Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Reuben, Jan 9, 2009.

  1. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

    Feb 12, 1998
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    [b][SIZE=6]Cyrano de Bergerac[/SIZE][/b]

    [b]Studio:[/b] Image
    [b]Rated:[/b] n/a
    [b]Film Length:[/b] 141 Minutes
    [b]Aspect Ratio:[/b] 1.78:1 (enhanced for 16:9)
    [b]Audio:[/b] English DD 5.1; English DD 2.0
    [b]Color/B&W:[/b] Color
    [b]Subtitles:[/b] None
    [b]MSRP:[/b] $24.99
    [b]Package:[/b] Keepcase
    [b]Insert:[/b] None
    [b]Theatrical Release Date:[/b] n/a
    [b]DVD Release Date[/b]: January 6, 2009


    Like many movie stars, Kevin Kline started in the theater. Unlike many film actors, Kline
    regularly returns to the stage to take on classic roles. In 2007 he performed to sold-out audiences
    on Broadway in a role he was born to play: the courageous and witty swordsman with the noble
    soul and the ridiculously large nose in Edmond Rostand's [i]Cyrano de Bergerac[/i]. It didn't hurt the
    box office that Roxane, the object of Cyrano's hopeless love, was played by Jennifer Garner (of
    [i]Alias[/i], [i]Daredevil[/i] and [i]Juno[/i]), making her Broadway debut in daunting company, or that Christian,
    Cyrano's friend and rival for Roxane's affection, was played by Daniel Sunjata, a handsome
    Broadway veteran who'd become familiar as the womanizing firefighter Franco on TV's [i]Rescue

    Image Entertainment, in conjunction with PBS/Channel 13, has released a taped performance of
    Kline's [i]Cyrano[/i] on DVD. The release appears to have been timed to coincide with a nationwide
    PBS broadcast of the recording during the week of January 5, 2009.

    [SIZE=4][b]The Feature:[/b][/SIZE]

    Does anyone not know the plot of [i]Cyrano de Bergerac[/i]? Steve Martin borrowed liberally from it
    for his film [i]Roxanne[/i], but Martin set the story in a contemporary American resort town. And in
    true Hollywood fashion, he changed the ending.

    It is 1640, the era of the Three Musketeers. Cyrano, a soldier in the French Royal Guards, is a
    poet, wit, philosopher, swordsman and a sworn enemy to all that is hollow and pretentious. He is
    also cursed with a grotesquely enormous nose, as a result of which he believes himself unfit to
    declare his love for his beautiful cousin, Roxane. In the opening scene, Cyrano successfully
    fights a duel with a courtier attached to the villainous Comte de Guiche (Chris Sarandon), while
    simultaneously composing and reciting a poem celebrating his victory. When Roxane, who has
    witnessed the event, asks to see him, Cyrano dares to hope he has won her favor, but he is
    crushed to learn that her affections have attached to a soldier named Christian who is newly
    assigned to Cyrano's regiment. Roxane begs Cyrano to look out for Christian and congratulates
    him on his bravery in the duel. He agrees, saying: "I've done better since line almost verbatim for Roxanne).

    After a rocky beginning, Cyrano and Christian become friends. So devoted is Cyrano to
    Roxane's happiness that he does everything he can to facilitate her love affair with Christian.
    Upon discovering that Christian is tongue-tied with women, Cyrano coaches him. Soon he is
    ghost-writing Christian's letters to Roxane, and eventually he is standing below her balcony,
    pouring out his heart in his own voice but in Christian's name. He even runs interference with de
    Guiche, who has his own designs on Roxane, so that she and Christian can be secretly married.

    Upon discovering the marriage, an enraged de Guiche immediatedly dispatches Cyrano's and
    Christian's regiment to fight the Spanish, where Christian is killed in battle. A heartbroken
    Roxane withdraws into seclusion at a convent, where, once a week for fifteen years, Cyrano
    visits her dutifully. In the play's final act, Roxane lets him read the last letter that Christian wrote
    her from the front - a letter actually written by Cyrano. Upon hearing Cyrano read the letter
    aloud, Roxane finally realizes with whom she has been in love all these years. Unfortunately for
    both of them, it is too late. Cyrano has made many enemies over the years, and one of them has
    arranged for him to be ambushed on his way to the convent. He dies of his injuries, but knowing
    that Roxane loves him at last and that he has lived his life proudly without compromise.

    Even though it ends in the hero's death, Cyrano is a comedy. Everything about it is as
    exaggerated and ridiculous as the hero's nasal protruberance, whether it's Christian's absurd
    shyness, or the excessive pronouncements of love that Roxane demands from her suitor, or the
    braggadocio of Cyrano and his fellow guardsmen. The lead requires an actor who can be verbally
    agile and physically graceful, a ballet dancer and a buffoon all at once. Who better than the
    performer who won his Oscar for playing Otto in A Fish Called Wanda? Kevin Kline is so
    obviously suited to the part, and so obviously having fun with it, that the audience warms to him
    immediately upon his appearance, and the good will never lets up. (I can attest to this from
    personal experience as an audience member.)

