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Carmen

Director: Vincente Aranda

(2003. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 119 mins.)


Veteran director Vincente Aranda turns in his best film for over a decade with this slick and entertaining version of Carmen. Taking his cue from the original Prosper Merimee novella rather than the Bizet opera, Aranda uses the familiar tale to pursue a couple of his favourite themes—the destructive force of jealousy and women’s sexual freedom as a threat to machismo. In 1830s Andalucia, Merimee (Jay Benedict) comes across the bandit Jose (Leonardo Sbaraglia), who tells him of his obsession with the fiery Carmen (Paz Vega of Sex and Lucia). Aranda portrays the Carmen/Jose relationship as sexual—sometimes explicitly and brutally so—rather than romantic. Vega more than delivers with the flashing-eyes and fruit-sucking cliches of Andalucia, but she’s also careful to find space in her performance for a ruthlessly egotistical woman bent on self-destruction. The unfortunate Jose fails to understand her, and the tragedy is that the one thing he desires—that Carmen be his, and his alone—is the one thing she’ll never concede.

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