By Melissa Pierson
Updated May 24, 1996 at 04:00 AM EDT

One large problem looms over this biopic about 19th-century literary boy genius Arthur Rimbaud (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his disturbingly violent affair with fellow poet Paul Verlaine (David Thewlis): Without the benefit of their written words, and with two characters so endlessly unappealing, all that remains in Total Eclipse is one ugliness after another. The baby-faced DiCaprio isn’t entirely persuasive as Rimbaud, who is supposed to be swaggering and belligerently coarse, but Thewlis’ portrayal of a vicious yet pathetic man is almost too convincing (just as he was in Naked). Poetic justice, in this case, demands a visit to the library instead of the video store. C-