This film centers around the bold and controversial nineteenth century author, George Sand, an unconventional woman who dressed as a man and flouted the social and sexual mores of her day. It is a wickedly funny film: sharp, biting, and clever.
The sexually rapacious Ms. Sand (Judy Davis) sets her sights on the frail and finicky Frederic Chopin (Hugh Grant). Leaving a trail of outraged lovers in her wake, she devotes herself, heart and soul, to making Chopin her lover. Along the way, she finds obstacles thrust in her path, usually placed there by her erstwhile friend, Marie D'Agoult (Bernadette Peters), who is also smitten with Chopin, although she, herself, is the mistress of Franz Liszt (Julian Sand).
Ms. Sand contrives to be with Chopin at all costs, in her quest to wrest his affections and capture his heart. She even brazenly invites herself for a stay in the country at the home of the Duchess D'Antan (Emma Thompson), once she discovers that Chopin is to be a guest, along with other artists of the period. This makes for some wickedly madcap moments. As her quarry makes Ms. Sand pull out all the stops, the viewer will be delightfully entertained by their antics.
Judy Davis is sublime as the controversial Ms. Sand, infusing the role with intelligence and charm. Hugh Grant is perfect in the role of Chopin, who is overwhelmed by the persistent Ms. Sand. Emma Thompson, in one of her earlier roles, is absolutely hilarious as the Duchess D'Artan, the patroness of the arts, playing her character with complete comedic relish. The rest of the supporting ensemble also provide stellar performances. All in all, this is a very enjoyable and unusual period piece.
on August 28, 2006
I would unreservedly rate Impromptu five out of five after two viewings, the reason being it's the most successful period drama I've watched that combines history and farce in a most effectively entertaining manner.
Each of the main characters (practically everyone has a distinct voice) are imbued with nothing short of humour and definitive caricature - a steadfast George Sand, a neurotic Chopin, an irreverant Musset, a virile Delacroix, a hyperbolic, quietly intellectual and mild Liszt, a haughty, spiteful and duplicitous Marie D'Agoult and a hysterical Countess who has been so effectively parodied as the patron of minor talents but huge inheritance.
As with countless of historical dramas, Impromptu has not been spared a degree of measurement with regards to historical accuracy. I feel that a certain dispense from the facts is acceptable, so far as they remain relevant, and conducive to the development of the story and in this case, the humour.
Emma Thompson has proven time and again, her mastery of period drama and her multi-faceted talents.
Judy Davis and Bernadette Peters are truly brilliant and entertaining in their convincing and riveting portrayals of Sand (whom you love to emphatize with) and D'Agoult (whom you love to hate), eventually placed at loggerheads.
The DVD also comes with a French voice-over not found in many films of French background filmed in English. The dialogue is much more hilarious than the original in English! (especially with George Sand and Marie D'Agoult's parts)... A boon for viewers who wish to improve on their non-native language.
The soundtracks are strung together in a most admirable fashion, beginning most lightheartedly with Chopin's fleeting-paced but good-natured Impromptu in A flat, the theme of Sand's "romantic calling" in Chopin's first Ballade and the Fantasie-Impromptu near to the end of the film, which should be familiar to almost any viewer.
Lush orchestrations have been "mixed" in certain parts with the original solo piano excerpts to enhance the dramatic flow. Musical purists need not be overly concerned with this mild cosmetic effect.
Overall, it is a film I would recommend without hesitation to lovers of classical music, historical drama and comedy.
James Lapine is best known as a playwright and director. He is most famous for his collaborations with Stephen Sondheim including Sunday in the Park with George, Passion and Into the Woods. He brings this talent to the big screen.
George Sand was a great French writer. Since society thought that women should be subservient housewives, George wanted to fly in the face of society. She wrote under a man's name and dressed like a man. She treated men as playthings. Therefore, she was the scandal and titillation of Paris.
That is until she is introduced to the shy Polish composer Frederic Chopin. When she hears his music, she becomes enchanted with him. But Frederic wants nothing to do with such a notorious woman. So George decides to give Frederic a woman that he wants.
