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Classic Opera Reinterpreted Through Modern Lens



Genre: Drama, Musical
Year Released: 2023
Runtime: 1h 56m
Director(s): Benjamin Millepied
Writer(s): Loïc Barrere (written by,) Alexander Dinelaris (screenplay,) Lisa Loomer (previous screenplay,) Prosper Mérimée (novel)
Cast: Melissa Barrera, Paul Mescal, Rossy de Palma, Nicole Da Silva, Benedict Hardie, Elsa Pataky
Where To Watch: available in select theaters

RAVING REVIEW: Benjamin Millepied, a celebrated choreographer from France, steps into the limelight of Hollywood with his debut feature film CARMEN. This is a bold reimagining of the classic opera, and Millepied's love for the original art form is evident. Even though this retelling only has a vague similarity to the opera it's “based” on.

Millepied takes the well-trodden path of the opera's narrative and ventures into uncharted territory. His CARMEN invites an immersive journey crossing back and forth between the tangible world and that of a dream-like state. Millepied's arsenal of expertise – music, dance, and light – forms the backbone of this retelling, offering a fresh perspective on the age-old tale.

Nicholas Britell’s powerful score significantly amplifies the movie's unique charm. The creative camaraderie between Britell and Millepied adds another layer to the narrative, echoing the elegance of a perfectly choreographed dance routine, again shining a light on the natural gifts and abilities of all involved.

Inspired by Jerome Robbins, a linchpin in American choreography, Millepied's fascination with marrying storytelling gathered its roots early on. Robbins' legacy in iconic musicals ignited a spark in Millepied that has become CARMEN. This film encapsulates the story of a woman's endurance in her quest for freedom, a narrative that resonates strongly in the modern world.

In this cinematic dance drama, the narrative dances within the screenplay. Little here resembles the original opera or even the Novella based on the opera. The Oscar-winning duo Alexander Dinelaris Jr. and Loïc Barrère worked with Millepied to create a storyline that unfolds like a stage performance. It traverses the rugged landscapes of Mexico, eventually landing in the vibrant culture of California. This orchestrated narrative magnifies the depth of the characters and casts a spotlight on Carmen's dance – a dynamic expression of her spirit.

Melissa Barrera brings Carmen to life – a woman on the run from her sorrowful past in Mexico. Her star continues to rise in mainstream films, thanks to her role in the SCREAM franchise and movies that dare to dream like this. Alongside Aidan (Paul Mescal), a Marine grappling with PTSD, Carmen embarks on an emotional gauntlet that will have you questioning their decisions throughout this journey. When they reach La Sombra, a LA nightclub, and meet the eccentric Masilda (Rossy de Palma). Here, amidst the intoxicating music and dance, they find their “home,” a place they can call their own.

CARMEN is not a verbatim retelling of the original opera or novella, but it captures the emotion they both strove for beautifully. It is an engaging homage to a timeless narrative. This won’t be an experience all will enjoy, but if you love dance, musicals, and artistic visions on screen, this may be the film for you.

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[photo courtesy of SONY PICTURES CLASSICS]

Chris Jones
Entertainment Editor

Chris Jones is the Mail Entertainment Editor covering Movies and Television topics. He is from Washington, Illinois, and is the owner, writer, and editor of Overly Honest Reviews.