Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. Italy/France/Spain/United Kingdom/Romania, 2002. Cattleya, Medusa Film, Alquimia Cinema, Film and General Productions, Galfin, Media Pro Pictures, Babe Film, France 2 Cinéma, Canal+, Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali, Eurimages. Original idea by Franco Zeffirelli, Scenario by Martin Sherman, Franco Zeffirelli. Cinematography by Ennio Guarnieri. Produced by Riccardo Tozzi, Giovannella Zannoni. Music by Alessio Vlad. Production Design by Luigi Quintili. Costume Design by Anna Anni, Alessandro Lai, Alberto Spiazzi. Film Editing by Sean Barton.
Beautiful film that captures the last days (fictionally) of the great opera diva Maria Callas (portrayed here by Fanny Ardant). Jeremy Irons plays a music promoter who comes to Paris for his rock band’s concert and visits Callas for the first time since their disastrous tour in Japan ended their friendship (and her public career) years earlier. Now in her fifties, Callas spends her days shut up in her apartment, and her nights taking pills and listening to old recordings of the beautiful voice she had before neglect and melancholy ruined its quality. Irons convinces her to resurrect her career, even getting her back into the swing of work, and the two collaborate on a film project of Bizet’s Carmen that has her lip-synching to a performance she recorded years earlier. Ardant’s performance as Callas is one her richest film roles yet: she gives us both a larger-than-life and impressively vulnerable view into the life of a woman who has been proclaimed a legend of the opera world, and she’s a marvel to watch. Zeffirelli does a terrific job behind the camera as well, giving us a palpable emotional quality in this exploration of an artist’s melancholy, but also making sure not to ignore the great art that has made her so beloved in the first place: the soundtrack is virtually brimming over with her most popular, beautiful arias. A very satisfying experience.