'Moliere' Director Compares U.S., French Cinema

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Director Laurent Tirard i

Director Laurent Tirard on the set of Moliere. Jean-Marie Leroy/Sony Pictures Classics hide caption

itoggle caption Jean-Marie Leroy/Sony Pictures Classics
Director Laurent Tirard

Director Laurent Tirard on the set of Moliere.

Jean-Marie Leroy/Sony Pictures Classics

French director Laurent Tirard's second film, Moliere, has been likened to a French version of Shakespeare in Love.

Tirard is the screenwriter and director of the movie, which has its U.S. release Friday. The movie imagines an undocumented period of the great French playwright and actor Moliere.

Tirard talks with Robert Siegel about learning to be a director in America and learning about the differences between French and American cinema.

'Moliere'

Ludivine Sagnier and Romain Duris embrace i

Actor and aspiring playwright Moliere (Romain Duris, right) conspires to win the affections of the exquisite Celimene (Ludivine Sagnier) — on behalf of another. Jean-Marie Leroy/Fidelity/Sony Pictures Classics hide caption

itoggle caption Jean-Marie Leroy/Fidelity/Sony Pictures Classics
Ludivine Sagnier and Romain Duris embrace

Actor and aspiring playwright Moliere (Romain Duris, right) conspires to win the affections of the exquisite Celimene (Ludivine Sagnier) — on behalf of another.

Jean-Marie Leroy/Fidelity/Sony Pictures Classics
  • Director: Laurent Tirard
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Running Time: 120 minutes

The premise that artists make art from their own lives is taken about as far as it can go in this appealingly preposterous biopic, which purports to explain what happened during a few lost months when France's then-impoverished answer to Shakespeare disappeared at the age of 22.

The year is 1644, and the future playwright is still an itinerant actor, hired by a Bourgeois Gentleman who's infatuated with a noblewoman who heads a sort of School for Wives. Moliere disguises himself as a preacher named Tartuffe, falls for the tradesman's wife, and — well, you get the idea.

If you know the plays, it's fun to pick out situations and bits of dialogue, but this French art-house comedy will still zip along divertingly even if you don't. It's blessed with a raft of sparkling Gallic performances, not to mention costumes that are a show in themselves.

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