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The premise that artists make art from their own lives is taken about as far as it can go in this appealingly preposterous biopic, which purports to explain what happened during a few lost months when France's then-impoverished answer to Shakespeare disappeared at the age of 22.

The year is 1644, and the future playwright is still an itinerant actor, hired by a Bourgeois Gentleman who's infatuated with a noblewoman who heads a sort of School for Wives. Moliere disguises himself as a preacher named Tartuffe, falls for the tradesman's wife, and — well, you get the idea.

If you know the plays, it's fun to pick out situations and bits of dialogue, but this French art-house comedy will still zip along divertingly even if you don't. It's blessed with a raft of sparkling Gallic performances, not to mention costumes that are a show in themselves.

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Bob Mondello
Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.