France | Belgium 2018
Opening March 21, 2019
Directed by Alexis Michalik
Writing credits: Alexis Michalik
Principal actors: Thomas Solviérés, Oliver Gourmet, Mathilde Seigner, Tom Leeb, Lucie Boujenah
In December 1897 French theater writer Edmond Rostand was experiencing a low point in his career. His last two dramas were not well received; he hadn’t written anything in two years and he had a wife and children to support. At the same time the most successful actor of the time, Constant Coquelin was having his own career problems, as his theater faced closure due to financial problems. Famous actress Sarah Bernhardt suggested to Coquelin that he ask Rostand to create a new role for him. Edmond Rostand, with no other alternatives, agreed, stumbling along with a three-week deadline. The play slowly came to life with help, as well as interference, from the newly assembled staff. Coquelin insisted that his incompetent son Jean play a role. The money-givers insisted that elderly actress Maria Lagualt must have a leading role. Rostand was happy to give his best friend Léo a main role, which impressed Léo’s girlfriend Jeanne, who worked in the theater dressing room. Then there was a series of letters involving the triangle Léo, Jeanne and Edmond, which incited jealousy on the part of Edmond’s wife Rosemonde. Amazingly, the play Cyrano de Bergerac opened on December 28, 1897, and, to this day, it is the most frequently performed play in the French-speaking theater world, a classic in world literature.
Director Alexis Michalik was age 29, when he decided to compile this story – the same age as Edmond when he enjoyed this great success. Michalik studied acting and worked as both actor and director in the theater. He presented this story originally as a play; now we have it as his first, full-length, feature film. Not only does the quick pace enthrall our viewing, but also the excellent actors, beginning with Thomas Solivéres (Edmond). Oliver Gourmet (Coquelin), Tom Leeb (Léo), Lucie Boujenah (Jeanne), Mathilde Seigner (Maria Legault) and Igor Gotesman (Jean) are all amazing. Almost an actor in its own right is the mustache that Edmond wears, a highlight in a film full of beautiful costumes, makeup and hairstyling, thanks to Thierry Delettre. Naturally, Cyrano de Bergerac lives on today, more than 120 years since its premiere, in stunning versions of opera, musicals, ballet and film. Cyrano’s large nose, his distinguishing mark, is always recognizable. Stay for the credits and see clips of Cyrano productions from 1900 to 2006 roll by in selected performances. (Becky T.)