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r rated, four moon iconBuena Vista Entertainment, Inc. (DVD), ASIN B00006ADFM
A tale from the French Revolution guaranteed to set your hair on end -- what can beat that? Grab this video for your permanent collection: Released in 2002, its quality will last into the next millennium! Its stars reveal humanity under the extreme pressures dramatized first in the famous novel by Alexandre Dumas. In the end, however, hope depends on that extraordinary nobility which survives all mortal trials.

DVD: the count of monte cristoThis tribute could not exist without the soul-searing acting of Jim Caviezel. As Edmond Dantes, doomed by the treachery of his most trusted friend, he gives a performance which ranges leagues beyond sentimentality. In scenes of torture, he gasps as if struck to the very core. His bitterness may remind viewers of that immortal moment when a Roman conqueror muttered, "Et tu, Brute?" His consolation gleams from the depths of suffering which cannot even be called "angst."

As first among the film's many villains, Guy Pearce will make viewers want to throw their very own slimy, rotten eggs. Combining the haughtiness of grand couturiers with the pure spleen of punk rock artists, his Count Mondego defies all boundaries. Pride becomes the very landscape of his face, defined by cheekbones as steep as the sheering cliffs of the infamous Château d'If. His expectation that blue blood justifies calumny emerges as absolute assumption -- contemptible as maggots!

Likewise, in a performance progressing from hermit to saint, Richard Harris seems to die and rise before our very eyes. Fans of this veteran thespian, whose life ended on October 25, 2002, will recall his unique ability to play a converted Sioux (A Man Called Horse), the Lord Protector (Cromwell), and even Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets). In this film, he skitters among unearthly catacombs, worm-holing his way toward enlightenment and granting grace in a body-bag.

As these characters journey toward hell and heaven, the audience encounters Napolean Bonaparte (Alex Norton) in all his contradictions. Here, he functions as a grand catalyst for both misery and liberation, inebriated innocence and incalculable grief. His achievements test every history buff to set the record straight. Thus, they may be up all night after seeing this movie. Why not just set the VCR on "Repeat" and plan a morning-after brunch and costume party following a group showing?

Both fans and critics of the French Revolution will want to have their say. In the interest of Francophiles' obsession with cultural purity, should non-French actors play roles like Mercedes (Dagmara Dominczyk)? Either way, all sides will want to see this gorgeous movie. What country ever looked more fantastic under epic siege? Without reading the film's trailer, could you guess this cast never set foot in Paris -- only in Ireland and Malta?

Meg Curtis

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