'MOLIERE' ISN'T QUITE 'SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE,' BUT IT STILL MANAGES TO SATISFY.Byline: BOB STRAUSS
Long before he became France's greatest playwright, Moliere was the leader of a bankrupt, 17th-century theater troupe. Writer-director Laurent Tirard's "Moliere" suggests that during a few months after a stint in debtors prison, when history is unsure of exactly what the young actor was doing, he lived out the kind of moral farce that he would later compose and stage to much controversy and the general delight of Louis XIV's court.
This handsome French production obviously bears similarities to "Shakespeare in Love," but it is not as thoroughly successful.
Tirard, a former movie journalist, cooks up a cunning series of deceptions and seasons the scenario with well-chosen references to "Tartuffe Tartuffe
swindles benefactor by pretending religious piety. [Fr. Lit.: Tartuffe]
See : Hypocrisy ," "The Love-Sick Doctor" and other Moliere satires.
But the setup is slow, and even after that, tone wobbles between sheer buffoonery and wise, humane insight. But fine performances all around and a handful of truly riveting scenes near the end make the movie a satisfying experience overall.
Reigning Gallic heartthrob Romain Duris ("The Beat That My Heart Skipped") plays Moliere as an amoral a·mor·al
1. Not admitting of moral distinctions or judgments; neither moral nor immoral.
2. Lacking moral sensibility; not caring about right and wrong. conniver CONNIVER - Artificial intelligence language for automatic theorem proving. An outgrowth of PLANNER, based on coroutines rather than backtracking. Allowed multiple database contexts with hypothetical assertions.
["The CONNIVER Reference Manual", D. McDermott & G.J. and a pretentious twit -- but also as a consummate actor and plot-weaver of quick, incipient incipient (insip´ēent),
adj beginning, initial, commencing.
beginning to exist; coming into existence. genius. He's bailed out of jail by a mysterious benefactor, the wealthy, weak-chinned merchant Jourdain (Fabrice Luchini, masterful at both puffing up and swallowing the character's shaky dignity). The breathing definition of dilettante dil·et·tante
n. pl. dil·et·tantes also dil·et·tan·ti
1. A dabbler in an art or a field of knowledge. See Synonyms at amateur.
2. A lover of the fine arts; a connoisseur.
adj. , Jourdain wants Moliere to teach him all of the actors' arts so that he might impress the snooty young widow Celimene ("Swimming Pool's" Ludivine Sagnier) by performing a bad play he's written at her chic salon.
But there's a catch. Moliere can't let anyone at Jourdain's estate know the true nature of their agreement, since the rich man doesn't want to be exposed. Plus, Madame Jourdain, Elmire (Laura Morante), probably wouldn't dig the Celimene part.
So Moliere must disguise himself as a stuffy cleric named -- voila voi·là
Used to call attention to or express satisfaction with a thing shown or accomplished: Mix the ingredients, chill, and ! -- Tartuffe, allegedly brought in to teach the atheist ATHEIST. One who denies the existence of God.
2. As atheists have not any religion that can bind their consciences to speak the truth, they are excluded from being witnesses. Bull. N. P. 292; 1 Atk. 40; Gilb. Ev. 129; 1 Phil. Ev. 19. See also, Co. Litt. 6 b. Jourdains' daughter some morals. Outraged Elmire quickly detects that this imposter knows jack about the Bible; for his part, Moliere intuits that the lovely matron MATRON. A married woman, generally an elderly married woman.
2. By the laws of England, when a widow feigns herself with child, in order to exclude the next heir, and a suppositious birth is expected, then, upon the writ de ventre inspiciendo, a jury of women may just be turned on by the notion of a predatory religious hypocrite who might not be at all what he seems.
Complications don't just ensue. They multiply like rabbits.
The three principles prove expert at embedding their characters in increasingly nuttier packs of lies, as well as locating real poignancy and emotional growth amid all of the unsavory machinations. Luchini is especially adept at physical comedy, bringing an odd grace to utter gracelessness grace·less
1. Lacking grace; clumsy.
2. Having or exhibiting no sense of propriety or decency.
3. Inferior or clumsy in treatment or performance: a graceless production of the play. . Morante is persuasive as Elmire careens from lust to loyalty to maternal devotion.
Like the recent French production of "Lady Chatterley," "Moliere" is well worth sticking with despite some initial plodding and stumbling. It may not be a brilliant act of speculative history, but it's a clever and respectable one.
Bob Strauss (818) 713-3670
MOLIERE - Three stars
>PG-13: sex, mild violence.
>Starring: Romain Duris, Fabrice Luchini, Laura Morante, Edouard Baer, Ludivine Sagnier.
>Director: Laurent Tirard.
>Running time: 2 hrs.
>Playing: Town Center 5, Encino; Playhouse 7, Pasadena; Royal, West L.A.; South Coast Village, Costa Mesa Costa Mesa (kŏs`tə mā`sə), city (1990 pop. 96,357), Orange co., S Calif., on the Pacific south of Santa Ana; inc. 1953. It is a transportation, residential, and light industrial center. .
>In a nutshell: Comedy about the great French playwright's formative "missing months" is a little slow getting started, but pays off smartly in the end. In French with English subtitles sub·ti·tle
1. A secondary, usually explanatory title, as of a literary work.
2. A printed translation of the dialogue of a foreign-language film shown at the bottom of the screen.
The "missing months" of Moliere's early life are the subject of speculation in the French comedy.