Not knowing anything more about Maria Callas than that she was an internationally renowned opera sensation, I was particularly interested to see this one. Not really a biographical film, this movie, as it states in the blurb on the back of the DVD case, is director Franco Zeffirelli’s interpretation of what Callas’ last months might have been like if things had gone differently. But, I wondered differently how? After watching the film, I got the impression that even though Zeffirelli worked often with Callas, the film is more about what he personally would have liked Callas to do with her last days, instead of apparently what she did do…which was pretty much…well, nothing. The film is a glorious tribute to Callas as a singer and as a “diva.” French actress Fanny Ardent does a great job of capturing both Callas’ torment at the lost of her voice and the admiration she thrives off once she becomes “famous” again. This film is not especially for someone who does not like or have even a mild appreciate for opera since much of the movie revolves around Callas doing a film production of Bizet’s Carmen. Of course, since Zeffirelli has directed many, many opera productions, he knows how to stage, light and shoot the musical parts. But even if you think you don’t like opera, between Zeffirelli’s beautiful direction and the sound of Callas’ voice in its prime, you might just find that opera is one of your hidden loves. If any film can bring that passion out in you, this one can.

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Annette Bening is just plain classy…as a woman, as an actress, as a working mother, etc. Her role in Being Julia is about a classy stage actress in 1930s London. Does the character resemble the real life woman? Well, honestly I don’t know since I am not on personal terms with Ms. Bening. But, I’m assuming, just on the basis that both are famous, well-respected actresses, that there are some parallels. Bening plays Julia Lambert, a spoiled, middle-aged West End (London’s “Broadway”) goddess used to getting her way. She is in a sexless marriage with her husband, played by Jeremy Irons, who also is her stage producer. Their marriage is more of a matter of convenience and business than one of love. So, when she takes up with a younger man, the void of love in her life is filled. Or is it? I know—sounds boring and more like an installment of Masterpiece Theatre than a captivating film. But, boring is the last thing this film is. Trust me. And, that’s mostly due to Bening and her marvelous performance. She brings light and air into Julia…humor when necessary and a sense of doom when called for. In the film, Julia is questioned on whether she is being true to her emotions or if she is just “acting.” I, for one, never knew the answer to that and really didn’t care. Bening is so convincing as Julia that the lines become intertwined between “real life” and “the stage.”

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