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Callas Forever (2002)

Cast: Fanny Ardant, Fanny Ardant, Jeremy Irons, more...
Director: Franco Zeffirelli, Franco Zeffirelli
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Studio: Image Entertainment
Genre: Drama, Foreign, Biopics, Spain, British Drama, UK
Running Time: 108 min.
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
    see additional details...

A mournful look at the last days of opera diva Maria Callas, director Franco Zeffirelli's biographical drama attempts to explore the irresistible allure of a comeback for a fallen star who hungers for the success of her past. Weathered from the excess of the previous decade and with her best performances long behind her, Callas (Fanny Ardant) withdraws to her Paris apartment to live her final days in seclusion. Despite being ravaged by a throat disease and being stuck in an extended period of mourning following the death of her true love, Callas' manager Larry Kelly (Jeremy Irons) nevertheless suggests that the former reigning queen of opera attempt a spectacular comeback. Though she is physically unable to perform the pieces the way that she once did, the suggestion to lip-sync to recordings of her previous performances offers a tentative chance for latter day fame. Despite her belief that lip-syncing her performance would be dishonest to her fans, the prospect of performing Carmen, an opera that she once recorded but never performed on stage, offers Callas one last shot at reliving her former glory. ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

A Callas Moment, Imagined by talltale July 12, 2005 - 6:19 AM PDT
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
If I understand the movie correctly, CALLAS FOREVER is a fantasy/invention from one of our great opera-lover/directors (Franco Zeffirelli) of what might have happened, had some entrepreneurial friend of the late and legendary opera star convinced the diva toward the end of her not-long life to lip-synch her early recordings as a soundtrack to full-scale movie versions of her greatest hits. You're right: The preceding is a VERY long sentence, but the idea behind this movie is weirdly plausible. It's probably too bad it never happened this way. Had it, this might have brought a multitude of new opera fans--including me, who never learned to enjoy this art form--into the fold.

Taken purely on its own merits, the movie is quite enjoyable. Fanny Ardant, one of France's deserved actress icons, is fabulous in the lead. More exquisitely beautiful and finer featured than the diva, she manages (via make-up or lack of it) to sometimes come closer than imaginable to the original. More important, she captures as well as any performance I have seen the particular "diva" quality that provokes worship and loathing almost simultaneously (don't worry: worship wins the day). She is abetted wonderfully by Jeremy Irons as her entrepreneur: he is charming, handsome, self-effacing, smart and kind. And work-obssessed. (Joan Plowright is also on hand--lovely and sassy as ever--as a friendly, savvy journalist.)

Zeffirelli frames his film with a sweet love story between the Iron's character and a young hearing-impaired artist, nicely played by Jay Rodin, who is besotted by Callas' voice (his "art," I must say, is a bit less than impressive). If nothing else, the movie will leave you living in hope that this director will someday do a full-length version of "Carmen" that's as good as the scenes we see here (in which Ardant is marvelous). This director does have a "Carmen" out on DVD, but I suspect it is a "staged" version, rather than a "movie" in the style of his "Romeo & Juliet," "Taming of the Shrew" or "Brother Sun, Sister Moon." If Zeffirelli ever does this, he might just have his masterpiece. (In fact, he should do this fast, using the Callas voice and Ardant in the lead--before any of us get any older....)

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 6.67)
3 Votes
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