In 1871, Paul Verlaine (1844-1896), an established poet, invites boy genius Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891) to live with Paul and his young pregnant wife, Mathiltde, in her father's home in Paris. Rimbaud's uncouth behavior disrupts the household as well as the insular society of French poets, but Verlaine finds the youth invigorating. Stewed in absinthe and resentment, Verlaine abuses Mathiltde; he and Rimbaud become lovers and abandon her. There are reconciliations and partings with Mathiltde and partings and reconciliations with Rimbaud, until an 1873 incident with a pistol sends one of them to prison. Codas dramatize the poets' final meeting and last illnesses.Written by
The film was issued on VHS after the box-office success of Romeo + Juliet (1996) and Titanic (1997): this release prominently and misleadingly featured a shot of Leonardo DiCaprio and Romane Bohringer on its cover, apparently to give the impression of a romantic relationship between the two (the film is in fact about his affair with her husband). See more »
In the Café Andre where the adult Isabelle Rimbaud meets with Paul Verlaine, the typeface on the window is clearly in Helvetica, a typeface that was not created until 1954. See more »
Sometimes he speaks in a kind of tender dialect of the death which causes repentence, of the unhappy men who certainly exist, of painful tasks and heartrending departures. In the hovels where we got drunk he wept looking at those who surrounded us, the cattle of poverty. He lifted up drunks in the black streets. He had the pity a bad mother has for small children. He moved with the grace of a little girl at catechism. He pretended to know about everything, business, art, medicine. ...
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It's a good thing not too many people saw this film when it came out [no pun intended], because, if any of DiCaprio's female fans had seen him in this, one of his best early roles, his career would have been over well before he was involved in "Titanic." And that's because he's so utterly convincing as the tortured, bisexual teen genius poet Arthur Rimbaud, that it would undoubtedly set many of those young ladies to wondering if he'd played the part a little TOO well, if you get my meaning. If ever there was any such thing as a male femme fatale, It's Leo right here. Rumor has it that he tried to have the video pulled a few years ago, right after his "Titanic" success. It's a good thing he wasn't successful, because I think that this film rates right along with "The Basketball Diaries" as possibly his best performance.
But it takes two to tango, at least in this case, and David Thewlis is almost as good opposite DiCaprio as Paul Verlaine, who began as Rimbaud's mentor and wound up as his long-time lover. As Verlaine was ugly and overweight, whereas Rimbaud was lithe and handsome, the two seemingly would have made an unbelieveably odd couple physically, but were drawn together more by their mutual likes and dislikes rather than physical attraction. And that's what you sense through all of their scenes together, a meeting of minds more than a meeting of bodies.
There were many who praised this movie, there were many who hated it, but love it or hate it, it holds a strange fascination which makes you remember it long after you've seen it.
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