Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Frank Review of "Farinelli: Il Castrato" (1994)

The Short Version? Amadeus with less ejaculation
What Is It? Musical Drama.
Who Is In It? Europeans.
Should I See It? No.

If you're a lover of opera, especially through the voice of the soprano, have I got a movie for you! If, like myself, you hate the stuff, have I got a new method or torture for you!

The film opens with a castrato leaping nude from a balcony to his death. Young Carlo Broschi was in attendance, and wishes afterward to never sing again. However, his father makes him swear an oath to his family, and a horse riding accident soon takes care of Carlo's man parts, so the great 18th century soprano was born. From there, Carlo preens, acts as warm-up in double teams on fans with his composer brother, takes opium, and sings. Lots and lots of obviously lip synced singing, delivered from the painted and pained but entirely too chiseled face of Stefano Dionisi. Regardless of his circumstances, Farinelli is himself an impressive prick throughout, but at least in most rock god biopics you're treated to more generally agreeable music.

A rivalry with the composer George Frideric Handel is established early on, but doesn't pay off until the final reel. In the meantime, the movie drifts through moments and musical numbers without much rhyme, reason, or detail. The characters as scripted and acted are one note, the real attention devoted to sets and costumes. It put me in mind of how much more I'd enjoy a movie about the New Romantics. By the time revelations and motivations finally surface, they're drowned in a sea of melodrama and histrionics, far too late to redeem the film.

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