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Stars: Romain Duris, Ludivine Sagnier, Fabrice Luchini, Laura Morante, Edouard Baer

Director: Laurent Tirard

Little has been filmed about the famous 17th-century French playwright, so it's a pity that the brief period of his life 'covered' here is entirely fictional.

The sumptuously-set period piece starts strongly, with Moliere (Duris) and his entourage of travelling players rolling into Paris after 13 years on the road, taking his comedies to the farthest parts of the nation. He's determined to try tragedy, but no one wants to know.

Unfortunately at this point the film segues into the main part of its story, 13 years earlier, when Moliere, threatened by bailiffs, accepts an assignment from the wimpish Jourdain (Luchini) to tutor him in acting, to help him woo a noted courtesan (Sagnier).

There are various subplots, such as the marital fate of Jourdain's older daughter (Fanny Valette), and Moliere's falling love with Jourdain's wife (Morante), but the whole thing is so carefully directed and stately-paced that much of it becomes boring.

Best thing in it is the effortlessly graceful Morante, an Isabella Rossellini lookalike if ever there were one.

David Quinlan

France 2006. UK Distributor: Pathe. Colour.
121 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 08 Jul 2007