An `Impromptu' delight

October 17, 1999|By Stephen Wigler

Like every other great composer, the life of Frederic Chopin has been travestied by Hollywood. But he's also the only composer who has escaped such treatment -- if only in a single movie. "Impromptu" (released in 1991 and available on video) brings Chopin and his circle of friends (including novelist George Sand, poet Alfred de Musset, painter Eugene Delacroix, pianist-composer Franz Liszt and the latter's ever-pregnant mistress, Marie d'Agoult) to uncanny life.

Pulitzer Prize-winning stage director James Lapine ("Sunday in the Park with George") and his actors -- Hugh Grant (Chopin), Judy Davis (Sand), Julian Sands (Liszt), Bernadette Peters (d'Agoult), Mandy Patinkin (de Musset), Ralph Brown (Delacroix) and Emma Thompson (in a hilarious turn as the Duchess d'Antan, whose home is destroyed by her Bohemian guests) -- must have carefully studied the actual life and times of their characters. The result is a breezy romantic comedy with the ring of truth.

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