In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_9gm3ll8jmttmc3w4bmnmcurldl8

Guardians of the Galaxy

In many respects, “Guardians,” directed and co-written by indie wit James Gunn, and starring buffed-up former schlub Chris Pratt and Really Big Sci-Fi Blockbuster vet…

Thumb_5tzuowodx4f3ngozwzozwmdy9ze

War Story

Director Mark Jackson’s drama is a chilly study in grief starring Catherine Keener as a war-zone photographer shattered by her experiences in Libya.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Life Itself Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

Impromptu

  |  

George Sand, whose real name was Amandine Aurore Lucie Dupin, became famous for taking a man's name, wearing trousers, and smoking cigars in public. That would hardly get her into the papers today, but during her lifetime (1804-1876) she was one of the most famous women in the world, and her simple refusal to "act like a woman" helped set the stage for the women's revolution that is still underway.

Sand did not simply smoke cigars and walk around with her hands in her pockets, however. She also generated enormous scandal by marrying a baron, then when she was 27 leaving him and their two children, and moving to Paris - where she wrote novels, moved in cafe society, and had notorious affairs with the writer Alfred de Musset and the composer Fredric Chopin.

Sand's affairs inevitably inspired many duels, which have been seized upon by the makers of "Impromptu" as a way to lead into, and out of, the various chapters of her life. They also illustrate that Sand was more competent than some of the men who adored her. Her early lover Mallefille is always calling men out to defend their honor, and in his duel with Chopin (whose second is Eugene Delacroix), the strain grows so intense that Chopin faints, and it is up to Sand to grab the pistol and shoot Mallefille. (True to her lover, she insists the doctor treat Chopin's faint before Mallefille's bullet wound.) "Impromptu," a disorganized, confusing but amusing biopic, stars Judy Davis as George Sand, and although I have admired Davis more in other films (such as "High Tide" and "My Brilliant Career"), that would possibly be because I had greater affection for the characters she played. A little George Sand goes a long way.

The movie belongs to the same genre as "Gothic" and "Haunted Summer," which were both movies about that extraordinary house party at which Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and others played musical beds while Mary wrote Frankenstein. The film has little serious interest in George Sand, and almost none in the novels that are all that remain of her, but diverts itself with scandal, atmosphere, location, and witty repartee (Mallefille: "You promised to love me!" Sand: "I didn't promise to succeed!") There are also episodes of dubious historical accuracy, as when a horse defecates on Sand's writings.

Like a novel by E.L. Doctorow or Tom Wolfe, historical personages are brought onstage to act as fictional characters, and we get not only Sand, Chopin, Delacroix and de Musset, but even Franz Liszt, who calls Chopin "the Polish corpse" and tries to save him from Sand for the good of his health. The point of all of this is fairly obscure. When the good people of Paris are shocked by a woman wearing trousers, we are amused by their backwardness, but the movie leaves it at that, and doesn't try to draw parallels, if any exist, between that time and ours. Nor does the behavior of the characters teach any lessons, except that genitals can be unruly in all centuries.

The pleasure of the movie comes at the same level as idle gossip; people scandalize each other to relieve the tedium, and then talk about it with great delight, while sometimes pretending to be shocked and sometimes pretending not to be shocked. I do not dismiss this pleasure, however; gossip is one of the few human activities that is free, inexhaustible, and entertaining. As for George Sand, you can read her books, I suppose, if you're interested in more than the cigars. I mean to myself someday.

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Able-Bodied Actors and Disability Drag: Why Disabled Roles are Only for Disabled Performers

Scott Jordan Harris argues that disabled characters should not be played by able-bodied actors.

Comic-Con 2014: Star Trek Kickstarter Film "Prelude to Axanar"

A report from SDCC on the Kickstarter "Star Trek" film, "Prelude to Axanar."

Exploring Israel-Palestine through Movies: Part 1

The first part in a four-part series on what film can teach us about the relationship between Israel and Palestine.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus