Cyrano De Bergerac: Small, my nose?! Why, magnificent my nose! You pug, you knob, you button head! Know that I glory in this nose of mine. For a great nose indicates a great man: genial, courteous, intellectual, veritable, courageous!
Cyrano de Bergerac (1950) is the story of a nose… I mean, the story of a man (one with an abnormally large nose). The film is an adaptation of the play of the same name, written in 1897 by French playwright Edmond Rostand. Set in 1640s France, it is a tale of romance, adventure, deception, and (again) a very large nose. Jose Ferrer’s portrayal of Cyrano won him the Oscar for Best Actor, and it isn’t difficult to see why.
The film opens in a theater where a play is just beginning. After about a minute, you can hear someone calling out, pleading with the actor to stop performing. Everyone in attendance is understandably upset as they had paid to see this play. Amongst the commotion, it is determined that the voice belongs to that of Cyrano… Cyrano de Bergerac! The audience looks up towards him and his face appears behind his boots, politely propped up against the railing of his booth. He then proceeds to not only stop the play, but give the owner enough gold to refund the ticket price to all the attendees (and then some).
Cyrano is cocky, forceful, naïve, perplexing, poetic, carefree, eloquent, sarcastic, foolish, and if that wasn’t enough, he’s also quite the romantic. He is in love with Roxane (Mala Powers) whom he has known for many years, but he does not think she loves him. In a way, he is proven to be right when she tells him she is in love with Christian de Neuvillete (William Prince). Not only does she reveal her love for Christian apparently ignorant to the love Cyrano has for her, but she even goes so far as to ask Cyrano to protect Christian! Cyrano loves Roxane so much that he bites his lip and agrees to do so without hesitation (an act that alone would qualify him for sainthood).
Cyrano, ever the well-spoken poet, begins to teach Christian how to woe Roxane. From the beginning it is evident that Christian lacks the ability to translate his feelings into words, so Cyrano basically writes a script for him to use when speaking to Roxane.
While this plot plays out to a somewhat predictable outcome (I had figured out what would happen a good hour before it actually did), Cyrano partakes in his own escapades. The basis for many of these occurrences is one that is virtually unavoidable. The men who are in the same military company as Cyrano often warn people not to look at, reference, or even think about Cyrano’s nose. That is unless of course they desire it to be the last thing they ever see. Cyrano is quick to draw his sword at anyone whose actions could be conceived as disrespectful to him as he values his reputation above all else.
One could say that Cyrano exhibits the tragic flaw of hubris, but that would merely be the truth. Of course Cyrano himself would never admit that, which compounds the over confidence of his character. Despite being a complete ego trip, you can’t help but love the guy. You cheer him on in every duel (mind you, there are many), every comeback, and every effort he makes to win over Roxane. Why? Because somehow, no matter what attention-grabbing move that Cyrano makes, everyone else around him seems to look like a jerk.
For those of you who read (or were forced to read) Moliere’s Le Misanthrope, you’ll appreciate the reference that is made in the film, which indicates Moliere stole the work of Cyrano. Somehow, thinking that Moliere took the work of this swash buckling, ice in the veins duelist makes me laugh (even if it isn’t actually true).
As mentioned before, you wont be surprised to see how the love triangle plays out between Cyrano, Christian, and Roxane. While it probably wasn’t written to be comedic, Steve Martin used the story as the inspiration for his movie Roxanne (1987) that I took the liberty of including some clips from. Overall, Cyrano de Bergerac was entertaining to watch. It had moments of great excitement and others of deep emotion. After watching the film, one thing is certain: Cyrano is a hero. Don’t mess with him or you’ll perish by the wrong end of his nose!
I have included a link where you can watch the film in its entirety, as well as a clip from the beginning of the film. As I mentioned before, also linked are some clips from Steve Martin’s parody of the story, Roxanne. Enjoy!
The Reel Rating: 6
References: http://www.tcm.com, http://www.barewalls.com/i/c/418984_Cyrano-De- Bergerac.jpg, http://www.glogster.com/media/2/1/94/84/1948471.gif, http://www.film reference.com/images/sjff_03_img1075.jpg, http://img2.timeinc.net/ew/dynamic/ imgs/071115/martin/roxanne_l.jpg, http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/13/77113-050-F03D62A8.jpg