The name is the same, but not Georges Bizet’s (1838-1875) renowned Opera that premiered in 1875; instead, Benjamin Millepied (“The Black Swan”), dancer, choreographer, now director, presents his version of a woman who clandestinely steals into the United States from Mexico; Melissa Barrera (“Carmen”) is the heroine with a stricken past, captured by border patroller “Aidan” (Paul Mescal), suffering from PTSD; their relationship lacks the fiery passion, combustible sensuality that slithers poisonously into the hearts and minds of Bizet’s lovers; theirs is a gentle, poetic bond, nurtured by movement, a blending of rhythmic, boneless liquidity, conceived by the hypnotic opiate of music; Barrera is sensational, every turn, leap, nuanced with a mystical, glowing, elegiac rhythm; Mescal, with the muscularity of Gene Kelly, enabling Barrara to bend and blend with his virtuosity.
The film’s mystery and mettle lie in the character of Carmen’s friend, protector, “Masilda” creepily marvelous, reminiscent of fortune tellers in the opera, divine dancer, Rossy de Palma; her unique performance combining traditional Spanish dances with a contemporary interpretation, a narrative, a terrorizing tableau; frightful and fantastical, simultaneously.
Millepied’s “Carmen” is innovative, romantic, choreographically flawless but with a Hollywood finale that left many longing for bullfights, trauma and the “death of a maiden”.
THREE & ½ STARS!!!