None too subtle in borrowing the boisterous but lyrical mood and certain dramatic elements from both Les Enfants du Paradis and Cyrano de Bergerac, this costume romp soons runs out of steam. It starts, in 1770s Paris, with the playwright Beaumarchais taking on a young friend of Voltaire as his secretary and, it transpires, his conscience. The bustling crowds, the lively word play, the solid camerawork and designs, and the overall theatricality bode well. As the episodic narrative proceeds, however, outlining the insolent hero's multifarious talents (scourge of the nobility and champion of the people; unrepentant womaniser; arms dealer, spy, supporter of American independence; dramaturgical iconoclast), the film meanders and rapidly becomes a series of decorous, undifferentiated historical tableaux inhabited by venerables of the French acting world. That said, Luchini gives Beaumarchais an exquisite, mellifluous air of arrogance and irony, notably offset by Sandrine Kiberlain as his devout wife.
Cast and crew
Edouard Molinaro, Jean-Claude Brisville