December 31, 2016

José Ferrer • Cyrano de Bergerac

as Cyrano de Bergerac
Won: Academy Award - Best Actor • Golden Globe Award - Best Actor (Drama)

With it's unusual title and a goofy looking, oft-smirking main character bearing a giant honker of a nose while draped in doublets and feathered hats, at face value I had thought Cyrano de Bergerac to be some sort of cartoonish caper B-movie instead of the verbose tragic dramedy it revealed itself to be. Edmond Rostrand's story veers into an array of different directions, but the tale itself remains an intelligible and compelling piece of drama, all the more perpetuated by José Ferrer's magnetic work as the eponymous character.

I always love an actor who sells the hell out of his or her material. And that's exactly what Ferrer does - from his very first off-screen cries and onscreen struts, he projects himself (as ridiculous as he looks) with an undeniable bravado that demands one's attention. If we're judging this performance based on the character alone, you'll find it's a fairly complicated one: Cyrano's make-up seems to be 50% action hero and 50% sensitive romantic. As such, Ferrer is tasked with owning a boiling machismo whilst also simultaneously taking on a creaky, flowery verbiage - both of which require confident execution from its actor. Further, Ferrer must navigate through shades of romantic and self-conscious vulnerability, and in doing all of this he still has a whimsical playfulness about him that makes the audience root for and love his character.

Cyrano is a funky cocktail of opposing attributes which I felt are nailed seamlessly by Ferrer. Having won the inaugural Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for this very role, his expertise with the material is evident here. It's a very interesting balance with these dynamics; theatrically loud and cocky in one scene, Ferrer can quickly transition to dulcet lyricism with potent ease. The latter was my favorite part of his performance: as stagey as the production is (it may as well have been a filmed play), Ferrer remains deeply heartfelt throughout his entire performance, delivering Rostrand's words with passion and spirit.

The film brings up the word rhapsodize a few times, and I associate that word with Ferrer in this film; his performance, regardless if you think it's good or bad, is carried out with total enthusiasm and delight from beginning to end.


11 comments:

  1. I don't care for Ferrer as an actor but I adore him in this. He is just perfection and one of my favorite Best Actor winners.

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    1. I've not seen Ferrer in a lot - have only seen Joan of Arc at this point and can barely remember what he did in that dreck - but his work here at least piques my interest for Moulin Rouge a bit more.

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  2. Wow, kind of surprised you liked it as much as you did. Not because he's bad, but because I haven't seen this in ages and have literally no memory of Ferrer in this (a trend for me lately lol...memory loss).

    Definitely interested in taking a second look now. :)

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    1. Regarding memory loss - the struggle is real, I can barely remember some of the work in quite a few of the 40s films I watched last year :)

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  3. Would you recommend the movie? I'm actually interested in this, it sounds like a very different and unusual winner for this category.

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    1. If you're not into stagey films and performances (and this one is very much that) then perhaps skip it. On my end, I don't mind stagey-ness so long as it's compelling and entertaining, and I personally felt the tale and Ferrer fulfilled that!

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  4. I've never cared for this performance or the film. In fact, I had a similar reaction to this and Olivier's "Hamlet" (though I thought both he and that film were a bit better). Here, I find the film static and stagy. That'snot Ferrer's fault, but I find his performance both theatrical and cold. I'm not against theatricality but it can be tricky in the more intimate medium of film; and I wold agree that he brings enthusiasm and spirit to his performance. Still, too often I find him "acting" with a capital 'A' that made it hard for me to sit through the film.

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    1. Stagey and theatrical pieces of work across the cinematic medium isn't for everyone! I don't usually mind as long as it engages me.

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    2. I don't always mind it, either. Actually, sometimes it enhances the performance. In "The Prime of Miss Jean Brody" (Best Actress - 1969) Maggie Smith 'plays' to her audience of students and it's entirely right for the character. But I wasn't crazy about Ferrer.

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  5. I don't think I've seen this since my teenage years, but it didn't send me scrambling back to it, and my instinct is I wouldn't find it more exciting now than click5 suggests. Maybe a second look if I happen upon it on TCM, but no hurry.

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    1. Interesting that I seemed to enjoy it more than some of you all!

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