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DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Cyrano De Bergerac

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jason Perez, Jan 26, 2004.

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  1. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Well-Known Member

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    [​IMG]


    Cyrano De Bergerac





    Studio: MGM
    Year: 1990
    Rated: PG
    Film Length: 138 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Widescreen (1.66:1)
    Subtitles: English and Spanish
    Audio: French – Stereo Surround





    Even if there was a real Cyrano de Bergerac, it is highly unlikely he resembled the legendary literary figure in great detail. Nevertheless, if a real person did exist somewhere amidst the myths and urban legends associated with the name, his legacy endures, as he served to inspire playwright Edmond Rostand’s brilliant work of fiction, Cyrano de Bergerac. This film adaptation of Rostand’s renowned work is a fairly faithful adaptation of the literature’s notion that physical beauty is often unsubstantial, while true beauty is more often found in the soul of a person, not in his or her physical features.

    To be sure, this is not the first time the story has been told on film, and this material may be more familiar to the modern film-goer from Steve Martin's comedic outing, Roxanne, which was released in the late 1980s. However, Besides being much more dramatic, and more involving, than Roxanne this incarnation of Cyrano de Bergerac is offered in its native language. That is not to say that there is not a great deal of comedy baked into this French treat, but the humorous elements of the film are played out with stylistic flair, not strictly for laughs, so the film’s humor tends to resonate a little better than the gags in Roxanne did.

    With respect to the story, the tale of Cyrano de Bergerac is a strange one, filled with irony and tragedy. Indeed, after the passage of centuries, this character’s name has become almost synonymous with romance, and sweeping expressions of affection, yet the character lived a life devoid of female companionship. In part, this was due to Cyrano’s striking physical appearance, especially in the facial region, which was home to an extremely large nose. As a result of this “defect”, he becomes convinced everyone is ridiculing him, and he dares not approach women, despite his proficiency with words of romance.
    If you are unfamiliar with the particulars of Cyrano’s tale, it unfolds on the busy streets of Paris, France (the lovely city of lights!). Throughout the region, Bergerac (Gerard Depardieu) is a man of notoriety, especially for to his gift with words, skill with a blade, and the aforementioned giant schnozz, which he says “precedes him by 15 minutes”. Unfortunately, despite his many talents, homeliness leaves him without a woman to call his own. As mentioned, there is one woman whose love Cyrano yearns for above all others, but he cannot muster the courage to reveal his feelings for fear of rejection.

    The woman in question is his cousin, the lovely Roxane (Anne Brochet). Unfortunately, besides being his cousin (gross, but it probably wasn’t as big a deal back then), Roxane is taken with a handsome, but romantically challenged, cadet named Christian de Neuvillette (Vincent Perez), who also happens to be one of Cyrano’s men. Since Christian lacks the ability to communicate in anything resembling a romantic manner, he is also afraid to approach Roxane, but for an entirely different reason than Cyrano.

    Intrigued by this situation, Cyrano decides to perform an experiment, to see what would happen if he feeds the dashing, handsome Christian lines to use on Roxane. As part of a comprehensive plan to fan the flames of romance between the two, Cyrano ghost-authors love letters to Roxane in Christian’s name, coaches him on how to speak to Roxane, and even speaks for him in a famous balcony scene. Overwhelmed by the beautiful soul she erroneously attributes to Christian, she is won over, and declares her love for him, never knowing the gentle heart she cares for actually beats in Cyrano’s chest. Will Roxane find out? Will true the radiance of Cyrano’s soul overcome Christian’s physical appeal, in Roxane’s heart? Only time, and a willingness to rent/buy this DVD will tell!

    In terms of how the film is put together, this version of Cyrano de Bergerac is an epic, passionate and period-accurate treatment of the story, skillfully realized by director Jean-Paul Rappeneau. The screenplay, by Rappeneau and co-writer Jean-Claude Carriere, does a good job of keeping things moving for 138 minutes, by carefully balancing the themes of love and romance against political intrigue and scandal. You see, although he has many friends, Cyrano also has a few very powerful enemies, and his disdain for nobility threatens to bring about the end of his life before he can taste the sweet nectar of romance.

