Nope, I don't speak French, unfortunately... And when I first read Bel Ami, it had a totally different name on the cover, I can almost see it right now-thin black Cyrillic letters - Милый Друг. That's right, I read it in Russian, back then, and again, about a month ago. Little did I know how things will lead me to it again. Romantic teenager (Bel Ami) -> romantic adult -> Twilight -> RPattz -> Bel Ami. See? I've made a full circle :) But enough personal history, let's set up the mood and get back to the source. (turn on some french music below, if you please).
I admit, if it wasn't for Robert starring in the Hollywood version of this French story, I would never go back to it. I was never a huge fan of Guy de Maupassant, although I did think that his novellas were quite erotic, in a subtle and kinda gross way, and besides, Bel Ami even had a namesake of mine as one secondary character, which was VERY unusual, cause my name of french origin is uncommon where I grew up. But I digress, again...
Bel Ami is a story of Georges Duroy, ex-soldier, journalist by accident and heartthrob by avocation, published in 1885 by Guy de Mopaussant. Ambitious, poor, but very charming and handsome young man comes to Paris, full of possibilities and beautiful women, ready to divide and conquer. What's not to like, right? Not so fast... George weaves his net, like a spider, catching in it influential women and using them as stepping stones in enhancing his career and social status. He doesn't seem to possess a single thread of moral fiber, feeling so sure of his own entitlement to success, that he practically embodies the saying "the end justifies the means". In his desperate struggle to make something of himself, Georges truly believes that all is fair in war and love. Each one of his multiple infatuations feel sincere and intense... until he moves on to the next victim, that is.
It's a strange tug of war between lust and ambition, pity and desire. When I read it in high school, I thought it was sexy, but now it felt kinda sad, for the most part.
On to the characters. Georges... The "classical" portrait of the man is usually considered to be Toulouse Lautrec's Monsieur Louis Pascal. To me he looks too old and way too sleazy, even for this character. In my imagination, Georges IS a sleazeball, but shouldn't look like one, otherwise why would all of these gorgeous, powerful and smart women fall for him? Enter, our very favorite heartthRob. Although many faithful literature experts decried lack of infamous mustache, in my humble opinion, Robert's George looks dashing. Just look at him in white tie and tails - breathtakingly handsome to leave all Parisiennes smitten, yet young and innocent-looking to keep them in the dark about his interior motives. Young daughter of one of his lovers, who also becomes quite attached to the charming gentleman, nicknames him Bel Ami - Dear Friend and it sticks. But really, he's not a good friend to anybody in this book. Everybody who helps him, ends up being stepped over (and sometimes - on to), humiliated, heartbroken and forgotten.
Movie Bel Ami, slated to come out in 2011 and starring quite an ensemble, especially female, including Christina Ricci and Uma Thurman is sure to attract some attention when it hits the theaters. I hope people will not be scared away by the costume drama and will come in droves to see our boy dazzle and sparkle in this totally different, dark and ruthless role of a lady-killer.