Interestingly, it was the novel by the Frenchman Prosper Merimée that made the Spanish gypsy Carmen a world reference. In fact, aligned with the music of another Frenchman, George Bizet, the story solidified the fame of the character as a femme fatale who takes the life of a “good” man down the wrong path, generating plays, ballets, and, of course, films. In 1983, the prestigious Spanish director Carlos Saura – who passed away in early 2023- made one of the versions that I consider definitive, placing a Carmen (Laura del Sol) in the current world and tormenting an obsessed flamenco choreographer, Paco (Antonio Gades). The film was a mega success and was even nominated for an Oscar for Best International Film, losing to Fanny & Alexander, by Ingmar Bergman.
Carmen is part of the musical trilogy about flamenco that Carlos Saura produced, starting the previous year with Blood Wedding and ending later with El Amor Brujo, all with António Gades, the flamenco dance superstar. Saura, who before these films was always politicized in his works, is credited with having created a new language for musicals or dance films, with three masterpieces. Robert Wise, the innovative director of West Side Story and The Sound of Music, said that the Spaniard “invented another way of approaching dance through the camera”. And it’s true.
In Carmen, Saura used the traditional backstage formula imitating Art, with Paco falling in love with the volatile ballerina, enjoying the dance numbers in unforgettable scenes. Like the women in the cigarette factory or the seduction in Habanera. Critics who studied his trilogy in detail point out that his new cinematographic language was contrary to the American school, betting on close and detailed shots instead of open shots. He was, as they say, a dance fan first and foremost, with the legend that he lied that he still didn’t have the right shot just to see the dancers in action one more time.
In the film there is also the participation of the legendary guitarist Paco de Lucía, increasing even more to a work rooted in the truly Spanish culture. The film was so successful that António Gades‘ dance company took the dance to the stage (even performing here in Brazil), in an electrifying show.
Benjamin Millepied‘s new version of the story of Carmen reminded me of Saura’s classic, 40 years after its release, maintaining the impact and freshness of a unique vision of the tragedy immortalized by Merimée and Bizet. Worth reviewing if you can!
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Wonderful Laura del Sol ! She played the most romantic sentimental Carmen, that makes one fall in love even with a dubious character like the famous knife throwing gipsy dancer !
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