Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Juan": A modern, darkly bold film based on an old story.

Out of all of the operas rotating through the various opera houses around the world, there are really only a handful that can successfully make the transition from stage to screen. Not because of the music, but because many operatic libretti (you musical theater types call it the "book") are so far fetched that the transition just doesn't work out.

On January 9th of this year Juan debuted at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. As you can probably imagine, Juan is an adaptation of Mozart's Don Giovanni. Debuting filmmaker Kasper Holten, who is also the Artistic Director of the Danish Royal Opera, updates both the locale - a large city in the internet age - and the English libretto. Yes, it's sung in English and honestly, Ladies and Gents ... I think it's going to work, chiefly because the film abandons the usual lip syncing to the previously recorded track. That's right ... during the filming, all of the singing was done live on camera, which will give it a true realness.

The Cineuropa website lists the synopsis of this movie version thusly:
A story about a man who loved and loathed women, a heartless seducer who took great delight in enticing and abandoning his prey. In this film adaptation of W. A. Mozart's opera Don Giovanni, the sensual Juan is a self-confident, modern man, who has a perpetual need to feel and sense life to the full.
You're already intrigued, right? You're already wanting to know more.

Well, here you go - the write up from the Palm Springs International Film Festival website gives us a little more:
Retribution closes in on the serial seducer who has bedded and abandoned thousands of women in this sumptuous, thrillingly cinematic version of W.A. Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni. One of the composer’s most darkly seductive scores is performed here by Concerto Copenhagen, under the baton of maestro Lars Ulrik Mortensen. The truly sexy international cast knows how to act as well as sing, and includes Christopher Maltman as Juan, Mikhail Petrenko as Leporello, Elizabeth Futral as Elvira, Maria Bengtsson as Anna, Eric Halfvarson as The Commander, Peter Lodahl as Ottavio, Katija Dragojevic as Zerlina, and Ludvig Bengtson Lindström as Masetto.
Elizabeth Futral and Christopher Maltman in Juan
While there are numerous rumors as to when the film will release to a wider audience, I have a feeling that those of us in the States may have to wait to see it given it's ... uhm, dark seductiveness. But, just so you're not disappointed, here is the movie's trailer, which gives you a pretty good idea of the overall timbre of the film. Let me just say at the outset that this trailer might be a little too graphic for some of you - especially the opening.

Those of you who might be of puritanical sensibilities - don't say I didn't warn you. OH, and PS ... keep your eyes open for a cameo by Placido Domingo.

Finally, here is what the entertainment bible news-mag Variety had to say about the film:
Juan may upset opera purists who prefer their favorites staged with no jarring alterations to the basic material. But this raunchy, modernized Don Giovanni -- music intact, but libretto and action profanely updated -- will strike the more open-minded as a bold but satisfying interpretation channeling what Mozart and Da Ponte might have created today, with free access to explicit sexuality and language. Theatrical placements are likely to be spotty but above average within the range of opera's tepid screen track record, with European sales leading in all media.
According to Variety (and the trailer), official release of the film will be April 7th in Denmark, with further release to follow.


Michael said...

This is my first visit to your blog, and i like what I see very much! As you say, the trailer starts in quite an amazing way. Chris Maltman is a very sexy man, and a great singer. In recital he often speaks to his audience, and has a beautiful speaking voice and great charm. The film looks like it will be good, and of course I wonder what else might be exposed! I wonder if any of your readers have seen the screenings at festivals? many thanks

Anonymous said...

Hi! I saw "Juan" at the Hamburg film festival last October... It was incredible! I loved it! Never want to see "Don Giovanni" again, just "Juan"! :) Thanks for posting the trailer... I couldn't find it anywhere!
Can't wait to buy the DVD...


Anonymous said...

The woman in the picture above is Katija Dragojevic playing Zerlina not Elizabeth Futral.

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