This is a brilliant romantic comedy with a cast of up and coming actors. Judy Davis has always chosen interesting role from her early Australian films to her television roles. This is another great meaty role for Judy and she eats it up. Hugh Grant was a relative unknown when this film was made but this film would be the first of the quintessential Hugh Grant characters. In supporting roles are Lapine regulars Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin. Also in the film are early roles by Emma Thompson and Julian Sands.
If you are looking for something witty and intelligent, Impromptu is definitely the film to watch.
DVD EXTRAS: NONE
on April 26, 2001
"Impromptu" is truly one of the great little-known films. It is set in 18th century Paris, and stars Hugh Grant as Chopin and Judy Davis as George Sand. Others in the cast are Mandy Patinkin, Bernadette Peters, and a then unknown Emma Thompson. The story revolves around a week-end in the country at the home of a silly, bored woman (Miss Thompson), who wants to have some zest in her life, so she invites the literati of Paris to her home. They include Franz Liszt and his mistress (Miss Peters), Eugene Delacroix, and a poet or two. The week-end is the beginning of the famous Sand-Chopin romance. It is more fantasy than fact, but it is hilariousy funny, wonderfully romantic, and beautifully filmed. Directed by James Lapine with the gorgeous music of Chopin and Liszt. Mr. Grant is perfection as Chopin, and Miss Davis matches him all the way. Miss Peters is at her zany best. This film is truly a treasure.
on March 11, 2002
Impromptu is one of those films that you hear about...an underground following, and an incredible good time. Why is it that these films are the ones we never see in the theatre, but are usually 3 times better than what we currently are offered at the local multiplex.
Judy Davis shines (as always) as authoress George Sand, a masculine woman writer who falls in love with the feminine pianist Chopin (played by Hugh Grant). Some fabulous writing here, and a chance for Judy Davis to let herself go and have fun. The script wouldn't exactly be Oscar nominated, but it is cleverly written, and the charactors are just too much fun.
The list of Hollywood names in this film was overwhelming when I first saw it...each offering their own unique talents to keeping the film together. It was fun to see so many serious actors playing comedic roles.
For fun, for romance, and for some awesome views of the French countryside, check out Impromptu...you'll be glad you did.
on March 4, 2004
Poor Mallefille - you really have to pity him. Not only has he become the lover of the woman who employed him to tutor her children (and whose reputation is hard to take for his pathologically jealous nature anyway); only to be dumped again in short order, when she has had enough of him and his fits of jealousy. Not only does he have to watch her exchange witticisms and confidences with a host of other men, many of them belonging to the Parisian art circles where he himself will never be taken seriously (and God knows what else they may be exchanging or have exchanged in the past). Not only is he being bossed around by a woman who has taken a male pen name, insists on dressing in men's clothes, refuses to use a woman's saddle when riding (and what a horsewoman she is!) and prefers an afternoon out hunting to one sipping tea in the company of other ladies of society. No: after having taken all that, and having dared to demand the satisfaction to which he feels so justly entitled from her latest object of romantic interest, one feeble Polish composer named Chopin - only to see the guy fainting before the obligatory count has even gotten to "ten" and never raise his pistol at all - what does the wretched woman do? She seizes Chopin's weapon, fires at Mallefille, injures his arm and responds coolly, when he has finally overcome his shock and disbelief and inquires how, after all their time together, she could do such a thing: "It was easy. You're a menace to the future of art."
As this movie would have it, the above scene (never to be revealed to Chopin, in order not to hurt his pride) brought about the final turning point in one of history's most famous love stories, the romance between prolific French writer George Sand (born 1804 as Amandine Aurore Lucile Dupin and married, in 1822, to Baron Casimir Dudevant, whom she left in 1835) and quintessential Romantic composer and Polish musical prodigy Frederic (Fryderyk) Chopin, six years her junior, who after a life-long struggle with his health succumbed to tuberculosis at the age of 39 years. While taking some liberties with the real course of events, "Impromptu" does portray their relationship up to their departure for Majorca, as well as the story's backdrop in 19th century Paris and rural France, with an admirably light touch and in loving detail; marvelously framed by a score consisting almost exclusively of pieces by Chopin himself. Judy Davis and a deliciously young and fragile Hugh Grant are the perfect embodiment of Sand and her "Chopinet" - she, a feisty no-nonsense woman used to fighting for her place in the world, who can nevertheless lose herself completely in Chopin's music, which she considers divine; he, sickly, uptight and at first severely taken aback by her manner which so contradicts accepted female behavior that he almost doubts she is a woman at all (a remark actually attributed to Chopin and resounding in the movie's interpretation of their initial encounter, after Sand has hidden in his room to hear him play and leaves her hiding place when he stops, pleading with him to continue, only to be rebuked by a seriously upset Chopin: "Rumor has it that you are a woman, so I must ask you to leave my private chambers. ... This is ridiculously improper - and frightening as well!")
