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Title: Molire to Moliere
Laurent Tirards costume comedy Molire finds comparison with Shakespeare in Love rather easily, and perhaps most dauntingly, to its legendary subjects own durable narratives. But while theres not as much details missing from the 17th-century French playwright Moliere's (Romain Duris) life as there was in Shakespeares, theres still ample room for a fanciful imagination and conjecture.
The window is small, for Tirard and co-writer Grgoire Vigneron to present the missing weeks of Molires life after his brief imprisonment for not paying his debts, just before he embarked with his troupe on a 13-year tour of the French provinces before his triumphant return to the theatre scene in Paris. The driving point in this film, as it was in Shakespeare in Love, is how great art tends to imitate life and how muses tend to stem from elaborate romances, which in this case is Molires torrid affair with the wealthy Monsieur Jourdains (Fabrice Luchini) wife Elmire (an enthralling Laura Morante).
Tirards first salvo and indeed the one that sustains its premise throughout the end, is his understanding that a film about Molire has to be a farce, an important element that shapes his later and most important works when romance, gender politics and the moral bankruptcy of the French aristocracy become his staples. As a staunch tragedian, he gets an early education in the deviancy of the social class from the misguidedly smitten Jourdain who picks him out from his cell to help him perfect his self-written play to impress the blueblood snob, Climene (Ludivine Sagnier). But Molire, for all its charm and spirited performances does play rather loose in its opening hour, setting up the strands to be tangled in its second half. The modern transposition of the ringing hypocrisy of the rapacious upper class and eager capitalists ingratiating themselves into a privileged circle offers up its most scintillating prospects.
Nonetheless, flawed in his initial insistence of tragedy as the spirit of true art, it would seem that while Molires life is a stage, hes not yet in on the act. Duris plays his character with an insinuating intelligence, cynically wearing a scowl on his face but a twinkle of hope in his eyes, all with a precise intensity that threatens to spill over. A hard sell for a light comedy bordering on fluff, but Molire plays the crucial role of the straight man in his own farce. Theres no sombre reverence to Molire and his work, though the film hints at the genesis of his later plays through overtly familiar circumstances, making it a more fruitful experience for those intimate with his works.