Credits: Directed by Laurent Tirard and starring Romain Duris, Fabrice Luchini, Laura Morante, Edouard Baer, Ludivine Sagnier, Fanny Valette, Gonzague Montuel, Gilian Petrovski, Sophie-Charlotte Husson, Anne Suarez and Annelise Hesme.
Details: (PG), 120 mins, France,
Synopsis: It's mid-seventeenth century Paris and Molière (Romain Duris) is a long way from realising his legacy as the true master of comic satire, the author of The Misanthrope and Tartuffe, and a dramatist to rank alongside Shakespeare and Sophocles. He is an impetuous 22 year-old, his theatre troupe is a failure, he is bankrupt and in prison because he can't pay his debts. When his jailers let him go, he disappears. He reappears several months later, when his troupe begins touring the provinces - a tour that lasts for thirteen years and culminates in Molière's triumphant return to Paris in 1658. In those missing few months, he meets an unfaithful husband (Fabrice Luchini) and his beautiful wife (Laura Morante), the object of his desire (Ludivine Sagnier) and a conniving courtier (Eduardo Baer) who leads them all into trouble.
An elegant and witty French experience.
The dialogue is rich, nimble and comic and complimented by sumptuous settings.
The best way to describe the filmic farce Moliere is perhaps Moliere Dans L’Amour – such is its debt to Shakespeare In Love. Like that Oscar winner, this explains the evolution of the French playwright’s most famous work, Tartuffe, as being the product of his own romantic entanglements.
When the film opens, Moliere has returned to Paris. Over the past 13 years, he’s gained a reputation as a comic actor by roaming the countryside with his troupe. But now as he sits down to write his own serious, tragic play, we return to his younger life.
The bankrupt Moliere is hired by a scheming merchant named Monsieur Jordain because he wants to learn acting to woo the beautiful Marquise Celemine. Forced to pose as a religious tutor, Moliere insinuates himself into Jordain’s household, where he promptly falls for the neglected Madame Jordain. From there, we’re treated to miscommunications, deceptions and double crosses, all styled after the playwright’s own work.
The dialogue is rich, nimble and comic. And like Shakespeare in Love, the script also lightly probes the nature of tragedy and comedy and the creative pretension that says the serious is always superior to the silly.
Romain Duris is terrific as the young Moliere finding his own voice. It’s a performance of frustration and restraint, which makes him bursting into full passionate flight all the more exciting. Also excellent are Ludivine Sagnier as Celemine, the sarcastic mistress of her salon, and Laura Morante as the romantically revitalised Madame Jordain.
The villains of the piece also shine. Edouard Baer’s is slimy fun as Dorante, the louche aristocrat who manipulates Jourdain constantly. And Fabrice Luchini makes Monsieur Jourdain a wonderfully gormless but slightly sympathetic would-be Renaissance Man.
As good as the performances are, the man behind the camera should also take a bow because writer-director Laurent Tirard’s movie really is sumptuous and sophisticated.
Moliere’s a real gift for those who enjoy elegant, witty cinema.
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