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His "Napoleon" is admired by every director of the planet including FF Coppola.His "j'accuse" might be the strongest manifesto against war that had ever been.Meet Mister Abel Gance ,the French DW Griffith."Cyrano et d'Artagnan " is his final opus his third in color after "la tour de Nesles" and "Austerlitz" (not to be mistaken for "Napoleon" of course.° "Cyrano et d'Artagnan" is extremely ambitious ,and if it's not always successful,you can only blame it for its length (140 min) ,its use of foreign actors (Jose Ferrer,who had already played the role,Daliah Lavi,Sylva Koscina),and its sometimes confused plot.
It's an overlong movie,and the sequences drag on and on and on.But here and there some sublime pictures make up for it: for instance ,a shot of Marion Delorme's horse-drawn coach in the moistness of the early hours looks like a painting.The cinematography is sensational.
The use of foreign actors,when you want to write a hefty part of your dialogs in Alexandrians ,is not the right move:but Gance was probably in need of money so the co-production (with Italy and Spain) was necessary.But the dubbing was not adequate:for instance,Koscina's voice is provided by none other than the actress who dubs Elizabeth Montgomery in "bewitched" in the French version !Of the four leads,only Jean-Pierre's Cassel 's voice can be heard.Other famous French actors support here:Michel Simon (Cyrano's father),Gabrielle Dorziat(D'Artagnan's mother),Philippe Noiret (A curious Louis the Thirteenth),only appearing a few minutes each.That said,the lines are poetic,superbly written .Foreign people who will see this movie,unless they are fluent in FRench ,will lose a lot with subtitles.The lines verge on risqué for the time,and are not afraid to call a spade a spade when it comes to physical love.
The plot borrows from Alexandre Dumas's "les trois mousquetaires" (of course) but also from Edmond Rostand's famous play("Cyrano" later one of Depardieu's most celebrated parts) and Victor Hugo's drama "Marion Delorme" .Abel Gance blends the three stories,in a gleeful hotchpotch which might cause the purists' face to avert and their rump to shift endlessly in the armchair ,but he did not take the easy way out,nobody can deny! His Cyrano is wonderfully depicted,a poet,a fighter,a lover and a scientist (he did invent the tape recorder,which at Richelieu's time ,with all the spies around,was downright dangerous.° The amorous side and the political side do not hang well together ,because Gance favored the former over the latter.
"Cyrano et d'Artagnan" ,in its own way,sums up Gance's career:a man who never stopped trying ,whose failures (and this one is looked upon as a fiasco by most of the French critics) were worthwhile ,so much more worthwhile than so many successes.
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