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In 1871, Paul Verlaine (1844-1896), an established poet, invites boy genius Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891) to live with Paul and his young pregnant wife, Mathiltde, in her father's home in Paris. Rimbaud's uncouth behavior disrupts the household as well as the insular society of French poets, but Verlaine finds the youth invigorating. Stewed in absinthe and resentment, Verlaine abuses Mathiltde; he and Rimbaud become lovers and abandon her. There are reconciliations and partings with Mathiltde and partings and reconciliations with Rimbaud, until an 1873 incident with a pistol sends one of them to prison. Codas dramatize the poets' final meeting and last illnesses. Written by
David Thewlis shaved part of his head especially for the film so as to look like the real Verlaine. See more »
In the Café Andre where the adult Isabelle Rimbaud meets with Paul Verlaine, the typeface on the window is clearly in Helvetica, a typeface that was not created until 1954. See more »
Sometimes he speaks in a kind of tender dialect of the death which causes repentence, of the unhappy men who certainly exist, of painful tasks and heartrending departures. In the hovels where we got drunk he wept looking at those who surrounded us, the cattle of poverty. He lifted up drunks in the black streets. He had the pity a bad mother has for small children. He moved with the grace of a little girl at catechism. He pretended to know about everything, business, art, medicine. ...
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I realized going into this film that it was not going to be a straight bio-pic about Rimbaud's life so that loosened my expectations for the movie a bit, which is good considering had I expected a life story I would've been sorely disappointed. This film is more about Rimbaud's rocky relationship with fellow poet, Verlaine, whom he falls in love with and subsequently about Verlaine being stuck between a rock and a hard place with Rimbaud on one side and his beautiful but ultimately empty headed wife, Mathilde on the other.
The set/costume design was done well enough; not enough to win awards but enough to make the time and place believable. What stands out the most, though, is the acting and of course the wonderful violin heavy score. DiCaprio gives an inspired performance as the young, opinionated, Rimbaud as does Thewlis in his role as the older poet, Verlaine who takes him under his wing. You won't get a complete round view of either man or his life here, but what you will get is a story about love, madness, writing and the search for meaning.
If you like what you see of Rimbaud from this movie, I would whole heartedly recommend his work to you and any and all written biographies as they will shed even more light on a truly great poet's life.
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