    The rest of the cast is equal to the challenge. Garner may not have the stage experience of her
    costars, but she brings an energy to Roxane that saves the role from the shallowness that is an
    inescapable element of the character. You actually believe that this Roxane would have the grit to
    sneak her carriage through the Spanish lines to visit Cyrano and Christian in the fourth act - an
    absurd but necessary plot device. And Daniel Sunjata is a wily enough stage veteran to know
    that, while Kline is the star, Christian is the handsome one, and he takes every opportunity to use
    the cliche of "pretty but dumb" to get a laugh. (The exchange between Christian and Cyrano
    below Roxanne's balcony about whether Christian should kiss her is a wonderful bit of

    Leaving aside Steve Martin's adaptation, which is a gem unto itself, I've seen Cyrano done by
    José Ferrer and Gérard Depardieu on film and by Frank Langella on stage (as well as various
    amateur productions). The presentation recorded on this DVD is the best I've seen, and certainly
    the best version for introducing a contemporary audience to this classic drama.


    The usual criteria for rating a DVD's video don't apply here, because there's no film source that
    must be accurately reproduced. The advent of superior digital video technology has substantially
    improved the ability to capture a live performance from numerous angles and edit together a
    version that closely matches the rhythm of a TV show or film (long shot, close-up, reaction shot,
    etc.). The advantage for the DVD viewer is the opportunity to observe performance details that
    most audience members never saw (yes, the actors shed real tears every night). The disadvantage
    is that the performances and the staging were not designed to be seen that way, and when framed
    in such a fashion, they may appear somewhat out of context and artificial. A veteran theatergoer
    can adjust, but I'm not sure how this will play for someone used to film or TV performances.

    If I were directing the taping of a stage performance, I would encourage the photographers to find
    medium shots wherever possible, and then I would insist that the editor make as few cuts as
    possible. One of the privileges of sitting in a theater audience is that you can look wherever you
    choose. On a recorded presentation, the director, photographer and editor have made the choice
    for you, and the less you're reminded of that, the better.

    The above concern aside, I found nothing to criticize in the quality of the video on this DVD.


    I listened to the DD 5.1 track. The audio for the performance is spread across the front three
    speakers, while the surround channels are limited to ambient noise from the audience (i.e.,
    laughter and applause). While this might appear to be the result of careful placement of
    microphones in the theater, it's an illusion. For a long time now, actors on Broadway have been
    discreetly miked for the sake of both the back rows and assisted listening devices. To an
    experienced ear, it's obvious that at least the dialogue for this soundtrack has been taken from
    those microphones and mixed in a recording studio. The mix is good and ensures that the
    dialogue remains intelligible.

    Special Features:


    Final Thoughts:

    One of the many benefits of DVD is the ability to make theatrical events available to a wider
    audience than ever before in a format with sufficient resolution to capture some of the magic.
    While no recorded medium could ever supply the energy and spontaneity of a live performance, a
    well-produced DVD like Cyrano de Bergerac lets a home viewer experience the craftsmanship
    of theater veterans such as Kline and Sunjata and share the excitement as a talented performer
    like Garner succeeds at something new. If you have a soft spot for the play, or just for old-fashioned
    swashbuckling romance and comedy, you will not find a better Cyrano.

    Equipment used for this review:

    Denon 955 DVD player
    Samsung HL-T7288W DLP display
    Lexicon MC-8
    Sunfire Cinema Grand amplifier
    Monitor Audio floor-standing fronts and MA FX-2 rears
    Boston Accoustics VR-MC center
    Velodyne HGS-10 sub
  2. Timothy E

    Timothy E Supporting Actor

    Jul 20, 2007
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    Timothy Ewanyshyn
    This sounds like an entertaining play. You make a good point that the audience has the option of what to view on the stage at any given moment, whereas the DVD viewer does not have that luxury, and the medium shot as default setting is the best way to film this kind of performance. I believe that the mult-angle option on DVDs is underutilized, and a play like this would be the ideal way to present a choice of 3 or more views at any given time, with the medium shot being the default setting.
  3. Page

    Page Stunt Coordinator

    Jun 30, 1997
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    I'll have to check this out. I've seen many versions of "Cyrano", but the one that was easily the best (in my opinion) is the RSC version with Derek Jacobi. The ending is especially poignant. I have a VHS tape of it and wish they would do a DVD version with a nice digital clean up of the show.

    Have you ever seen the Jacobi version?
  4. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

    Feb 12, 1998
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    No, but I'm sure I'd enjoy it.
  5. RPMay

    RPMay Extra

    Dec 5, 2008
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    Los Angeles CA
    Real Name:
    Dick May
    The review speaks of a performance by Mel Ferrer. Actually, it was Jose Ferrer, who did the play on Broadway in the late 1940s, then the movie in 1950.
    He received the Best Actor Academy Award for this performance.
  6. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

    Feb 12, 1998
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    Thanks for the correction. That's what I get for being in too much of a hurry to post the review. [​IMG]
  7. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator

    Jul 31, 1997
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    Cees Alons
    Normally, I would hesitate to buy a version of a so typical French play if all actors are American. This is unfair already, because I was introduced to it as a student by an all-Dutch cast here on stage.

    So, it's thanks to your review, Michael, that I'm now holding the DVD in my hands: it arrived this morning. [​IMG]

    Kevin Kline played a convincing "typical" French guy in French Kiss, which is loved by my whole family (partly because we were present at the takes made in and around "our" hotel in Cannes, and my children played with Timothy Hutton's son on the beach while he was busy on the set).

    Cyrano is one of my all-time favourites, so I will almost certainly see it this weekend.


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