Creations Greatnand Smallnby David R. SlavittnImpromptunProduced by Stuart Oken andnDaniel A. SherkownDirected by James LapinenScreenplay by Sarah KernochannDistributed by Hemdale FilmsnTerminator 2: Judgment DaynProduced and directed bynJames CameronnScreenplay by James Cameron andnWilliam WishernA Carolco PicturenReleased by Tri-StarnSumer was icumen in. The air conditionersnwere humming and thenmonstro-humungus blockbusters werenopening. The biggest of the monsters,nthe Mount Pinatubo of the summernreleases, was Terminator 2, the costs ofnwhich the producers denied were innexcess of $100 million. Nobody argued,nthough, that this wasn’t the mostnexpensive film in history. ArnoldnSchwarzenegger’s fee alone was considerablynmore than the $6 million thatnrepresented the total budget of thenoriginal Terminator. But as the slogannin the ads explained, in naked andnindifferent menace, “It’s Nothing Personal.”nArt, though, wants to be personal,nhas to engage something in the souls ofnthose of us in the audience who are notnbankers and accountants. Indeed, itnwas in a search for something to gonwith my discussion of Terminator Znthat I went to see Impromptu, whichnwasn’t a great movie in any sense, butnwas charming, intriguing, pretty tonlook at, fun to think about for a whilen— in other words, what any reasonablenperson might imagine as the idealnsummer flick.nIt’s a pastiche, really, less a filmnabout Chopin, George Sand, FranznLiszt, Alfred de Musset, and EugenenDelacroix than a send-up that usesnthose figures as large puppets to representnnotions about sincerity, freedom,nand other such fluffy abstractions. In itsnway, the film is a pastoral, with Chopinnand Sand as versions of the old Meliboeusnand Tityrus figures. We are tonbelieve in them, but only up to a point.nThey say and do impish and suggestiventhings the real Chopin and Sand arennot likely to have said or done, but thatnis perfectly agreeable. The fun is asnmuch in the discontinuities and improbabilitiesnas it is in the occasionalnaccuracies of manner or dress.nThere are two significant dramasnthat go on more or less simultaneously,none having to do with the relation ofnthe artists (who are the aristocracy ofnthe mind) with the nobility (of moneynand land and, at least in theory, of thensword and blood). The embourgeoisementnof the French nobility producedna set of mostly cloddish if high-livingntypes not much diff^erent from thenAmerican robber barons who camenalong a little later in the century.nThese grandees were stuck out there inntheir chateaux and, out of boredom —ntheir own or their wives’ — invited celebritiesnfrom Paris to come and benentertaining. Delacroix (Ralph Brown)nis quite cynical about this bargain innwhich the artists get free food andnlodging for a week or so, and al] that isnrequired of them is that they be entertainingnat table, while Musset (playednwith campy zest by Mandy Patinkin)ntests the limits of their hosts’ patiencenby behaving as badly as possible —nwhich is to say, very badly indeed.nMuch of the comic business of the filmnarises from the mutual entertainmentnof this week in the country where thenartists are the guests of the Due andnDuchesse d’Antan. We get a fairlynwitty and elegant series of farcicalnscenes shot at the handsome Chateaundes Briottieres, and for most movie­nnnmakers, this would have been a sufficientlynlofty achievement.nThere is also a meditation on gendernroles in sexuality, which might havenbeen tiresome except that Judy Davis,nas Sand, flirts (and more than flirts)nwith homeliness, does a kind of ClendanJackson imitation in which she managesnto come very close to the repellant.nNot surprisingly, the delicate Chopinn(Hugh Crant) is as wary of her as anmale mantis would be at the invitationnof a female of the species. Grant’snChopin is an attractive counterpart tonDavis’s Sand: where she is masculinenand assertive, he is feminine, delicate,nand elusive. He looks a litfle like anyounger Senator Kerry, and does anPolish accent that lapses on occasionninto Hungarian so that he sounds oddlynlike Bela Lugosi. But realism isnirrelevant here. The thrust and focusnare elsewhere, which is a hard trick tonturn in film, where the eye is so muchneasier to engage than the brain.nWhat these lives were about wasnauthenticity or, to put it another way,nuntrammeled romantic excess as anroute to that rigorous ideal. The film’snjokes and more earnest high- and lowjinxnare not merely silly, then, but allnbear in one way or another on thisnlegitimate theme. We watch as JudynDavis improves and, in nervy counterpoint,nBernadette Peters falls apart.nShe plays the Comtesse Marie d’Agoult,nLiszt’s mistress who is inevitablyncoarsened and embittered by her lossnof status in society, her bearing of toonmany children, and the fecklessness ofnher somewhat flighty lover.nThere are awkward moments, weirdngestures that don’t quite work. Onensuch scene is that in which for the firstntime Judy Davis hears Chopin playingnthe piano. She can’t see him, but thenmusic through a closed door is nonethelessnaffecting, and we watch while,nin a rapture that is supposed to demonstratenher passionate nature and goodntaste, she strokes, fondles, caresses, andnmakes extravagant love to the door.nTibullus has an ode in which he addressesnDelia’s door, but even with thenintention to be absurd, he doesn’t carrynthe conceit to anything like this length.nSuch excesses are forgivable, however.nThe credits for director JamesnLapine include the Stephen Sondheimnmusicals Sunday in the Park withnGeorge and Into the Woods, and thisnOCTOBER 1991/49n