Movie: Unrequited love is one of the most universal concepts known to man. You can find examples of it in all written languages, from all cultures, spanning thousands of years back in time. So common a theme as this that legends were based on it, some of the oldest stories surviving the ages are based on it and even in popular culture, you see dozens of recent examples of it released on a regular basis. Of all the examples that come to mind, perhaps the best is Cyrano De Bergerac, a film based on a play written in the 1800's..
The story is set in 17th century France with a flamboyant man, Cyrano De Bergerac (Gerard Depardieu), as a man possessing an unparalleled skill with a sword yet also among the most sensitive poets of his age. He has a low self-image due to his very large nose but his true weakness is his love for his cousin, Roxane (Anne Brochet). His ability to master the world at large is little comfort to the man as he struggles to tell his love how he feels until she confesses to him her attraction to a young cadet under Cyrano's care. The cadet, Christian (Vincent Perez), is a tongue tied and bash young man, way out of his league with the beautiful Roxane but Cyrano, living by proxy, uses his mastery of words to assist Christian in wooing her. He writes sonnets, whispers the words for Christian to say, and acts as a mentor to the man in order to make his love happy, all the while hating himself for allowing the love of his life to slip through his fingers.
As Cyrano battles fops, louts, and treachery, with a panache that would make the heartthrobs of generations look lame by comparison, the basic elements of the original play shine through this modern adaptation. The swordfights alone were more interesting than the various roller coaster rides of Hollywood but aside from all the action was the basic story of one man's love of a woman he was afraid to tell; something we can all identify with. In the end, having lived a glorious life except for this one aspect of it, Cyrano comes to terms with love lost, in a deeply moving scene.
Okay, I really liked the whole movie. From Depardieu's overacting (as the role calls for), to the subtleties of Brochet's character, to the direction itself, there is little to fault this adaptation with. From the first time I saw it in the theatre over ten years ago to the poor Canadian release on DVD to this recent incarnation, I always get more out of the movie with each time I watch it. The story itself is so timeless and the way Director Jean Paul Rappeneau captured it all by using natural and candlelight (fairly daring on a technical level) make it a release long overdue for fans of foreign cinema. I'm going to give the DVD a rating of Highly Recommended based primarily on the content of the feature although the extras were lacking because comparing it to earlier versions on DVD, MGM has done a lot better in terms of providing a good picture and sound.
Picture: The picture was presented in non-anamorphic widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, as originally shot on 35mm film. While there was some grain and minor mosquito noise, it was worlds better than the original DVD release in Canada (by Lion's Gate Films). The print scratches were minimal but the colors looked a bit off (again, still much better looking than the original release which was also in pan & scan). To be fair, I remember the original showing in an arthouse theatre and the DVD looked better than said showing.
Sound: The audio was presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo French with English or Spanish subtitles as an option. The vocals were clear and distinct with few flaws worth mentioning. The music was understated but always fitting of the scene, often not noticed unless I specifically paid attention to it. The sound effects and mix of the audio tracks were solid enough to make this worth listening to even without the picture (if you speak French at least).
Extras: The only extra included was a trailer. At least with the inferior Canadian release from 1999, there were some cast interviews (written) and filmographies.
Final Thoughts: I have a fond place in my heart for this one and make no apologies for it. Don't buy this one simply because it received so many awards, nominations, and accolades but because it meshes all the elements of a great stage play into a movie using the strengths of the medium, as well as a great cast, to tell a story that is timeless not because of the setting but because it strikes a chord in all feeling beings.