    Jean-Paul Rappeneau also proves to be quite capable of getting the best from his actors, as the entire cast plays their respective part in the story with zeal and panache. In particular, Gerard Depardieu, arguably France’s most popular actor, infuses Cyrano de Bergerac with an impressive amount of wit and charm in “dramatic” scenes, and yet he is an imposing figure during battle sequences. As a result, the character is able to constantly command the attention of the audience, largely thanks to Depardieu’s unique ability to deliver whatever a particular role demands, in this case a contrast between gentle, poetic dialogue about love and the physicality of battle-hardened man of action.

    Since I have always abhorred the distinction “Foreign-Language” film, I will close by saying that language notwithstanding, Jean-Paul Rappenau has put together a very powerful and inspiring film in Cyrano de Bergerac. Although Cyrano does not dethrone my all-time favorite French-language film, Amelíe, it is a worthy contender for the title, and certainly deserving of the five Oscar® nominations it received for 1990! If you don’t mind reading subtitles, give this one a spin, because it is a winner!!!





    SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
    Cyrano de Bergerac is a visually diverse film, and MGM’s widescreen presentation (1.66:1) replicates the source material, which is either colorful or muted depending on the scene, beautifully. In particular, flesh tones are warm and natural in appearance, with even subtle gradations in the skin tones between characters clearly visible. In addition, early in the film, during the non-battle sequences, the bright, bold colors of costumes, and some locations, are accurately drawn, without any noticeable dot crawl or color banding.

    You will notice that I made a distinction above between non-battle sequences and battle scenes. With that in mind, I will point out that there is a lot of mist and smoke in the film, either at night by the river or on the battlefront. Obviously, smoke and mist (especially during night scenes) can contain distracting digital artifacts if the source material is not handled delicately. Thankfully, the many scenes containing this challenging source material manage to retain a lush, film-like appearance, and exhibit very little in the way of digital signatures.

    Additionally, black level is consistently deep throughout the film, which gives the image a three-dimensional appearance and an almost tangible sense of texture. Aside from a minute amount of edge enhancement, and a bit of shimmering during the opening credits, this is a very nice visual presentation, and almost as sharp as Cyrano’s sword. Good job MGM!!!




    WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
    MGM offers Cyrano de Bergerac in French stereo surround, with subtitles in English and Spanish for those of us who don’t speak the language. The lack of French subtitles is odd though (what, there no French people with hearing impairments?). Anyway, with a few minor exceptions, this is generally a fine representation of the film’s audio information, with a full, rich midrange and impressive music reproduction. Indeed, the spacious soundstage spreads the score evenly across the front speakers, allowing for tangible instrument placement and separation.

    Perhaps most importantly, since this is a dialogue-heavy drama, the characters’ dialogue is reproduced cleanly; without sibilance, hissing, or overt signs of compression. Further, although there is no “true” LFE information to speak of, your subwoofer should awaken to add some impact to the cannon-fire and crackling flames in Chapter Twenty.

    Unfortunately, I do have a few complaints. To begin with, the score frequently obscures the sounds of swordplay and warfare, and dialogue as well on rare occasions. A good example of this problem occurs in Chapter Five. In addition, intricate sonic details, like footfalls, tend to be buried in the mix during busier scenes, and the clashing of swords throughout the film sounded somewhat thin to me. Fortunately, these issues manifest themselves more as minor irritations than serious problems with the soundtrack, and on the whole, I must say that the Dolby Digital audio does a very nice job of recreating the sounds of Cyrano de Bergerac’s adventures!



    EXTRAS, EXTRAS!!!


    Theatrical Trailer
    The theatrical trailer for Cyrano de Bergerac is the lone extra included.



    SCORE CARD

    (on a five-point scale)
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    Video: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Audio: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Extras: [​IMG]
    Overall: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]



    THE LAST WORD
    French filmmaker Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s re-telling of Cyrano de Bergerac is a moving, powerful epic that features stellar, passionate performances. Ever the chameleon, Gerard Depardieu once again makes a role that many would probably say he is not right for his own, and his scenes at the conclusion of the film are almost worth the price of admission by themselves. Once again, unless you have a very strong aversion to watching films with subtitles, this well-crafted piece of cinema film is certainly worthy of a viewing or two!

