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Nobody knows Auguste Maquet, and yet everybody knows "The Three Musketeers", Everybody knows Alexandre Dumas who wrote the swashbuckling masterpiece but who knows that Maquet is his co-writer? Nobody does, as his name does not appear on the cover. At least not Charlotte Desrives, the lovely daughter of a doctor stagnating in prison for his political opinions. When the lively girl mistakes the shy Maquet for the fiery ex-revolutionary Dumas, begging him to help her to have her father released, the former makes few efforts to put her right. She is so admiring of "him" ... She is so pretty ... Written by
"L'autre Dumas", a well-acted, informative and entertaining film, got lambasted by most of the French critics. Why is that so? The answer is pretty simple: Safy Nebbou has "committed a double fault" by on the one hand making a period piece and on the other hand by dealing with a major figure of French literature, Alexandre Dumas, the immortal author of "The Three Musketeers", "The Count of Monte Cristo" and many other masterpieces. The wretched fellow who, like Safy Nebbou, dares recreate a past era will automatically - unless he is one of the chosen - be called "academic" by French critics. And when he is insolent enough to illustrate the life of historical figure, he makes matters even worse: he will never do the great man/woman justice. Apparently, only critics know what things really were like in the past and only critics know what Dumas or Napoleon or Joan of Ark actually thought.
So, just disregard the bad reviews and go and see "L'autre Dumas": there are worse ways to spend two hours.
The main interest of both the original play "Signé Dumas" by Eric Roquette and Cyril Gely and its filmed adaptation is to put Dumas "the living legend" in his real place while bringing second fiddle Auguste Maquet to the fore. Maquet, who had been Dumas' co-writer for seven years, was never credited for his work and has often been called Dumas' ghostwriter, but the term is debatable because the two men worked TOGETHER, Maquet did not write IN DUMAS'PLACE. Always overshadowed by Dumas, Auguste Maquet deserved recognition, which he gets here. He is now the central character of this story: mistaken for Alexandre Dumas, Maquet falls in love with a lively female activist and ends up proving more revolutionary himself than ex revolutionary Dumas. And this role reversal is all the more effective as the authors do not fall into the trap of over-simplification. Maquet does not become an angel nor is Dumas demonized: both have their qualities and defects, which makes the story believable if fictitious. Moreover, they make it clear that if Maquet was instrumental in the writing of Dumas' masterpieces he was also unable to write alone. This ambiguity makes the relationships between the two men unconventional and interesting throughout.
The pace is lively and the period well recreated (I did not live in 1848, granted, but I am insolent enough to believe that my own impression is well worth the professional critics'one), but what makes 'L'autre Dumas' a real achievement is of course the acting. Gérard Depardieu was an obvious choice: just like Dumas he is a bon vivant, with an inclination for excessiveness and eccentricity. He is simply perfect for the role. Benoït Poelvoorde as Maquet lives up to him but in an entirely different way. Cast against type, the ordinarily exuberant comedian refrains himself to become engrossed into the character of Maquet, someone reserved, frustrated and conventional but also industrious and rigorous. The actresses are good too: Dominique Blanc as Dumas' mistress, who subtly expresses romantic love lurking behind blasé irony, Mélanie Thierry as Maquet's vivacious love interest. Let's not forget the always dependable Catherine Mouchet as Maquet's no-nonsense wife and mother of six!
A very good entertainment in which the viewer is not taken for a fool.
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