this 'period drama'.
Cyrano is brilliantly played by Depardieu and he brings all the bravado and tenderness required for the role. Cyrano has to be one of the characters you just fall in love with. He's witty, generous and bold: a poet soldier of gargantuan energy! In private, he is tender, poetic and loving. Yet he can't reveal this side of himself, claiming as he does to have far too large a nose to be of any interest to anyone, let alone the fair Roxane. I think I must be one of those Cyrano fans that Roger Ebert described in his review from 1990:
'I have made it one of my rules in life never to have anything to do with anyone who does not instinctively love Cyrano, and I am most at home with those who identify with him.'
This seems like an excellent rule of thumb! In fact, I suspect that in adolescent musings, and self-esteem rock-bottom times, I probably over-identified with Cyrano! ☺️
In this beautiful comedy drama, there is political intrigue and jealousy, bravado and real bravery, gallantry and poetry. Truly, it's beautiful to look at it but very much more than style over substance. The cast plays each part to perfection with Brochet radiating the beauty of Roxane and Depardieu morphing into the tentative poet-soldier. Perez is the ideal Christian and the huge array of characters is full of life. The whole cast plays it absolutely seriously and so there are many laughs, much pathos and poetic beauty.
This is a gem of this 'heritage' cinema from France and is an unmissable classic if you haven't seen it before.
If you have seen it, it is worth seeking out the restored version and buying a new copy (handy links below). Settle down to an atmospheric Louis XIII-era comedy drama with laughs, duels and intrigue... and some real panache!
Why not indulge in one of French cinema's most delightful films?
1990 cast photographs
The British Film Institute brought a restored Bluray to market in 2020.
And just for fun, a bizarre Letterman interview from the "period" - 1990! (Was TV really like that?)
Where to Find It
Handy links are provided here for easy reference - just click on the images. (I'd be so delighted if you could support the blog and podcast by using the links below, at no cost to you.)
US & UK (clicking will show the product in your Amazon region*)
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Have you seen this film? Did you like it? Let me know what you thought by email: hello at francewhereyouare dot com or over on social media.
I love to talk cinema!
And when they're closed, I love to talk home cinema. 😉