Reviewed by: Val Kermode

Molière. The famous French playwright, the one who wrote all those morally improving comedies. Did you know that in 1644 he formed an acting troupe which got into debt and then he disappeared for several months and no one knows what happened to him during that time? What if he was thrown into prison and then a wealthy bourgeois had him released and promised to pay off his debts in return for acting lessons? Because this bourgeois, M.Jourdain, had written his own one act play with which he intended to win the heart of the beautiful but capricious Célimène (Ludivine Sagnier). But M.Jourdain had a wife, Elmire (Laura Morante), who was also beautiful and intelligent. So Molière had to be introduced to the household as M.Tartuffe, a priest and tutor for their young daughter. Tartuffe. Wasn't that a play by Molière? Yes. Everything that happened to Molière during these crucial months will later be written into his plays.

Of course M. Jourdain is a fool, desperate for recognition and Elmire at first despises M. Tartuffe. But soon a relationship develops. You can see where this is going.

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The film begins in 1658. Molière (Romain Duris) is already enjoying success, but longs to write tragedy. Then a young woman brings him a letter asking him to visit her mother who is dying. We know she is dying because when Molière goes to the house a maid is throwing out a bowl of blood. Thirteen years earlier, his life as Tartuffe begins. When we come back to 1658 the maid is still throwing out the blood and we learn the identity of the dying woman, his lost love and his inspiration. Through her Molière has learnt that there is no need to write tragedy. Comedy can show us all that we need to know about life.

This film is somewhat overlong and rather too predictable, but enjoyable nevertheless. There are some strong performances, particularly the excellent Fabrice Luchini as M. Jourdain. There are plenty of amusing moments. And, from the opening credits, this is a visual treat. You won't need to be familiar with the plays of Molière to enjoy this lively comedy.

Reviewed on: 05 Jul 2007
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An imaginative look at the 'lost' months of playwright Molière's life, in the style of one of his plays.
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Director: Laurent Tirard

Writer: Laurent Tirard, Grégoire Vigneron

Starring: Romain Duris, Fabrice Luchini, Laura Morante, Edouard Baer, Ludivine Sagnier, Fanny Valette

Year: 2007

Runtime: 120 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: France


CFF 2007

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