Total Eclipse

Total boredom. Christopher Hampton adapted his 1967 stage play, which should’ve stayed back in the dippy ’60s where it belonged; Agnieszka Holland directs with almost none of the lyrical imagery of her earlier work. The movie is a romantic-masochistic debauch of the sort that may please pompous high-schoolers who’ve just discovered that dead poets were, like, real rebels. Arthur Rimbaud (the embarrassingly American Leonardo DiCaprio, completing his fucked-up-budding-writer trilogy begun with This Boy’s Life and The Basketball Diaries) is a rude, crude poet ahead of his time; he’s Holden Caulfield, he’s James Dean, he’s Jim Morrison, he’s a screaming asshole. Paul Verlaine (the usually fine David Thewlis, nearly unwatchable here) is a pathetic wretch, a failed poet, who idolizes Rimbaud and has an obsessive love affair with him. See Rimbaud and Verlaine get tanked on absinthe, baa like sheep, and put bloody holes in each other’s hands! See Rimbaud piss on another poet’s work, cavort naked on a roof, and bark at a dog sculpture! See the giggling Verlaine set fire to his wife’s hair! Boy, those French poets sure were wild and crazy guys! The only way this material could possibly be played is as scabrous comedy, but Hampton and Holland treat it as deathless tragedy. “The unbearable thing,” muses Rimbaud, “is that nothing is unbearable.” Obviously he hadn’t seen this movie.

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