Total Eclipse (1976) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Total Eclipse portrays the relationship of the 19th century French poet Arthur Rimbaud to his mentor and homosexual lover, Paul Verlaine. The title refers to the fact that the modernist Rimbaud, while still only in his mid-teens, completely eclipsed his more traditional mentor as a poet. More important than Rimbaud's greater talent was the fact that Rimbaud's revolutionary style was the one that shaped the future, and eventually rendered Verlaine's old-fashioned romantic poetry archaic and irrelevant.

Rimbaud was a child prodigy ala Mozart, but from an unexpected setting. Unlike Mozart, who was educated to be what he became, Rimbaud grew up in a farming family, and taught himself everything, with the guidance of some sympathetic local teachers who recognized his brilliance and gave him access to their books. He is considered the first modernist, as important to poetry as the impressionists were to art, but his reputation is based entirely on his work as a teenager. He quit writing at 19, and his retirement wasn't just the usual posturing bullshit. He really quit forever.


Romane Bohringer is not the greatest looking woman in the world, and she is not likely to win many Oscars based on what I've seen of her, but her boobs have to be equal or superior to Jennifer Connolly's.

Connolly is prettier and more famous, but Bohringer's breasts are every bit as impressive. She shows them in this film, along with her rear end and a very fleeting look at her pubes.

He wrote:

"I tried to invent new flowers, new planets, new flesh, new languages. 
I thought I had acquired supernatural powers. 
I called myself a magician, an angel, free from all moral constraint.
Well, I shall ask forgiveness for having lived on lies, and that's that."

And that WAS that. He walked away from Paris, became a trader in Africa and ran a successful business pretty much until his fatal tumor took over his life. He successfully avoided European society, civilized talk, culture, the arts, and writing. And if memory serves, I think he lived those post-artistic years completely as a heterosexual.

I think I have pointed out several times that I got interested in Rimbaud after I first saw this movie. I read everything I could find on him or by him, and I eventually realized that the casting of Leo D. was a masterstroke. I don't really like DiCaprio any more than most guys do, but he IS Rimbaud. If you read the physical description of Rimbaud, or what his personality was like, you realize that it required no acting at all from Leo. DiCaprio may or may not be Kenneth Branagh in the acting department, but except for the author, Leo was the only person who had a clue what was going on in this movie, and he did a good job on the innocent-looking, arrogant, self-absorbed, foul-mouthed, feral, boorish, reckless, immature, drug-addled genius who "decided to originate the future". That wasn't lousy acting. That was a perfect portrayal. That's the way Rimbaud was, as bad at being human as he was good at writing poems.

DiCaprio took a lot of grief from the critics for his American accent, and that was totally unjustified. There is no reason why a British accent is more appropriate than an American accent for playing a Frenchman. For that matter, the American accent makes just as much sense as the usual cinema cliché of having someone portray a Frenchman by speaking very bad English with a heavy French accent. The real Rimbaud came from the provinces, and I suppose his pronunciation would have sounded unsophisticated to Parisians, and they would have sounded stuffy to him. In that regard, it makes a lot of sense for DiCaprio to sound casual and American while Thewlis sounded stuffy and British. What made no sense at all in that context was having Verlaine's wife speak very bad English with a heavy French accent. (The actress was really French.) Since Verlaine's speech pattern established the convention that upper crust British speech was standing in for bourgeois Parisian speech, the casting of his wife should have followed this convention.

DVD info from Amazon

  • This is a full screen and a widescreen anamorphic version of this film.

Is the movie worth watching if one is not especially interested in 19th century French poetry? Good question. The answer is "probably not".

  • It centers around the homosexual relationship of two thoroughly despicable, but highly talented men. It shows them as they were, not as people wish them to have been. Not many people will find it pleasant to pass two hours in their company.
  • It's a pretty good movie but it didn't know where to end. It must have about a half-hour of anticlimax at the end (after Verlaine shot Rimbaud), and the director didn't know how to present that within the narrative structure so she really resorted to a trite technique. Many years after the main story, old man Verlaine met Rimbaud's old sister in a cafe, and the sister narrated the remainder of the story in a flashback with a voice-over.
  • The other main weakness of the movie's internal structure is that it portrays Verlaine as a totally repulsive person, and gives the viewer no understanding of why such a man was loved by both his beautiful teenage genius poet, and his sexy, rich, and much younger wife.


Total Eclipse (1995) is a joint UK, France, Belgium effort, and tells the story of two French poets. The first, a renowned romantic poet, Paul Verlaine, is married to a very pregnant Romane Bohringer, and living in her father's house, when an unknown rural named Arthur Rimbaud sends him some poems. Verlaine is very impressed, and sends Rimbaud the money to come to Paris. He is amazed to find that Rimbaud is only 16, but recognizes that Rimbaud will change poetry forever. Rimbaud, in fact, did just that, and all before the age of 19, when he stopped writing poetry altogether. The story is mainly about the homosexual relationship between Verlaine and Rimbaud.

For my part, I couldn't see why either one of them would be lovable, yet the real Verlaine was adored by his wife, and by Rimbaud.  DiCaprio probably captured the character of Rimbaud, but that didn't make the character any more likable. At 111 minutes, this is a long time to spend with people you don't like.

The Critics Vote

  • General USA consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 2.5/4, Berardinelli 3/4. Mr Berardinelli's score was the highest I saw among graded reviews.

The People Vote ...

  • Box office: it was virtually unreleased. Domestic box office was less than $500,000.


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Tuna calculates a proper score of C-. Scoop agrees, writing, "this is a C- . It was a critical failure and a box-office failure. I am one of the very few people who was impressed by elements of it. Very few people will like it. It centers around the homosexual relationship of two thoroughly despicable, but highly talented men. It shows them as they were, not as people wish them to have been."

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