Although Sand and Chopin were really introduced to each other by their joint friend Franz Liszt and his companion Marie d'Agoult (here portrayed with fervor and panache by Julian Sands and Bernadette Peters), the movie ingeniously places their first meeting onto the country estate of the Duke d'Antan and his wife Claudette, self-declared patroness of the arts (played by an exuberant Emma Thompson, who milks the role for all it's worth and then some), who has assembled the cream of the Parisian arts scene; besides Chopin, Liszt and Marie most notably Sand's former lover, poet Alfred de Musset (Mandy Patinkin) and painter Eugene Delacroix (Ralph Brown). Sand, who is actually not among the invitees, spontaneously proceeds to invite herself when she hears that Chopin will be among the guests, because she has wanted to meet him ever since she first heard him play in the Paris salon of Baroness Laginsky (Elizabeth Spriggs) - thus guaranteeing plenty of tumultuous scenes between herself and de Musset as well as between the latter and Mallefille (Georges Corraface), who (likewise uninvited) appears shortly after her in dogged pursuit of the woman who has recently dumped him; a fact he is patently unwilling to accept.
Although initially rejected by Chopin, Sand is not in the least willing to give up on him; and she greedily accepts Marie's advice after their return to Paris: "He is not a man; he's a woman. ... You must win him as a man wins a woman. If anyone can do it, you can." And while Marie's counsel is far less disinterested and well-meaning than George thinks, in the end her new tactics do the trick; albeit only after a series of heated encounters between the two would-be lovers, Chopin and de Musset and Chopin and Marie; and not before Sand has lost her mother (Anna Massey), her most undying champion. Chopin and Sand eventually become friends and - we are told - finally lovers after Mallefille has forever left the battlefield in shame.
Although there would be an estrangement between the star-crossed lovers shortly before Chopin's death, he did remain, as Sand wrote in her autobiography, the greatest love of her life; and in turn, the years they spent together are considered by many the most fertile years of his musical career. They both will live forever in their works - and this movie, which unfortunately went virtually undiscovered upon its 1991 release, is a wonderful, gentle reminder of the wealth of creativity and emotion they had to share.
Story of My Life: The Autobiography of George Sand (Women Writers in Translation)
Chopin: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2
Chopin, Liszt: Piano Concertos / Martha Argerich, London Symphony Orchestra
Chopin: The Complete Nocturnes And Impromptus
Eugene Delacroix, 1798-1863: The Prince of Romanticism (Basic Art)
Alfred de Musset: Seven Plays (Oberon Classics)
Red Violin - Meridian Collection (Remastered - WS)
on February 28, 2003
Allow me to begin this review by stating that this film is absolutely superb. It portrays the greatest artists of 19th Century France (George Sand, De Musset, Chopin, Delacroix, and Liszt), yet it does not take itself too seriously (read: it is not pretentious, in spite of the great historical and artistic characters it depicts). It is light-hearted, charming, and positively delightful. Judy Davis is sensational in the role of George Sand, the great and wonderfully unusual literary heroine of 19th Century France; she captures Sand's eccentricities and quirks with outstanding candor and grace (why didn't she receive an "Oscar" for her performance? Bah: Hollywood!). Hugh Grant is such a great actor when he adopts roles which are worthy of his talent (read: not the tepid and trivial roles which he plays in "Nine Months" or "Four Weddings and a Funeral"), and he displays his remarkable talent in portraying the fragile and finicky Chopin. All of the actors turn in outstanding performances, especially Julian Sands as Liszt, and Bernadette Peters, as his mistress and a close friend of Sand's, Marie d'Agoult, a tempestuous and difficult woman who ultimately betrays Sand. The film