- 2h 16m
When a famous Shakespearean actor falls in love with a woman above his station, his professional and personal life begin to crumble.When a famous Shakespearean actor falls in love with a woman above his station, his professional and personal life begin to crumble.When a famous Shakespearean actor falls in love with a woman above his station, his professional and personal life begin to crumble.
Splendid performance by Mosjoukine
It is fitting that Ivan Mosjoukine, the first great male superstar in European film, should get to play the great English theater superstar, Edmund Kean in this adaptation of Dumas's play. This is fiction, based on historic characters, and not an attempt to present a real biography. It's an ecstatic portrayal of an artist trying to keep his balance between a world of social boundaries and moral rules, and the unlimited, revolutionary freedom of his art. Poor Kean tries to live in both worlds at once; he is in love with a titled lady whose social position is too high above his own, and in his work he can give voice to his passions and longings through his performance of Shakespeare. The two finally collide in the middle of a disastrous performance of 'Hamlet', where Kean breaks through ALL the boundaries at the same time - voicing his love, and his hatred of injustice, and even of the limitations of his art. When he breaks the 4th wall and accuses the Prince of Wales, he also breaks the play and ends up broken himself. Mosjoukine is his usual wonderful self in this film. Naturally, in a movie subtitled 'The Madness of Genius', he has some good opportunities to do his famous mad-scene acting, particularly with those brilliant eyes. His manic dancing and drinking in a tavern are wonderfully energetic and driven, and it's only a wonder that all the people around him didn't come away from the scene with scorch marks. Mosjoukine is always a wonderful and vulnerable lover - in the scene where he's told that his boyishly impulsive gesture of sending roses to the woman he loves has been rejected and ridiculed, his reaction is just a marvel of controlled acting. He's feeling anguish, grief, rage and humiliation, and the viewer watches breathlessly as the seconds tick by and he holds them all in balance, so that we can't predict which one is going to win out. Is he going to collapse in tears or explode in rage? It's impossible to know until it happens. Despite the high drama of much of the film, as this is Mosjoukine, comedy is never very far away. There is a scene where he tricks his creditors and manages to elude them, which makes him so happy he actually dances a little jig on screen. His own high spirits are always infectious and leave you smiling and hoping he'll win. The movie even throws in a funny little joke, showing the two main women in the story in their respective bedrooms fantasizing about Kean, just as the women in the audience watching the movie doubtless fantasized about Mosjoukine. This is a fine, exuberant showcase for Mosjoukine's splendid acting talent.
- May 20, 2005
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