Opening Night, Peter Dinklage, & Cyrano

The Mill Valley Film Festival opened Thursday night with Joe Wright’s musical retelling of Edmond Rostand’s 1897 classic play Cyrano de Bergerac, starring Peter Dinklage. Most actors playing Cyrano wear an extremely long nose – the character’s huge snout keeps him from finding love. But Dinklage needs no special makeup; his own shortness sets him apart from other people.

My wife and I attended opening night at the Rafael. The movie also screened simultaneously at the CinéArts Sequoia. Attendance was surprisingly small for opening night, possibly because it was playing in multiple auditoriums. Or maybe it was fear of COVID. Or both.

And what did I think of the movie?

This is easily the most tragic version of Cyrano I’ve ever seen. Peter Dinklage plays the title character as a man certain to know he will never find love. The too-short Cyrano desperately loves Roxanne (Haley Bennet), but Roxanne loves the handsome but not too smart Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). This celibate triangle can only end in disaster. This version is also a musical, and while the songs will never hit top 40, they fit the story almost perfectly.

For almost everything in this beautiful period film, from the music, the fight scenes, and mostly Peter Dinklage’s brilliant performance, I give Cyrano an A.

Thursday night held the last and only Mill Valley screenings of Cyrano during the festival. But be patient. It’s scheduled to be in theaters in December.

After the film, the festival’s Executive Director Mark Fishkin interviewed director Joe Wright over a simulcast. The quotes below are altered for brevity, clarity, and how fast I can type.

  • Fishkin: I’ve seen this film three times and every time I cried.
  • It was June 2020 when I finally felt the script was in a good shape.
  • This film is about connecting and missing connections.
  • We shot it at a small town in Sicily with a low COVID rate. It was pretty much deserted.
  • During the pandemic, everybody wanted to make a love story.
  • It’s a film with no irony or cynicism.
  • There was no lip syncing. Everyone sang in front of the camera.
  • More than anything, the film is about dropping defenses.
  • I wanted Pete to be hot. Otherwise, nobody would believe it.