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MGM Studios DVD presents
Cyrano de Bergerac (1990)

"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."
- Cyrano (Gerard Depardieu)

Review By: Matt Peterson  
Published: February 08, 2004

Stars: Gerard Depardieu, Anne Brochet, Vincent Perez
Other Stars: Jacques Weber, Roland Bertin, Josiane Stoleru, Philippe Volter, Philippe Morier-Genoud, Pierre Maguelon
Director: Jean-Paul Rappeneau

MPAA Rating: PG for (violence, mild sensuality)
Run Time: 02h:18m:15s
Release Date: February 10, 2004
UPC: 027616902276
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

There is always something enduring about a hero that does not personify one's stereotypical notion. Individuals that excel in every aspect of life can be revered, but ultimately figures such as these come off as unrealistic and unrelatable. Every hero has a fallacy, and rightfully so, for they too are people trying to make their way. Both film and literature have attempted to capture this concept. Chaplin saw the value of the tragically flawed hero, and infused it into his legendary Tramp. Author Edmond Rostand also captured this in his fictional novel Cyrano de Bergerac, faithfully translated to film with great panache by director Jean-Paul Rappeneau.

The story is classic. Cyrano de Bergerac (Gerard Depardieu), resident renegade, military leader, and poet, is a celebrity in 17th-century France. He is brash, bold, revered, hated, and dauntless. He effortlessly spouts eloquent prose while sword fighting, using words and steel alike to humble royalty and snuff out his enemies. However, his flaw is not mental, but physical. He is plagued with a distinctively long nose. For all his courage and skill, his appearance becomes an insurmountable obstacle between himself and his true love, the breathtaking Roxane (Anne Brochet). While he is ugly, he can never admit his love. However, a handsome new cadet, Christian (Vincent Perez) enters the picture and quickly falls for Roxane, who is also smitten by his good looks, unaware of his lack of eloquence. Cyrano learns of the situation and offers to be Christian's voice and soul, clandestinely writing letters for him and even speaking for him in a classic balcony scene. Through this partnership, each is able to express their love, fusing mind with matter. The climax is inevitable: war with Spain arrives and tragedy strikes. Roxane confesses it is Christian's soul she is in love with, and not his appearance. Will Roxane ever learn the truth?

Director Jean-Paul Rappeneau captures the thematically rich content of Rostand's novel, yet does not forget the medium in which he is working. Frequently, classics such as this, especially those that have been adapted for the stage, resemble filmed theater. It is easy to forget the strengths and capabilities of cinema in enhancing classic theatrical tales. Fortunately, that is not the case here. The beautiful locales, elaborate set design and ambitious wartime sequences create an epic feel appropriate for the story. Great detail is put into recreating daily life of the period. Visuals are spectacular and bold, showcasing first rate costume design and well-executed cinematography.

Technical merits aside, it is the performances that make this a triumph. Gerard Depardieu brings a diverse range to the role of Cyrano. It is certainly no surprise he is considered by many to be one of the finest actors around. Depardieu appears at home in the latex nose and exaggerated feather hat, bringing a bold, witty, overtly masculine power in one scene, then naturally switching to a reclusive, downtrodden poet in another. He superbly captures the character's complexity, integrity, and passion. An outstanding piece of work. The beautiful Anne Brochet brings a refined, pampered elegance to the role of Roxane, yet we are not put off by her frequent arrogance. She makes it easy to believe Roxane is loved by so many. Vincent Perez's Christian is appropriately youthful, ambitious, and helpless without Cyrano. However, his dim wit did not come through as strongly as I would have liked. Other fine supporting roles include Jacques Weber as rival Comte de Guiche and Roland Bertin as the faithful cook Ragueneau.

Plot exposition aside, this tale cuts to the heart of true love, which should ultimately lay in a person's being and not their appearance, which is merely temporary. Cyrano personifies eloquence of thought and Christian, the influence of good looks. Rostand's messages are superbly depicted in this lavish production. While it drags a bit at the end, it is undoubtedly the finest adaptation yet made.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The image quality could have been great. The print is free of blemishes and exhibits only minor film grain. The film's subdued color palette is well captured, but two significant issues mar this transfer. First, it appears to be a PAL to NTSC conversion, resulting in ghosting effects during movement of any kind. On a regular direct view TV, this is less distracting, but on a digital monitor, motion blurs are very noticeable. Second, MGM has decided to continue releasing nonanamorphic 1.66:1 transfers. This is a policy that must change! Despite these faults, this is still a solid above average image that would have been near perfect if it were anamorphic and native NTSC.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchno

Audio Transfer Review: The provided Dolby Surround track is a fine listen. The surrounds provide plenty of monaural atmospheric and musical fill, enhancing the beautiful locations on screen. The front soundstage is separated nicely via prologic decoding. Sound effects, especially the sword hits during the many battles, are crisp and dialogue, clear. Bass is decent, but don't expect this track to rattle the house.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: The theatrical trailer is the only extra on the disc. MGM has also included an insert detailing their "World Films" line.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

MGM has produced a lackluster DVD for the best cinematic adaptation of Rostand's classic novel. A decent nonanamorphic PAL sourced transfer combined with a fine Dolby Surround track makes this release passable. However, it is the quality of the film that makes this an easy recommendation.


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