In a Parisian theater, where Cyrano has just run off a portly, mannered spouter of bad verse, a man makes the error of noticing Cyrano's nose.
"Why are you looking at my nose? Does it disgust you," Cyrano asks with dangerous politeness.
"No, not at."
"Is it soft and dangling?"
"I did not look at it!" the man protests.
"And why did you not look at it?" Cyrano persists. "Sickened you, did it? Is the color all wrong? Is it obscene?"
"Not at all," the man says, looking for a way out.
"Why, then, do you criticize? Do you find it too large in size?"
"It's terribly small, miniscule," the man stammers.
"What was that?" Cyrano glares, "Is that an insult? My nose is small then, eh? My nose, sir, is enormous! Cretinous moron, a man ought to be proud of such an appendix. A great nose may be an index of a great soul...kind, endowed with liberality and courage...like mine, you rat-brained dunce, unlike yours, all rancid porridge. It would be grotesque to fist your wretched mug, so lacking as it is in pride, genius, the lyrical and picturesque, in spark, spunk...in brief: in nose!"
Cyrano (Gerard Depardieu) is a man with heart and spirit as large as his nose, a man who loves deeply, yet must love through another. When Roxane (Anne Brochet), his cousin whom he loves more than his life, gives her heart to Christian (Vincent Perez), he is so determined to bring her happiness that he provides the passionate words that this handsome young man, whose brain is as thick as mutton, will use to win her. Cyrano is convinced that his face will forever doom him to solitude, much less enable him to speak his heart directly to Roxane.
"I can never be loved," he says to le Bret, one of his few friends, "even by the ugliest. My nose precedes me by fifteen minutes. Whom do I love? It should be clear. I love the prettiest far and near...the finest, the wittiest, the sweetest...the wisest...yes, Roxane." There will be years before Roxane realizes she had loved the man whose words she loved, not the man whose handsome face she saw.
Cyrano is a swordsman, a poet, a soldier, a playwright. He uses words with as much skill as he uses his blade. He'll fight a duel while reciting a poem he creates as he fights...and at the end...hit. If someone is rash enough to comment on his nose, he'll make a fool of the fop by describing all the comparisons a truly imaginative man would have used. He will never bend the knee, accept a sponsor, praise a mediocrity or knuckle to authority. None of that is for him; what Cyrano wants is to "sing, dream, laugh...move on...be alone...have a choice...have a watchful eye and a powerful voice...wear my hat awry...fight for a poem if I like...and perhaps even die."
This version of Cyrano de Bergerac features outstanding production values, with great attention to settings, costume and style. The story moves along with duels and battles, love and lost love. The end of the movie, and the end of Cyrano, had me close to tears.
Most of all, the movie crests along on the language and on the situation of Cyrano, himself. It's a French movie, but the English subtitles were written by Anthony Burgess. The are soft and caressing, pungent, funny and sad. At times they move so effortlessly into couplets that it's only after you've read them that you realize how much they added to a scene.
Depardieu is one of the great contemporary actors, and he creates a riveting Cyrano. Depardieu is a big man with thick shoulders and a deep chest. No one would likely call him handsome. He is an actor of phenomenal range. His Cyrano is imposing as he strides along a cobblestone street in his red cloak and black, plumed, wide-brimmed hat. Depardieu creates a Cyrano easy to imagine you might be a little like, or could be...if you had Cyrano's panache.
Tragedy, Cyrano isn't, but it's a wonderfully robust, sad, romantic melodrama.