This opulent and enthralling screen version of Bizet's celebrated opera is an intoxicating, sensuous experience; it is a film of vibrant motion and flamboyant theatricality. Director Francesco Rosi (Three Brothers) blends colorful visual images of the Spanish landscape and people with the exquisite music of Bizet. Despite three other recent screen adaptations of the opera Carlos Saura's Carmen, Peter Brook's La Tragedie de Carmen, and Jean Luc Godard's First Name: Carmen this one is destined to become a classic.
Rosi's Carmen seeks "to create the dynamic of a film taking place in real streets with real situations." He succeeds in this goal admirably from the opening scenes depicting Escamillo's (Ruggero Raimondi) triumph in the arena as a skilled toreador, to the seduction of Don Jose (Placido Domingo) by the fiery Carmen (Julia Migenes-Johnson), to the dramatic finale where the obsessed lover acts on his jealousy over the gypsy's affections for Escamillo.
The director of photography, Pasqualino De Santis, captures the beautiful features and hues of Spain's cities and countryside; choreographer Antonio Gades catches the Andalusian passion in a series of breathtaking folk dances; and the large cast many of them real gypsies and Spanish townsfolk convincingly incarnate the spirit of Spain with its religious rituals, military processions, and carefree festivals. The bullfight sequences vividly recreate the taboo death defied by the ritual killing of the bull.
Rosi's flair for direction is evidenced by the strong and authentic acting registered by opera singers Placido Domingo, Julia Migenes-Johnson, and Ruggero Raimondi. Lorin Maazel conducts the Orchestre National de France and Chorus and Children's Chorus of Radio-France. All the vocal performances are top-drawer. The final accolade for Carmen is that even those who are not opera buffs will be swept away by the beauty and passion of this production.