It’s enough to get Ken Russell’s juices flowing: Arthur Rimbaud, the utopian visionary of French poetry, as a reckless 19th-century bad boy who slices through bourgeois hypocrisy by burping at the dinner table, parading nude on rooftops, and generally acting like a frat-house brat. As if to reinforce the concept, Leonardo DiCaprio comes on like a spoiled young rock star who’s making his screen debut. He tosses off his lines in a blasé California monotone, as if Rimbaud were, like, this really cool guy whose tragedy was that he died a century before MTV. Lest we forget that he also had Deep Thoughts, the movie has DiCaprio delivering unplayable pensées like ”The only unbearable thing is that nothing is unbearable.” Actually, Total Eclipse is pretty unbearable: The movie is dour and patchy and stilted — it leaves you sitting glumly waiting for the next baroque bout of tormented misbehavior. As Paul Verlaine, the lyric poet who discovers Rimbaud and falls violently in love with him, David Thewlis, looking like a scuzz-ball Pete Townshend, throws a drunken tantrum every few minutes or so. Together, he and DiCaprio provide enough obsessive-artist angst for a dozen overbearing biopics.
We gave it a D+