26 September 2023


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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

Director: Benjamin Millepied, Madman Entertainment.

French dancer and one of the world’s foremost choreographers Benjamin Millepied’s feature film directorial debut conjures a commanding sense of allegory, poetry, agelessness and reveries.

This film version of Georges Bizet’s opera, Carmen has strong qualities of tough uncompromising realism, with a splendid score by Nicholas Britell (Moonlight, Succession) and dream-like dance sequences that evoke magic realism.

The story follows a young, fiercely independent woman who is forced to flee her home in the Mexican desert following the brutal murder of her mother. Carmen (Melissa Barrera) survives a terrifying and dangerous illegal border crossing into the US, only to be confronted by a lawless volunteer border guard who cold-bloodedly murders two other immigrants in her group.

When the guard and his patrol partner, Aidan (Paul Mescal) – a Marine with PTSD – become embroiled in a deadly standoff, Carmen and Aidan are forced to escape together. They make their way north toward Los Angeles in search of Carmen’s mother’s best friend, the mercurial Masilda (Rossy de Palma) and owner of La Sombra nightclub – a sanctuary of music and dance. Carmen and Aidan find both solace and their unwavering love for each other in the safety of Masilda’s magical refuge, but time is running out as the police hunt closes in.

To write, direct and choreograph a contemporary cinema adaptation of the opera Carmen has long been a passion project for Benjamin. That dream was realised by bringing together a stellar international cast and creative collaborators including composer Nicholas Britell and cinematographer Jörg Widmer.

Millepied elaborates: “Carmen is an opera that I grew up with … Somehow it was a story that resonated with me as a child, and I eventually became interested in the other versions of it such as Carlos Saura’s film. It always stayed with me.”

  • Carmen opens in cinemas on 13 July

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