focuses on the romance between Sand and Chopin, two extremely different individuals (there is a scene in which Marie d'Agoult, unnerverved by the developing relationship between Sand and Chopin, on whom she has her own designs, says to Liszt: "But, darling, they couldn't be any more different!" Liszt replies, "Well, then they shall definitely fall in love. . ."). And fall in love they do, after a series of mishaps and fiascos (some of them quite humorous). . . George Sand was an extremely straightforward and impassioned woman in regard to love, and she actively pursued Chopin. This pursuit is depicted splendidly in "Impromptu." At first, Chopin is unnerved by Sand's unabashed romantic advances (for he is an individual of great delicacy and piety), but ultimately he comes to view Sand as the truly remarkable woman that she is. "Do you love me, Chopin?" she inquires of him in one scene, to which he responds, "God help me, I do. . . you are superb. . ." They are two true artistes who, though different as they are, complement one another perfectly. It is a love story, yes, but an extremely unique one. . . Chopin is frail, while Sand is fiery, and she is as much his nurse as she is his lover. . . George Sand had a penchant for taking care of those whom she loved, almost to the point of playing a maternal role, and this was especially the case in her liaison with Chopin, during which she sought to cure him of his many physical ailments with love, with care, with devotion. . . and while she was somewhat erratic in her affairs with men, she was utterly devoted to Chopin. He was the "greatest love of her life" (as biographies on Sand maintain, and indeed she says so in her own autobiography, "Story of My Life"), and she remained by his side until he succumbed to tuberculosis. "Impromptu" ends with their well-known trip to Majorca, with a memorable scene in which she opens the windows to the carriage that is carrying them away, in spite of his coughing ("Someone has to teach you how to breathe!" she says to him at an earlier point in the film). "Impromptu" is a gorgeous film, with breathtaking cinematography, and it pays remarkable homage (and again, without pretention) to the artists whose lives it portrays. It invites you so irresistibly into the realm of these 19th Century French artistic geniuses, that you can almost imagine yourself sitting at table amongst them, enchanted by their witty repartee. . . "Impromptu" is not to be missed, especially if you have an interest in the artistic and literary realm of 19th Century France, and particularly in that rare and eccentric enigma who was George Sand. . . The artistry of this film more than gives justice to the artists it portrays. . . I hope that you will be as delighted by it as I am.
on March 1, 2006
This movie, an embellished account of the romance between George Sand (a strong, independent woman before such a thing was fashionable) and Frederic Chopin (the famous but delicate and sickly composer) is truly witty, charming, wonderful and thoroughly entertaining!! Just look at the cast: Judy Davis (in a role she was born to play), Hugh Grant (before any real notoriety), Mandy Patinkin, Bernadette Peters, Julian Sands and Emma Thompson (magnificent as the silly 'titled tart') - all at their very best! And the score, primarily Chopin and Liszt, is the icing on the cake.
I've seen it at least 20 times (to make sure all my friends and family could enjoy it as well) but my enjoyment never fades and the ideas and emotions expressed about art, propriety, love and the masculine/feminine still ring true.
on June 12, 2002
"Impromptu" is a delightful historical romance about the long, tumultuous love affair between composer Frederick Chopin and novelist George Sand. It is not a biography, for the movie's script takes great license beyond the basic dates and places. The affair might have happened this way, but most probably did not. None of this much matters, though, because the movie doesn't pretend to be strictly accurate historically and because it does a good job of capturing the spirit of the times and of its characters.
