Carmen Made in: Spain Language: Spanish Director: Vicente Aranda Starring: Paz Vega, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Jay Benedict, Antonio Dechent Year: 2003
Synopsis: This adaptation is based on the novella of the same name by Prosper Mérimée, which was written in 1847 and later made into the world-renown opera by Georges Bizet. In this film, however, there is little singing but lots more profanity and nudity.
The story introduces author Prosper Mérimée himself as a character, and suggests that he meets the "real" Carmen (Paz Vega) and her doomed lover, José (Leonardo Sbaraglia). While visiting José in prison, Mérimée listens to the young man's story, which goes on to inspire Mérimée to write his famous book.
José Navarro, a decorated Spanish soldier, arrests a beautiful girl named Carmen. Carmen works in a cigar factory, and after a fellow worker insults her gypsy heritage, Carmen attacks and injures her with a knife. As José is hauling off her to the slammer, she learns that he is from the Basque region (in the original story José was a Frenchman). Fooling him into thinking that she is a fellow Basque, he allows her to escape in exchange for a later passionate roll in the hay.
Utterly bewitched by the fiery, seductive gypsy who can't seem to keep her clothes on, José falls for her. In the process, he loses his military discipline, is demoted, and later becomes a fugitive from the law. Things only get worse when Carmen's husband (played by Antonio Dechent) comes into the picture. Jealousy, shootings, bullfighting, and multiple stabbings ensue. I guess the world was a lot different before there was fútbol...
The Good: Great production design, costumes, and sets. The cinematography is excellent too, with some great shots of the city of Seville. Paz Vega works very well as the infamous and sultry femme fatale, and turns in a very captivating performance despite the fact that she's naked half the time.
The Bad: Director Vicente Aranda is very well-known in Spanish cinema, but I can't say that this was one of his better works. The story is very straightforward, and doesn't leave too much for the actors to do.
Leonardo Sbaraglia, as José, is certainly a competent performer. But here, he doesn't do much beyond looking grumpy and going into jealous tirades. The inner struggle between doing what is moral and succumbing to temptation isn't explored deeply enough, which leaves him pretty much flat.
The same can be said of Paz Vega's character. We get very little insight behind her motivations. And instead of creating psychological depth, humanity, or any sort of element that would make her a three-dimensional protagonist, she unfortunately comes off simply as being a slut.
And despite strong effort from the cast, there just isn't much onscreen chemistry between them. The nudity became a problem too. Don't get me wrong- If Paz Vega wants to take her clothes off I certainly won't stop her. But here, the nudity gets to the point where it starts feeling as though you're visiting one of websites that you don't want your kids to see.
Who would like this movie: For fans of Bizet's famous opera, Mérimée's novella, and foreign films, Carmen is largely disappointing. It's a slow, sometimes boring, movie that emotionally fails to connect with the viewer but depresses you anyway. There's none of the music from the opera either, which would have been a nice touch.
If you're a guy, you'll appreciate the site of Paz Vega in her birthday suit. But you can save your time renting other videos that contain that kind of stuff.