September, 1871: Arthur Rimbaud arrives in post-revolutionary Paris from Charleville at the invitation of Paul Verlaine. Verlaine, an accomplished poet with a growing reputation and a pregnant young trophy wife to match, is as instantly entranced by the precocious, anarchic, contemptuous 16-year-old as by the unprecedented talent evinced in the boy's poetry. Drinking their way through the city's literary salons, the pair strike out on a passionate, illicit affair. But it's a woefully imbalanced relationship, with Rimbaud compulsively abusing his elder, and the weak-willed Verlaine resorting ever more to the bottle. Christopher Hampton's screenplay presents a thoroughly researched reading whose historical authenticity only skims the surface of any emotional truths. Whether you take to this at all probably depends on your reaction to the affair on show. It's abusive, sordid, violent - but then this was hardly a coupling made in heaven. DiCaprio (Rimbaud) and Thewlis (Verlaine) provide dynamic if mismatched performances, though there's no excusing Hampton's own laughable cameo, nor the protracted coda with DiCaprio doing a Peter O'Toole in the desert.
Cast and crew
Felicie Pasotti Carbarbaye