Judy Davis is marvelous as George Sand, a brilliant, eccentric woman who eschewed the social mores of her time. Already tired of her current lover, she is more determined than ever to dump him after she meets and falls in love with Chopin, nicely played by Hugh Grant. Chopin is portrayed as being a rather shy, morally upright [and uptight!] man who is taken aback by Sand's assertive nature and odd habits, which include dressing like a man most of the time. Undeterred by his thwarting of her advances, she pursues him relentlessly, almost getting him killed in a duel in the process. Playing an active part in all these goings on - sometimes for Sand's quest, sometimes against it - are Chopin's great friend Franz Liszt [Julian Sand] and his lover, Marie [Bernadette Peters]. Both Sand and Peters have substantial supporting roles, as do Emma Thompson and Mandy Patinkin. The cast alone makes "Impromptu" worth seeing. Also enjoyable is the soundtrack, almost all of which is taken from Chopin's works.
As history, this movie is dubious. As entertainment, it's first rate. It reminds me somewhat of "Emma", in that it is more comedy than drama.
on March 8, 2005
I did not watch this movie in order to get educated (books are better for that), but in order to be entertained. I tend to expect historical accuracy more in novels, such as Gore Vidal's or Mary Renault's, than films, which are constrained by time and the need to please a diverse audience. I accept that a filmmaker will take considerable liberties in order to get his story across in less than two hours. There are history books available that cover the story of Sand and Chopin. And anyway, the liberties taken with facts and characters are trivial.
As far as entertainment value goes, I award five stars, meaning that in my opinion, there are few if any movies that are better. Maybe it is romantic foolishness, but the scene where Sand confronts Chopin is very moving no matter how many times I watch it. Judy Davis is amazing, while Hugh Grant performs competently. Besides passion, there is abundant wit and humor. This movie richly deserves being owned. I have watched it seven times, and it only improves with time.
I take strong exception with the first and foremost Editorial review of Impromptu, which appears to me of a jaded and cynical spirit. I think the movie was not given mature consideration, but judged solely on how it appealed to the author's pet political causes and infatuation with Hugh Grant.
Our Amazonian author may suppose the cause of feminism must be trumpeted by every movie. If this were the case, I should stop watching movies, as would most men and women. She takes Emma Thompson, who delivered a superb performance, to task. This is a comedy, and the buffoonery is distributed irregardless of gender. The author, had she bothered to count the numerous male buffoons in the film, might by a simple calculation have drawn the opposite conclusion, and accused the film of misandrogyny.
Sand, the heroine, is depicted quite favorably by Impromptu, with pluck and daring. Judy Davis is not in the slightest degree affected in her performance, though the prose of Sand herself, used in the script, was often affected and rather too flowery, but here the film is indulging in that virtue which our critic thinks it lacks, historical accuracy; as to which, there is no disputing the alliance between Chopin and Sand, which lasted many years. The details are invention, but the movie gets the character of the major players exactly right. Whether Chopin actually attended such a dinner party at such-and-such a date, and whether a certain play was performed with disasterous consequences, we may not know, but let us allow the artist some liberty to compress what could have been a very long story into less than two hours.
Every moment of this film was enjoyable; the quality is uniform and never lags. To slice even five seconds (let alone twenty minutes) from the movie would be an unforgivable travesty; and in all events the movie could only be considered too short, if anything. The author disparages the wit of the movie, considering it unnecessary, but this is one of its charms. Every apparently unnecessary diversion or digression is in fact relevant to the plot and to the characters, if you bother to pay close attention to the movie. There is not a single redundant character, and every character introduced entertains and instructs in their own way, despite being caricatures or buffoons.
Watching "Impromptu" for the eighth time tonight, I was reminded that, here, Sand falls in love not with Chopin the man, but his music, which I too love, as who could not? This is a truly Romantic version of love which transcends the physical, much like Chopin himself, whose body was feeble (he was to die of tuberculosis in his thirties). How often do we see this portrayed in movies? (Ever?) Listening to the dialogue once again confirms in my mind how well the movie captures the spirit of Romanticism, which Chopin and Sand both embodied in their own ways.
The central mistake the Amazonian reviewer made was to approach this movie with expectations about Hugh Grant, Hollywood's favorite, a good-looking dullard. Numerous actors could have improved upon Grant's performance, but no one could improve upon Judy Davis as George Sand. If you can find your way to appreciating her genius, then the movie's magnificence becomes crystal clear.
The quality of writing in this film is not equalled by any movie among the thousands that I have seen. It is the best movie ever made to my knowledge.