My Favourite Film of 1900.

Film Quite recently, I’ve begun to have mixed feelings about Cyrano and its many homages and remakes. For years, two of my favourite films were the Jean-Paul Rappeneau adaptation starring Gérard Depardieu and Roxanne, the modern retelling with Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah in the title role. The latter was one of my formative movies, on heavy rotation on video and then DVD. As a bullied kid, I held CD Bales up as something of a hero, especially in the scene when he throws insults back in the face of the drunken idiot in the bar. Oh how I’d wished I’d had that confidence at school.

But lately I’ve become concerned about Roxanne’s role in the story. I can appreciate why the Cyrano’s lack of self-esteem means that they don’t believe that the object of their desire could love them back. That’s pretty much my entire life. It’s rather insulting, that Roxanne who is capable of treating them as a friend might not think of them more intensely. For my own part, I’ve even had women flat out tell me that they like me in that way and I’ve distanced myself from it, afraid that they might become disillusioned or disappointed if they knew me better.

Does she then deserve to be lied to in this way, to have the handsome fellow bare false witness and pretend to be something they’re not to take advantage of them? However romantic it may seem for Cyrano to be the source of the poetry and be using Christian as an avatar for expressing his feelings doesn’t it mean that she and her heart are being taken advantage of? Although it’s not the only occasion in literature and film or life a woman’s been seduced through subterfuge you might then question the extent to which we might consider her consent for subsequent sex.

On hearing that she’s been lied to, and the mechanism, the natural reaction should be to reject Cyrano and move on with her life. But in all the versions I’ve seen, Roxanne is somehow able to abstract the way his letters make her feel from the person who was fictionally the face in front of them and then shift those longing towards their original author. As is so often the case in romcoms, the resolution comes because the woman forgives the man for his idiotic mistakes.

Where I once saw a hero, I now somewhat see a villain. In choosing to lie to her, Cyrano puts his own feelings above hers, which is wrong and stupid. But it feels like only a man could then write a scenario in which he’s subsequently rewarded for his mistaken moral ambiguity. He’s learnt his lesson and so therefore coupling will ensue. This feels wrong to me, despite the incidental pleasures.  Perhaps it's right that the first silent version only includes a battle.

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