Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I don't get the appeal of CARMEN JONES

I don't understand why CARMEN JONES is worth a re-release. Sure, Harry Belafonte and Dorothy Dandridge are attractive and give decent acting performances as the free-spirited seductress who lures an upstanding soldier into a life of crime and desperate violence. But this is, in many ways, a disastrous adaptation of the Bizet opera (of which I am a moderate fan). For a start, the lead actors (the majority of whom were accomplished singers) are dubbed by singers who do not have the technical chops for singing opera. Second, Otto Preminger does not bring the best out of the source material which his staging. A classic example is early on in the piece when Carmen sings "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle" or whatever the updated version of the score calls it. On stage, the aria is our first glimpse of Carmen's character and we have to believe that she is absolutely bewitching. Usually, this is staged with Carmen moving fluidly through a group of people hanging on her every word. Preminger chooses to have her sing this in a cafeteria where all involved are seated - indifferent - at tables through which Carmen moves uneasily.

Overall, then, this film left me cold. If you want to see an imaginative, though not flawless, modern version of the operetta, you should check out U-CARMEN instead.

CARMEN JONES was originally released in 1954. Otto Preminger won the Golden Bear and Dorothy Dandridge was nominated for, but did not win, the Best Actress Oscar. The film is currently on re-release in the UK.


  1. Marilyn Horne is a "singer who doens't have the technical chops for opera"? She's Marilyn Horne! If she can't sing opera, no one can.

  2. The Belafonte/ Dandridge version is exemplary: a) both excellent actors and vocalists b) considering the "historical mania" of the times of it's production- - valuable to culture c) a new interpretation............hotep