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  Horseman on the Roof, The Love In The Time Of CholeraBuy this film here.
Year: 1995
Director: Jean-Paul Rappeneau
Stars: Juliette Binoche, Olivier Martinez, Pierre Arditi, François Cluzet, Jean Yanne, Claudio Amendola, Isabelle Carré, Carlo Cecchi, Christiane Cohendy, Jacques Sereys, Nathalie Krebs, Laura Marinoni, Elisabeth Margoni, Paul Freeman, Gérard Depardieu
Genre: Romance, Historical, Adventure
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: The year is 1832 and in the Provence region of France a cholera epidemic has taken hold and has sent the population into panic. Amid this is a plot by Austrian agents to assassinate potential Italian revolutionaries there, and they have already murdered one of them and are out to do the same to Angelo Pardi (Olivier Martinez), who has now made up his mind to escape the area if he cannot work out who has double crossed him. First he must reach his old friend Maggionari (Claudio Amendola) - but he has a shock in store, for it is he who has betrayed the Italian cause against the Austrians...

Jean-Paul Rappeneau had not directed many films in his decades-long career, but the ones he had offered up had been highly respected, more or less, the most famous of these being his all-time classic Cyrano de Bergerac. The success of that led the anticipation for his next, five years later, to be very strong, yet when The Horseman on the Roof finally arrived, accompanied by stories of how lavish it was - it was reportedly the most expensive film ever made in France - the response was nowhere near the adulation his previous work had received. Indeed, for quite a few it was judged a disappointment when they had expected another great.

It's true that this did not reach the heights of Cyrano, but it's unfair to call it a failure as many who have caught up with it over the years since have found plenty to be charmed by. It helps that the lead character is played by the unreasonably handsome and dashing Olivier Martinez, every inch the gallant nobleman who carries the story through what can be something of a ramble at times. For the first half at least there's a nineteenth century road movie atmosphere to the film as Angelo meets with various incidents along his journey to escape the plague and those who it has turned utterly paranoid. You can understand that as everywhere he goes he seems to stumble across corpses or those about to be corpses.

All that death in the air gives the plot a tension as we don't know whether Angelo will remain healthy: even the doctor he meets (François Cluzet), who offers him a way to save those so afflicted, ends up dead and unable to save himself. From then on our hero, and he is a true hero of unblemished character, will periodically attempt to cure someone of the cholera's effects, and always fail which lends him the quality of tragedy as someone who will forever endeavour to do the right thing, but be foiled. And then along comes a woman he can be a genuine champion for, and not before time because it's got to the halfway mark and there's no sign of top-billed Juliette Binoche.

Don't worry, here she is, playing a noblewoman stuck in one of the many quarantined towns who by chance meets Angelo when he hides in her house after getting away from one of the mobs who tend to appear every so often. Here's what makes us warm to Angelo: he may have had his military rank as colonel bought for him by his mother, who we feel has been a big influence on his life, and he could have simply looked after his own skin in this crisis, yet whenever he meets anyone who is in trouble and senses he can assist, he will do his level best to do so. Therefore with Binoche's Pauline (they never tell each other their names until the film is almost over) he has encountered someone he can save, and be successful in bestowing hope upon as she does for him. Angelo is a perfect gentleman, a dream partner for most women, and would be for Pauline if she was not married. So not only does this film look ravishing, but its romance that neither of the couple can admit to feeling is pretty passionate as well; it may be too long, but it's worth immersing yourself in. Music by Jean-Claude Petit.

Aka: Le hussard sur le toit.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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