    For its release on DVD, MGM has graced Cyrano de Bergerac with a solid transfer and a serviceable Dolby Digital stereo track. However, I must confess to being slightly disappointed that there are no commentaries or featurettes provided for such a highly regarded, albeit “foreign”, film. Still, since this reasonably priced ($14.95 list) release features both a very good film and commendable A/V quality, I feel comfortable recommending it to all the hopeless romantics out there. For Gerard Depardieu fans, this is a no-brainer, as this is arguably his finest performance. Recommended!!!

    Stay tuned…



    Release Date:
    February 10th, 2004
     
  2. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, Jason. [​IMG]

    I'm glad that MGM have given us an excellent transfer of this superb film. It's a pity that it isn't anamorphic, but that won't stop me. I haven't seen the film for about 6 years, so it will be great to revisit this wonderful film.
     
  3. Marc Colella

    Marc Colella Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the review.

    I find it unacceptable that it's not anamorphic. Of course, it's a foreign film - so it's not surprising that a studio decides not to give it the attention it deserves.
     
  4. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Well-Known Member

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    Marc, MGM's 1.66:1 transfers are never anamorphic, unfortunately.

    I have found MGM's treatmeant its foreign films to be very good, with Wings Of Desire being given a SE and the upcoming Ingmar Bergman boxed set looks great.

    Columbia's treatment of foreign titles, on the other hand...

    [​IMG]
     
  5. Marc Colella

    Marc Colella Well-Known Member

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    True about Wings of Desire - but I haven't seen any reviews yet of the Bergman box (but it does look well done).

    However, they have a buttload of foreign titles that were poorly done - under the monicker of "World Films".

    For example Jean de Florette/Manon of the Spring... although that was a while ago - have they gotten better recently?

    I agree about CTS though.
     
  6. SteveGon

    SteveGon Well-Known Member

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    Jason, thanks for the review. I love this movie...and forgot it was coming out. :b

    Time to pre-order it...
     
  7. Steve Bjorg

    Steve Bjorg Well-Known Member

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    I presume the beauty of the poetry is entirely lost on the sub-titles. For those who might not know, the entire movie is spoken in rhyme. Also, the vocabulary used by the commoners and noblemen is quite different, providing a wonderful landscape of expressions. I remember it brought tears to my eyes, not by its content, but by the chear beauty of its dialog. Sadly, I'm afraid that this quality is lost on non-francophones as Baraka is lost on the blind.
     
  8. DouglasBr

    DouglasBr Well-Known Member

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    Actually, the translation used for the subtitles was quite beautiful, as it was done (if I recall correctly) by novelist Anthony Burgess (of Clockwork Orange etc. fame). Though I'm told the original French is superior as poetry, the English used in this version is by no means poor quality.

    (Now to check IMDB to see if I do in fact recall correctly!)
     
  9. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Well-Known Member

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    from the review, it sounds like the visual presentation of the MGM disc may be nicer than the R4 edition i have, which is anamorphic.
    the R4 which i thought was generally good, it still quite grainy- a quality i assumed was inherent in the source.

    may have to double dip on this one.

    i too thought the subs by Burgess were well done.
    i don't speak or read French unfortunately so they may not be faithful to that, but they had a poetic quality of their own.
    since it was the first exposure i had to the material, and the one i know the best, i still tend to view the long popular English translation of the play as the standard (i think the Ferrer film used it mostly intact).
     
  10. Robert Holloway

    Robert Holloway Well-Known Member

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    Great review!
    I will rent it off Netflix
    I no longer buy non anamorphic films.
    Rob
     
  11. scottS

    scottS Member

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    Thanks for the review.

    >>Even if there was a real Cyrano de Bergerac, it is highly unlikely he resembled the legendary literary figure in great detail. Nevertheless, if a real person did exist somewhere amidst the myths and urban legends associated with the name, his legacy endures, as he served to inspire playwright Edmond Rostand’s brilliant work of fiction, Cyrano de Bergerac.
     
  12. Matt_P

    Matt_P Well-Known Member

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    Paul,

    I'd wait on a double dip if you have an acceptable anamorphic copy. I recently reviewed this title for digitallyOBSESSED! (the review should be up closer to release date), and the nonanamorphic transfer is pretty clean, but looks like it is a PAL to NTSC conversion, which means there are some rather noticeable motion blurring when viewing on a high end monitor. The print used looked very good, though. If this was a native NTSC anamorphic transfer, it would be simply beautiful.

    Great film, though.
     

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