At The Movies With Josh: Carmen

This film is directed by ballet star Benjamin Millepied. It’s a modern day, opera-free version of Carmen. It also has two attractive leads that have absolutely no chemistry. This movie version tries to incorporate dance and melodrama. 

I’m a fan of filmmaker Robert Townsend, and he once did Carmen: A Hip-Hopera (Beyonce, Mos Def). It was disappointing. Director Otto Preminger was a bit before my time, so I never saw his 1954 version Carmen Jones (rest in peace, Harry Belafonte). And I’m sure there have been other film versions I’m not aware of. It’s a shame this is the one I had to be saddled with spending two hours watching.

When the opening scene shows a woman doing a flamenco desert dance angrily, and a few thugs approach in a car…you wonder if this is going to be some kind of dance interpretation of a story. And it was. It becomes a bizarre, avant-garde musical. And while I’m not the biggest fan of musicals, In the Heights was my favorite film of 2021. Oh, and this stars one of the actresses from that, Melissa Barrera. She plays a Mexican immigrant trying to cross the border. But where In the Heights used dance sequences brilliantly, in this movie, they’re just bizarre setpieces that don’t really work with the story.

This also stars the hot young actor Paul Mescal (who was nominated for an Oscar last year). He plays soldier Aidan, a U.S. Marine suffering PTSD, who starts working border patrol (the actor also seems to be suffering from trying to get an American accent).

The pair goes on the run to L.A. after a racist border guard starts shooting people who are crossing, and she hides in his truck. In L.A. they stay with family friend Masilda (Rossy de Palma), and more boredom ensues. 

The three writers (one being the director) give us horrible bilingual dialogue that feels like a college filmmaker’s project. I was especially bothered by the lack of character development.

Composer Nicholas Britell also gives us some orchestra pieces, as well as modern sounding music, and choral arrangements. 

The dance numbers are mildly amusing – we get some ballet, obviously, but also flamenco and hip-hop. The choreographing is done well with those numbers. None of the original opera is included in this movie.

It’s all too ambitious for its own good.

0 stars.

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