Directed by Joe Wright
Review by Kate Roberts
Based on the musical that’s based on the play that’s based on a real guy, Cyrano brings us a story of love, languish and language. The kind of story that appreciates a good old dance number at the garrison. The kind that will have you swooning over an exceptionally romantic set of 10 to 15 lines. The kind that’s perfect for Peter Dinklage. Cyrano is the big-screen musical number that we crave once, maybe twice a year. With top actors at the helm and sets that put Italy on your bucket list, Cyrano has all the ingredients for a feast, and I’m trying not to wince as it reaches for the high notes.
Roxanne (Haley Bennett) is madly in love with love. She’s caught the eye of the cringiest duke in town, De Guiche (Ben Mendelsohn), but her heart belongs to poets and pretty boys. That probably comes from her childhood with Cyrano (Peter Dinklage), a hopeless romantic with a gift for poetry, a weakness for pride and an unwavering belief that his dwarfism means he can never be loved.
Roxanne keeps Cyrano in the friend zone while Cyrano orbits her like the sun until, out of the blue, Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) rockets into view. He doesn’t speak, he doesn’t peacock, he just stares at Roxanne from across the room like a baby staring at a set of keys. But Christian is beautiful, and Roxanne is smitten. She immediately goes all-in and asks Cyrano to look out for this sexy stranger, protect him at the garrison and, hardest of all, befriend him. Cyrano can’t say no, so he agrees to help Christian – who is equally smitten but infinitely less eloquent – win her over through love letters. Christian doesn’t know what a bargain he’s bought; Cyrano pours his deepest feelings for Roxanne into letters that he signs from a tall, handsome, speechless idiot. Letters that Roxanne basically takes to bed every night. How could she not fall in love with Christian, the supposed author? How could she not realize that these words belong to her oldest friend? It’s a threesome made for an 18th-century Hollywood musical, with promises of shocking reveals, heartbreak and dance numbers shrouded in chiffon.
One thing that Cyrano does not lack is aesthetic. Although the sets may look like a studio backdrop, it was all filmed in Noto, Italy. Also known as my next vacation destination. From buildings to staircases to balconies, this city was begging to be featured in a period drama. It just looks right draped in fluttering curtains, mountains of organza and the most uncomfortable shoes that history has to offer strutting the cobblestones. Cyrano is a beautifully tailored feast for the eyes.
It’s a little less appetizing for the ears. Haley Bennett treats us to an authentic Disney-princess opening aria and sets the bar very high. Shortly after, Cyrano enters, rhyming off a rap of insults that make us think we’ve stumbled into Hamilton. The stage was set, my hopes were high, but the realization quickly dawned that not all baritones are natural-born singers. While Bennett has a beautiful voice and Harrison’s is passable (but remember, he’s pretty), Dinklage could have come straight from Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables. Did he sing his sections live? If not, Dinklage has an incredible gift for lip synching but needs a bit more practice with pitch.
We all have our talents, and there’s no denying that Dinklage’s lies in acting. Cyrano’s songs aren’t the catchiest, the plot is super predictable, the villain is like a dandy version of Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and you just want to slap some clarity in Roxanne’s love-blind vision – but at least the acting is top notch. Dinklage delivers, without waver, these velvety smooth lines. It really is poetry. Without the sets, the costumes or any staging at all, he could stare into a camera lens and recite monologues for hours and I’d be 100 per cent invested. Why has he not played Richard III yet? Where is his role as an unbreakable gangster boss with a secret heart of gold? If nothing else, Cyrano is a gift to the acting community, even if we have to wade through uncoordinated dancing and lengthy musical numbers to get there.
Cyrano doesn’t really break the mold. It’s a movie. The actors are good – mostly. The singing is beautiful – on average. The dialogue will make you see true love – for a minute. Every character has one crippling fault that pushes them into conflict: Cyrano is little, Christian is tongue-tied, and Roxanne has a heart full of romance and a head full of cotton. They make do with what they are, but there’s minimal development to help them grow. Nothing shocking or naturally dramatic, just predictable. All except for the ending which made me question how many years it takes for a wound to bleed out.
