(Average=4.00 out of 5; Total Number=33)
One Of The Most Thrilling Dramas Of All Time (rating=5)
When I was a kid, back in the days before even those excruciatingly edifying Afterschool Specials began to plague daytime TV and the talk shows were Mike Douglas and Dinah Shore rather than Jerry Springer and Oprah, there was a terrific series of Animated Classics that were broadcast in the afternoons. They were, as far as I can recall, pretty faithful to the original stories, though obviously abridged and edited. I remember two in particular, The Count of Monte Cristo and Cyrano de Bergerac. The appeal of these two, despite their French provenance, is obvious--what more can a kid ask for than a great swashbuckler? Then, as if this cartoon version wasn't enough, I saw the 1950 Jose Ferrer film version of Cyrano and was hooked on the story for life.
Rostand's is just one of several fictions to be based on the life of the historical Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac (1619-55). Set in the reign of Louis XIII, the play, of course. tells the story of the fiercely independent swordsmen, poet, playwright and political pamphleteer with the prodigious proboscis, of his unspoken love for his cousin Roxanne and of his intercession on behalf of his beautiful fellow guardsman Christian de Neuvillette, on whose behalf he surreptitiously woos her.
Now when you're a kid, you can hardly see past the dueling and brawling. I mean, obviously the point is that the guy is lovable despite his beak, but c'mon, the love parts are yucky anyway. But returning to the story as an adult, Rostand's other themes emerge, particularly Cyrano's insistence on meeting life on his own terms. If his failure to realize Roxanne's love remains tragic, his Quixotic nature, his enduring political independence and personal integrity, serve to make him one of the great heroes in all of literature.
Blending swordplay, comedy, tragedy and romance in equal measure, this is truly one of the most thrilling dramas of all time. If you can find the cartoon version, by all means watch it. In the meantime, instead of renting Lethal Weapon # 8, next time you're at the video store look for Jose Ferrer as Cyrano or buy a copy from Amazon for 7 bucks. It's well worth the price of two rentals; I guarantee you watch it more than once.
Translation Captures Poetry And Wit Of Rostand's Hero. (rating=4)
Most readers and performers are probably more familiar with the translation of Cyrano by Brian Hooker. Hooker's translation has much to recommend it but it fails to capture the poetic power, whimsy or grace of Rostand's play. I feel the Burgess translation better represents Cyrano to a modern reader. One previous reviewer suggested that there was something almost absurd about Cyrano as he is portrayed by Rostand. Burgess himself had qualms about translating the play into rhyme. But this convention is powerful because it suggests that the men and women of Cyrano's dramatic world (even the lackwits) were impressed by cleverness, grace and beauty. It is set out in the play that Roxanne is one of the literary precieuse. The type of cleverness that Cyrano portrays in rhyme would appeal to her. At the same time, Cyrano is not a fop but a man of action whose mind is not stilled even by combat. Also this translation shows that Christian's "military wit" was something Cyrano could appreciate for its poetic appropriateness as well as for its courage. I think in some ways Cyrano's chivalry and heroism, as well as the more unrealistic elements of the play, are actually made more vivid and convincing by the use of rhyme. Burgess transports us to Rostand's imagined world of poetry and chivalry directly. . . and does not relent for a moment in portraying it. I think the real Hercule Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac would have appreciated the flair of it all. And if you don't buy that?-- Well, the fight scenes are STILL cool. Happy reading.
BEST OF THE CYRANOS (rating=5)
This Hal Roach Studios production from Image Entertainment is the best of the best. Flawlessly transferred from original 35mm camera negative and finegrain material, it features a brilliant soundtrack as well as the original theatrical trailer. This is the real deal--not a backyard dupe offered in a quickie transfer (probably to analogue) for el cheapo prices. If you want CYRANO, this class act version is the one to buy. SPECIAL NOTE: The specification notes indicated on the Amazon site are WRONG--this disc is encoded "Region Zero" not "Region One" as is stated. It will play on any DVD player anywhere in the world. So, what are you waiting for?? (Review refers to Hal Roach Studios DVD version released by Image Entertainment.)