There were many adaptations of classic literary works in 1990, but for both production quality and pure entertainment value I gave the edge to that year's CYRANO DE BERGERAC, giving it a +3 (-4 to +4 scale), and said that that was likely to remain the best adaptation of the story to film we would see in our lifetimes and very likely the most entertaining, even if we included Steve Martin's popular modern reframing ROXANNE. I still stand by that.
CYRANO DE BERGERAC, and this year's film of similar title, CYRANO, are of course adaptations of Edmond Rostand's popular play, first presented in 1897. (Rostand took some poetic liberty, incidentally, but Cyrano was a genuine historic figure who was soldier, expert swordsman, poet, playwright, philosopher, and even a science fiction writer. His best-known literary work today is A VOYAGE TO THE MOON, which is why Rostand put so many references to moon travel in the play. Cyrano suggested several means of extra- terrestrial propulsion, mostly absurd, but on one he got lucky. Cyrano de Bergerac was the man who first suggested that space travel might be possible using rocket propulsion.) The story is of the noble swordsman who would like to woo his beautiful cousin but is stigmatized by his own prodigious nose. When it turns out that an inarticulate but handsome soldier under Cyrano's command also loves her, Cyrano agrees to help the soldier. The soldier will provide the good looks and Cyrano will provide the words. The story packs into a surprisingly small space comedy, tragedy, drama, action, and adventure.
This year's version, titled simply CYRANO, it does everything it can to make the nobility repulsive, visually as well as character- wise. We see the Count De Guise (played by Ben Mendelsohn) giving instructions and orders to his fiancee, Roxanne (played by Haley Bennett). De Guiche does not know that he will soon be losing his safe control over the woman in his own coach. Let De Guise rest in peace.
Cyrano is played by Peter Dinklage, and as a result, almost all the nose jokes are dispensed with in favor of remarks about his height. This means, among other things, that the marvelous scene in which Cyrano comes up with dozens of insults to his nose. Apparently screenwriter Erica Schmidt (Dinklage's wife) did not feel she could do that scene justice with height jokes--or maybe decided that height jokes were a bit too insulting in real life to put a whole scene of them on the film. Dinklage is immensely talented but his singing voice leaves a lot to be desired. (On the other hand, the same could be said of Rex Harrison in MY FAIR LADY.) Christian is played by Kelvin Harrison, Jr., with no comment being made about his race--I'm not sure if we are supposed to acknowledge it or not. (One reviewer felt that having a Black character be inarticulate and rescued by what is in some sense a white savior was a bad choice.)
Kudos for the very detailed sets and production design.
Released theatrically 12/31/21. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4), or 7/1.
Film Credits: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt12889404/reference
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/cyrano
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2021 Mark R. Leeper