Cyrano is a great addition to Dinklage and Bennett’s repertoire, and I hope that wardrobe gets the acknowledgement they deserve, but otherwise Cyrano is a relatively flat 4/10.
Running time: 2 hr 3 m
In theatres now
Kate Roberts grew up in the Glebe and is a movie addict who has been writing reviews since 2013. Her reviews can be found at plentyofpopcorn.wordpress.com
A Powerful yet simple film
Directed by Abbas Kiarostami
Review by Angus Luff
Taste of Cherry is one of the most stupendous, realistic and powerful depictions of depression and the human condition in film history. It approaches its themes with incredible patience and intelligence, and many may be turned off by its meditative and slow pace. Yet with its subtlety and respectful nature, the film tackles heavy subject matter in a way few others would try. Its unique presentation and way of communicating its message makes Taste of Cherry a timeless film that is sure to live on as one of the greats of international cinema.
Taste of Cherry is a 1997 Iranian drama directed by Abbas Kiarostami. The film follows a hopeless, middle-aged man named Mr. Badii (Homayoun Ershadi) as he travels across the city in search of someone who can help him end his life. He picks up multiple people, attempts to explain his situation and has no success getting anyone to help. He then meets a taxidermist (Abdolrahman Bagheri) who seems to be up to the task but also tries to talk Badii out of suicide.
This film is simple – excruciatingly simple to some but endlessly meaningful to others, including me. The film mostly consists of a shot-reverse-shot conversation between Badii and whomever he picks up. Yet the conversations are elevated by the simple, matter-of-fact directing style. The deep, philosophical ideas get increasingly heavy throughout the film, and the tension rises because of the locked-down direction. The film is essentially about people communicating about their struggles and their different perspectives on them. The way the camera focuses from one character to another brings out the deep, intimate conversations. That might be a complaint in some films, but Kiarostami turns this tired, monotonous directing style into something integral to the film. His shot-reverse-shot, telling and not showing, not explaining a backstory for the main character – these things get turned into something meaningful and profound, which shows Kiarostami’s confidence in his filmmaking that he is able to bend so many movie rules.
The film’s slow and patient nature, the beautiful aerial shots of Iran and the philosophical conversations make for a unique, mesmerising experience. The way the film slowly transforms itself is captivating. At the beginning of the film, we know nothing about Mr. Badii – he is simply a man in a truck searching for someone to help him. By the end, we still don’t really know him – we see his stone-cold dead expression and understand he has lost all hope and is indifferent to emotion. We still want to know him better, to sympathize with him, understand his pain, yet we never will. That we know nothing about our protagonist lets us put whatever experiences, pain and suffering we have ever felt onto him. In that way, everyone who has watched Taste of Cherry probably gets something entirely different out of it.
Life is hard, it’s unrelenting, it’s a test, it’s cruel, and it doesn’t really care about your feelings. And that way of thinking is amplified if you suffer depression. You may not want to think that way, but some people can’t help it. Yet, at the end of the day, that is just one perspective on life. Life is also an uplifting, fulfilling, gorgeous place where we can live, love and dream. That’s another perspective. The way Taste of Cherry deals with different perspectives, attitudes and ways of thinking is genius. My heart goes out to everyone who has depression, anxiety or any other form of mental illness. While it’s extremely hard to get out of that way of thinking, I still believe the world can be a magical, comforting place if you let it be. And I think communicating with others about life, pain and different perspectives really helps. Communicating is such an integral part of human life. The way Taste of Cherry shows the effects of communication between people is so special. It’s a film we all need, it’s a film that will forever be relevant in human life, and it’s a very special film that deserves all the attention it gets.
Running time: 1 hour 35 mins
Available on The Criterion Channel
Angus Luff is a student at Glebe Collegiate. He grew up in the Glebe and is obsessed with movies.