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Cyrano ★★★

Cyrano is an alluring ode to love against the tide.



Directed: Joe Wright

Cast: Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Ben Mendelsohn

Released: February 25, 2022 (UK Cinemas)

Love and fake identity can interlace in copious methods and with today’s technology we might think of catfishing. Yet centuries prior, way before buzzing notifications and swiping right, this notion of romantic deception may have imparted itself in the form of handwritten love letters as is true in director Joe Wright’s newest musical Cyrano. Enter stage right Peter Dinklage as the graciously poetic lead, expressing his longstanding devotion to beautiful belle Roxanne (Haley Bennett) under the guise of love-struck young soldier Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr).

Instantly, we are granted access to Cyrano’s unrelenting prowess as his swordsmanship allows him to defeat 10 men with utmost ease, whilst he lyrically (and unexpectedly fatally) trounces another sonneteer before a grand theatre audience. The film’s prologue soon tells us quite essentially that our titular character has been “madly” in love with his friend Roxanne for some time, yet in juxtaposition to our first impressions, he has felt inadequate due to his physical differences hence his reticence. As handsome newcomer Christian is unable to articulate his affections to Roxanne, a complex yet somewhat opportunistic situation arises which lets both men convey their yearning – veiled letters written by the poet but signed by his counter.

Kelvin Harrison Jr. stars as Christian Photo credit: Peter Mountain

Cyrano de Bergerac was in fact a real life playwright and duellist of 17th century France whose pure existence has spawned a number of fictional works, most notably Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play. This tale as old as time was, to our modern profit, what inspired Erica Schmidt’s 2018 stage musical of which Wright chose to adapt for cinema. Having chosen to set his epic at some ambiguous time between 1640 and 1712, we are treated to an affluence of heavenly romanticism in narrative, screenplay, style and overall vision.

With Wright’s impressive backlog of romance and periodic drama which he has worked in tandem with production designer Sarah Greenwood on (Anna Karenina, Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, Darkest Hour), this adaptation was in very capable hands. The production and costume design is reason alone to see this saga; as ravishing, outlandish Baroque couture is located within an equally idyllic emporium of settings. Antiquated Italian architecture sets a fanciful Mediterranean vista as the backdrop to such passions, bolstered by impressive cinematography of the scenery. The specificity of these departments is evident in excess, most notably in the opening’s majestic amphitheatre scene and the famous balcony scene where a grand yet archaic palazzo is set as Roxanne’s residence.

In due part to being lifted almost verbatim from its 2018 source material, the film itself is charged with the fast paced rhythm of a musical. At times to its detriment as characters aren’t given enough emotional depth, though making for a perfectly charming watch in the melodic sense. With music written by The National, the suitably sweet tunes are the perfect backdrop to the rhythmic and definitively well-rehearsed choreography of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. So eloquent that some sequences resemble the embodiment of a treble clef through careful fluttery motions in time with peaceful melodies. The choice for live singing simultaneously allows for greater intimacy and humanness as natural emotions and breaks are injected; as Dinklage and Bennett do particularly well, turning song into soliloquy at the best moments.

Peter Dinklage stars as Cyrano and Bashir Salahuddin as Le Bret Photo credit: Peter Mountain

Whilst evocative, the film does plainly capitalise on a romantic cliché which lacks the same zest that the famous Cyrano de Bergerac is said to have. Roxanne’s theatrical displays of ardour would have done better if they were self-aware and perhaps allowed the film to play on a certain silliness in the narrative. Whilst the simplicity of the story is maintained well with the musical component of the film, this perhaps translated better on stage as on occasion the audience may wish for a little more in place of amorous reiteration.

That being said, where the story may stagnate, the screenplay is still able to lift the mood. Cyrano is the esteemed wordsmith after all, and his poetic panache is joyful and masterly throughout. Whilst the small cast achieves much in their respective roles – Bennett particularly shines with her enchanting fluttery tones and Ben Mendelsohn makes an agreeably revolting Duke De Guiche in his melodramatic performance – it is ultimately Peter Dinklage whose range, dedication and unwavering talent brings the spectacle to life. He is simply devastating as the charismatic yet woeful Cyrano; each emotion under the sun effortlessly envisaged by the uncompromising actor, making the mediocre singing obsolete. All encompassed, pearly glossy aesthetics and delicate cinematography make Joe Wright’s musical a jubilant experience. Whilst the eloquent lyricism of the screenplay radiates much of the team’s talent, the music carries only partial award in comparison as songs are capably evocative but won’t necessarily stick with you. Cyrano is an alluring ode to love against the tide during Baroque romanticism, taking a slight twist on a classic tale with a magnificent wardrobe and exquisite technical production behind the screen.

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