June 23, 1995 in Seven

‘Farinelli’: Film Doesn’t Live Up To Voice

By The Spokesman-Review
 

When it comes to great art, suffering tops the list of requisites. Or so some art lovers want us to believe.

Yet nothing is more tiresome than watching an angst-filled artist alternately preen and hyperventilate between aweinspiring performances. It’s the performance, after all, that we pay to see, not neurotic posturing.

Movie after movie has made this mistake. The best of the lot, movies such as “Amadeus,” thrill us with music (Mozart!) and grandeur and the occasional laugh.

The worst, movies such as Ken Russell’s “The Music Lovers,” waste the music (Tchaikovsy!) and fill the intervening frames with one overheated dramatic situation after another.

“Farinelli,” a Golden Globe winner for Best Foreign Language film (and an Oscar nominee), ranks between the two extremes.

The music is intriguing, if your tastes run to opera. The set design, cinematography and attention to period-piece detail is superior. And the plotline, which tells the story of a renowned Italian singer of the 18th century, is intriguing - if bizarre.

Carlo Broschi, who performed under the stage name Farinelli, was a real person. His appeal was due to the then-popular practice that caused him a life of personal torture: To retain his child-like high voice, he was castrated at age 10.

At his peak, his voice enraptured Europe, earning fame and fortune both for himself and his brother, the composer Riccardo Broschi, whom he had reason to both love and hate.

But while Carlo could love women, he could not impregnate them. His voice, for all its beauty, could not save him from that humiliation.

The dramatic potential here is apparent. Yet director Gerard Corbiau and his coscreenwriter wife Andree fail to mine it fully.

They play with time to tell Carlo’s story. They even play with historical accuracy.

Most of all, though, they play with our emotions - pulling us close with imagery only to push us away with an uneven tone of melodramatic vanity.

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “Farinelli” ** 1/2 Location: Magic Lantern Cinemas Credits: Co-written (with Andree Corbiau) and directed by Gerard Corbiau, starring Stefano Dionisi, Enrico Lo Verso, Else Zylberstein and Jeroen Krabbe. Running time: 1:50 Rating: R (in French and Italian with English subtitles)

This sidebar appeared with the story: “Farinelli” ** 1/2 Location: Magic Lantern Cinemas Credits: Co-written (with Andree Corbiau) and directed by Gerard Corbiau, starring Stefano Dionisi, Enrico Lo Verso, Else Zylberstein and Jeroen Krabbe. Running time: 1:50 Rating: R (in French and Italian with English subtitles)

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