Film Review by Dean Duncan May 5, 2014

That first shot! Carmen expands the method of Saura/Gade’s Blood Wedding quite considerably, though some of the basic ideas and methods are still in place. Treat everyday things beautifully and those everyday things emerge as beautiful in themselves. In addition to those satisfactions, in Carmen Saura gives us a really challenging and satisfying meta-narrative. Rehearsal bleeds into performance, actors meld with the characters they’re portraying, dance and theatre and film intermingle. It’s complex, but it’s clear as well.

Lots of things are effectively addressed in this particular Carmen: perceptions of Spain as they come into conflict with Spain itself, or the way that Spaniards field and adapt those perceptions. The power and perversity of women, and the possibility that this perversity is really a projection of men’s controlling impulses. Echoes and precedents: we have a Renoirian meditation on how stylized art or figurative arts bring us so paradoxically and powerfully to our own realities. It’s The Golden Coach. It’s The Red Shoes. It’s Olivier’s Henry V, and maybe even more successfully. In other words, as the great English director Michael Powell said, “all art is one.”

We would note the practical tons of other, miscellaneously spectacular moments: when the extremely charismatic Paco de Lucia discovers a musical entrée into both Mérimée’s source story, and Bizet’s legendary adaptation thereof. That clapping! The violent aftermath of the card game, and then the way they drop character and become friends again. Just before killing each other. Clichés? Perceptions! And so, truths. Again, tremendously stirring stuff.