thu 25/07/2024

DVD: Cycling with Moliere | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Cycling with Moliere

DVD: Cycling with Moliere

High theatricality and countyside capers in winning French comedy treat

Two men on their bikes: Serge (Fabrice Luchini) and Gauthier (Lambert Wilson)

The sheer joy of making theatre provides the central attraction of Cycling with Moliere (Alceste à bicyclette), but Philippe Le Guay’s film is also rich in the comedy of fractious interaction between old friends whose worlds have moved apart.

It’s the story of two actors: Gauthier (Lambert Wilson) has become famous for his television roles (the different circumstances in which he’s recognised become memorable vignettes in the film); Serge (Fabrice Luchini) has left the profession after a breakdown, retreating to a run-down house on the windblown Ile de Ré and a life of virtual solitude.

Gauthier arrives to convince his friend to return to the stage for a production of Moliere’s The Misanthrope, in which they will share the roles of Alceste, the title character who’s a critic of the world around him, and the conformist Philinte. They slip in and out of dialogue spontaneously as they rehearse, even though Serge is reluctant to commit, with a wonderful sense of how theatre itself takes shape, and intonations and nuance come right. In between, they cycle the quiet lanes of the island (its landscape fully enjoyed by Jean-Claude Larrieu’s camera), and make tentative contacts with some of the locals.

The story of how the director came up with the script is an anecdote in itself

Prime among those is Francesca (Maya Sansa, pictured below right with Luchini), a tempestuous Italian in the process of an acrimonious divorce who will, inadvertently, drive the final wedge between the two leading players (with echoes of Truffaut's Jules et Jim). Wilson as Gauthier is slick and pragmatic, the opposite of the tatty but soulful Serge, and the film enjoys its series of such contrasts: between the ancient and modern, comedy and malady, friendship and anger. Le Guay adds in the occasional slapstick moment and a few plot diversions, but even when all seems to be going well, we sense undercurrents that will push the story towards its tragi-comic conclusion, memorably caught in Luchini’s closing appearance in a surrounding society that is as alien to him in life as it is to Alceste in role.

The only extra here is the film’s trailer - a shame because the story of how Le Guay came up with the script for Cycling… is an anecdote in itself (brief director interview here). He was visiting Luchini on the Ile de Ré to discuss his previous film The Woman on the 6th Floor, and in the course of one of their walks the actor started impromptu diversions into scenes from The Misanthrope. The result of that shared conversation has proved a rather more benelovent take on the Alceste story than usual.   

Overleaf: watch the trailer for Cycling with Moliere 

Gauthier is slick and pragmatic, the opposite of the tatty, improvisational Serge, and the film enjoys its series of contrasts


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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