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BENJAMIN MILLEPIED REVISITS CARMEN

Transposing a great classic of 19th-century French literature and opera into contemporary America: this is the program of Benjamin Millepied’s first film. And what better way to launch the film career of the former director of dance at the Paris Opera than with a film adaptation of Carmen?

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Prosper Mérimée’s novel had already been adapted several times for the cinema – there have been nearly thirty films since 1907 – and we particularly remember Jean-Luc Godard’s free reinterpretation of it in 1983 with Prénom Carmen. With Millepied, however, we are far from the somewhat hermetic sobriety of the author of the New Wave.

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It is rather on the side of Georges Bizet’s famous comic opera that one must look for the reference, because this Carmen is a musical drama, sung and especially danced. The filmmaker makes Carmen (played by the revelation of the last Scream, Melissa Barrera) a young Mexican girl who tries to cross the border to the United States, and transforms Don José into Aidan, an ex-marine who saves her life.

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Exit Andalusia, welcome to deep America, on the road to Los Angeles, where the former dancer turned director-choreographer lives and where he founded his company, L.A. Dance Project. 

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Of course, this is not the first modern retelling of the classic – we remember Calixto Bieito’s staging, performed several times at the Paris Opera, where sopranos and tenors sang in a parking lot setting filled with old Mercedes C-Classes.

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But Millepied goes further in the adaptation: Bizet’s music gives way to folk ballads played on guitar by the male lead, Paul Mescal (Aftersun), and to an original score by Nicholas Britell – to whom we owe the haunting theme music of the Succession series. 

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Benjamin Millepied is known to be a film lover. In 2015, he created choreography for the Cannes Film Festival inspired by a famous scene from Hitchcock’s Death at the Brink. His big cinematic revelation may have been his experience choreographing the dance scenes for Darren Aronovsky’s Black Swan in 2010, a shoot on which he met his wife, actress Natalie Portman. For the former dancer of the New York City Ballet, the transition to the cinema seems natural, and the project – produced by the producer of The Three Musketeers, Dimitri Rassam – is ambitious. Verdict on the screens from June 14. 

Carmen 

Release date: June 14

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vG08sTq1TI4

Pierre Charpilloz