Half-love in a time of cholera
Stephen Taylor | Chapel Hill, North Carolina | 11/28/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Horseman on the Roof" opens in Aix-en-Provence in July, 1832, as Austrian secret police hunt down two Italian revolutionaries operating from exile in France. At that time, a huge chunk of northern Italy was under the control of the Austrian Empire, and Metternich's spies regularly scoured Europe sniffing out and assassinating opponents of Austrian rule there. This movie revolves around Angelo Pardi (played by Olivier Martinez), one of the two revolutionaries.Fleeing from the Austrian agents in Aix, Angelo goes out into rural Provence, where he quickly finds an even worse enemy: a massive cholera epidemic, "the worst in a century", says one village doctor. As the epidemic spreads, mass hysteria follows in its wake. Rural Provencals start to hunt down perceived "empoisonneurs" (poisoners), innocent people accused of contaminating the water (a scene common in French history). Angelo himself is attacked as he drinks water from a fountain while coming into one town. Here Gerard Depardieu makes a nominal appearance as the town's police chief on the run, who says rightly, "The cholera's a bitch, but this is worse." Angelo ends up hiding from the mob in the house of the beautiful Madame de Theus (played by Juliette Binoche).The main story takes off when the army comes in and moves the entire town out into the countryside to sit in quarantine. There, Angelo runs into some of his exiled Italian friends, who have a dangerous mission for him: break through the quarantine lines (he could be shot for doing it), brave the epidemic, and ride to Milan with two bags of money to help finance a rebellion against the Austrians.This task would be dangerous enough, but Angelo's chivalry snags him into taking Madame de Theus alongside him on a wild ride in search of her husband, who vanished when the cholera broke out. Does she find him? Does Angelo make it to Italy? Do the Austrian spies come back into play? I'll leave that for you to find out.Jean-Paul Rappeneau did an outstanding job with this film. The cinematography is superb and includes some stunning shots of the gorgeous landscape of Provence, ranging from the luscious Rhone valley to the majestic Hautes-Alpes. (Yet it also leaves a melancholy aftertaste behind and proves that Provence can be just as miserable a place as anywhere else in Europe.) The acting is convincing, and so is the plot. Five stars and more."
A believeable tale only possible outside of Hollywood
Nicolas Green | Chicago, IL | 05/03/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This movie was a rare treat to have seen on the big screen. It showcases Oliver Martinez (Angelo Pardi) and Julliette Binoche (Pauline de Theus) in this engaging tale of romance in the cholera epidemic of 1832.Rather then get into the specifics of the plot which can be seen in the myriad of other reviews, I want to stress how this movie was only made possible due to the supreme casting by Director Jean-Paul Rappeneau and Producer Rene Cleitman. The choice of Mr. Martinez brought this movie to life. Befroe his death in 1970 Giono said that in the belief of Neo-Realism that the actor be a commoner. While not at that level, Martinez portrays an air that other well known actors are unable to feign.In addition, Julliette Binoche is able to work with him to the point where we are able to actually see Martinez grow throughout the film. All in all a fantastic watch and the upcoming release on DVD will hopefully bring a few more fans of Rappeneau into the mix."
Superlative French movie of action, history, love and drama
Nicolas Green | 01/01/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The French countryside depicted is incredibly beautiful and serves and an effective relief for the gory aspects of the setting (love, war and survival at the time of a major colera epidemic, which may have killed hundreds of thousand of victims). The acting could not be better, and the movie moves well. The initially "proper" romantic interests of the principles may seem frightfully out of date to the Playboy generation, but this approach adds erotic fervor to later scenes. For history buffs, this is possibly an acurate depiction of the misery and political/economic effects of a major medical emergency in the 19th century, as well as a capsulized veiw of the nationalistic struggles occuring in neghboring Italy. Highly recommended, but the squeemish should be prepared for some unpleasant sights."
Another great film gets MiramAXED
Burrobaggy | Newcastle, home of footie | 07/02/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This would be a 5-star review if only they'd released the uncut version shown everywhere else. The Horseman on the Roof has to be one of the most beautiful looking films I've ever seen, which is odd for a movie about a cholera epidemic.
Set in a beautiful summer in the mid-19th century, it follows Olivier Martinez's Italian in exile as he is chased across France by Austrian agents intent on killing as many Italian rebels as they can only for his pursuers to be outrun by a cholera epidemic that picks off friends and foes. Along the way his path crosses with various victims and survivors - a doctor who teaches him a neat disinfecting trick of setting your hands on fire, a cute governess, Jean Yanne's duplicitous peddler, Gerard Depardieu's paranoid mayor, and most importantly Juliette Binoche, who is determined to find her husband. Naturally they become travelling companions as they try to get through roadblocks and avoid being put into quarantine by the soldiers cordoning off the roads - a virtual death sentence - and eventually nearly become more. The film looks so good in cinemascope and so much of it is terrific than you can just about forgive the fact that the ending is a bit of a washout after everything that's gone before.
A really enjoyable old-fashioned epic, I'd definitely pick this up if it ever turned up on DVD uncut with English subtitles (the Miramax disc is typically cut by 17 minutes thanks to Harvey Scissorhands).