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Cyrano de Bergerac. The classic play written in 1897 by Edmond Rostand, you've seen it plenty of times, no?

We all know the story, it has been made and re-made so many times in popular media. A beautiful young woman, the object of every man's desire, somehow falls in love with...well, there's the handsome young man who seems so poetic, so articulate, and so romantic, and clearly smitten with beautiful Roxanne (like every other guy). But it turns out the handsome young man may be pretty, but what really charms Roxanne and wins her heart is not so much his looks (she claims), but what he says. Or so it seems. Unbeknownst to Roxanne, those beautiful, eloquent words she hears and reads in written letters, are in fact coming from her childhood friend, Cyrano de Bergerac, who knows he can talk a good game, but isn't going to win any beauty contests. Cyrano is typically portrayed with an enormous nose. Comedy and tragedy follows. You know the rest of how it goes.

I've seen several different adaptations -- the 1990 French production Cyrano de Bergerac with Gérard Depardieu (he may have been born for this role, not needing much of a prosthesis), Steve Martin's Roxanne, and probably several more. So when I caught wind of a new version -- simply Cyrano -- I wasn't sure the world needed another remake. What did catch my eye was who had been cast as the male leading actor: Peter Dinklage (yes, Game of Thrones fans, The Imp: Tyrion Lannister). No prosthetic nose required. OK, so that's an interesting twist on standards of male beauty. I like Dinklage, so decided to watch the new Cryano.

Within moments of the film's start, I was struck by several things: all of the "production values". It quickly became evident that a great deal of thought and effort have gone into crafting every little detail of this production. The costumes. The color palette. The hair and makeup. The soundtrack. The dialogue. Wow, the details are incredible!  Including the location. Wow, that LOCATION!!  Before the first few scenes had finished, I was already wondering and guessing where this was shot? It looked spectacular, and it looked real, not like CGI. The film purports to be French, but those scenes screamed out to me: old coastal Mediterranean city, filled with dramatic baroque architecture, palaces, stone fortresses, ramparts... I started guessing: Turkey? Lebanon? Croatia? Sardinia? Greece? Tunisia? Malta? Where was that?  I wanted to book flights!

Turns out, it was Sicily. The city of Noto. Not far from Syracuse. I've blown right past that (you may have, too). Wow, next time I'm nearby, I wanna go! It's beautiful.

About the rest of the film? I liked it. It's beautifully crafted, well acted. Dinklage is great as Cyrano. It's a musical, so requires the viewer to "suspend disbelief" (quite a lot). All of the film's dialog is spoken (or sung) in rhyme. Actors burst into song in every scene or two (there's a lot of music all through the film). There are elaborate choreographed numbers -- well, everything in the film is elaborate, down to the details of the visible dust falling in the shafts of golden, setting sunlight. I am not usually a huge fan of musicals, elaborate stage productions, or dance numbers. This film had plenty of those, and while may not be perfect, it worked pretty well for me.

"Cyrano" is worth watching, I think, if only for the "scenery," including the locations -- that's enough justification for me, the rest is gravy. Warning: it will make you want to go to Europe (just in case you were lacking enthusiasm for your next trip). I've been to Sicily before; now I'm putting it back on my list.

“All our souls are written in our eyes.”

Posted by
2532 posts

Dinklage did a stage adaptation before this recent film version, and he's been doing a lot of PR interviews as part of the advertising for this series, and I'm surprised to learn how much of a spoiled liberal arts frat boy he was in his early days of learning theater arts - I try to keep an open mind, but his take on Rostand's play is way off, imho. Rappeneau's version is the one to keep.

Posted by
2532 posts

Richard Brody at The New Yorker agrees with your assessment of this production -- it has pageantry and costumes going for it but not much else:

If you want scenery and entertainment, too, check out the new Nick Cage movie where he plays a past-his-prime actor named Nick Cage. It's set on Mallorca, although the castle scenes were shot in Croatia, I believe.

Posted by
1319 posts

Thanks for the recommendation. I like the 1950 film with Jose Ferrer and haven't seen the Depardieu version. Not long ago, I saw a film of the James McAvoy play produced in London and fully expected not to like the updated rap version. I liked it very much and felt it captured the soul of the play and recommend seeing it if you can.