A winner by more than a nose, Cyrano de Bergerac attains a near-perfect balance of verbal and visual flamboyance. Gerard Depardieu’s grand performance as the facially disgraced swordsman-poet sets a new standard with which all future Cyranos will have to reckon. Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s sumptuous ($17 million) screen adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s heroic verse play has dash, lyricism, and a superb acting ensemble.
Rappeneau and screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere have opened up the play conventionally but intelligently. Their basic concern has been to iron out the stagy kinks in Rostand’s fanciful plot and provide for a smooth, purely filmic rhythm. Rostand’s famous Alexandrine rhyming couplets have been preserved as film dialogue. Carriere invented some 100 new verses of his own for transitions, but only a Rostand scholar would detect the tampering.
The play’s 17th-century Paris settings are opulently reimagined by Italian stage designer Ezio Frigerio (who has worked with Giorgio Strehler). Pierre Lhomme’s lensing is both subtle and sensational. The charming balcony scene and Cyrano’s twilight death scene are both exquisite studies in finely graded light and shadow. There is grandeur in the battle of Arras sequences (shot on location in Hungary).
Roxanne is played with finesse and feeling by Anne Brochet, who captures the romantic immaturity and generosity of soul. Vincent Perez does quite well with the usually dull role of Christian, the young comrade-in-arms in love with and loved by Roxanne. Character’s the inverse of Cyrano: a beautiful face, but a shallow inexpressive soul.