Tuesday, July 17, 2007

MOLIERE In Love? Don't flatter yourself.

Writer-directer Laurent Tirard delivers a tedious, witless costume drama, marketed in the UK as Molière In Love. It is an unfortunate comparison to make. I am no fan of the lead performances in SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE but you simply have to admire its energy, beautiful production design and witty, intelligent, multi-faceted script. MOLIERE is rather thin gruel by comparison.

The immensely talented Romain Duris plays the impecunious playwright-actor. He is recruited by a wealthy social climber called M. Jourdain (Fabrice Luchini) to help him woo the imperious Marquise Célimène (Ludivine Sagnier). In order to keep this liason secret from Madame Jourdaine (Laura Morante), Molière adopts the role of a pious priest named Tartuffe. Molière and Madame Jourdain begin an affair and also try to protect Mlle. Jourdain from a loveless marriage to the son of a scheming bankrupt Marquis (Edouard Baer).

Those who know Molière's plays will see embryonic characters and scenes played out and take some delight in the fictional "what ifs?" And there is a lot of fun to be had watching Edouard Baer and Fabrice Luchini play the roles of nincompoop social climber and lecherous Marquis. It is, while attenuated by a flabby script, the germinal joy of watching Molière's plays!

Everything else is a bit of a disappointment. The production is lavish but has none of the grit, grime and attention to detail seen in BBC productions. Where are Shakespeare's inky fingers? And could they not have produced a more convincing wig for Romain Duris? The pacing is way off. The first hour of the movie could be radically condensed for a start. There is no social or political context - the stuff that distracted from the saccharine in SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE. Admittedly, the action takes place in a country estate rather than in a bustling capital city so there is less opportunity to show wider society. Still, one suspects a writer of Stoppard's talent would have made more of the pedestrian surroundings. And as for the final scene, presumably it was meant to cause violent emotion in the viewer. I found it hackneyed.

MOLIERE was released earlier this year in Belgium, France, Greece, Israel and Lithuania. It is currently on release in the UK. It opens in Hungary, Russia and the US on July 26th. It opens in the Netherlands and Argentina in August and in Australia on Boxing Day 2007.

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