LowComDom Performances Presents
Film Review - Evita
Cinematography, Song, Acting, Editing, History. In that order.
Evita is a big film, with big triumphs and big problems. A single narrative about this movie, covering the many subjects in the filmmaking process, needs to be subdivided. Let's talk about what we liked best first.
Evita is a beautifully photographed film. Night scenes are shot with warm yellow soft light to bring up a romantic mood. Clearly the cinematography is the best thing about the picture. Turn off the sound and you have very interesting images to look at. I think it's Academy Award time for Darius Khondji. This is up there with Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, and anything else David Lean did. If you're a film student, you have to go just for this.
We're not talking wall-to-wall music. The beginning of Evita has regular dialogue, mostly in Spanish. But once the music starts, it never ends. Believe it or not, that a huge problem. Evita will leave you exhausted. There are no breaks in the film for the audience to rest. At 134 minutes long, this is critical. I never saw the stage version, but I suspect there was an intermission. There's none in the film, and it's a problem.
But the music is grand. Everyone involved can really belt it out. Most people will find a big surprise in Evita. Antonio Banderas' singing. No this is not his first singing role. He sang in Desperado, but that film appealed to a much different audience. Banderas plays Che, a person who just wanders through this film providing commentary. Think of him as taking on the role of the Chorus in a Shakespeare play.
The CD is going to sell well, but listen carefully. A few of the bars will remind you of Jesus Christ Superstar.
The big question everyone was asking before the release date was "Can Madonna act?" Hasn't anyone seen her other films? Can Madonna act? Who cares? The attraction here is Madonna looks like Eva Peron and sings better than anyone else in film you're going to see today. Can she act? This film doesn't answer that question; the character doesn't have enough depth to find out.
Now the bad news. The editing department isn't getting any doughnuts. Remember that problem about the film making you tired? That's technically the editor's fault. But worst yet is a question that popped into my head while watching the movie. During the signature tune, Don't Cry For Me Argentina is where Eva Peron is on the balcony, telling everyone she's still one of them: a peasant. I sat there wondering why the hell do these people love her? She's done nothing to earn their love. It's after that scene, when Evita starts handing out bread and wine to the peasants, that we see any reason for them to give a damn about her. Clearly, something is out of order.
What is interesting is the story structure. It's very similar to David Attenborough's Gandhi. In the first scene, the principal character dies. Second scene, a funeral procession down the main boulevard of a big city. Thousands line the street. Flower petals fall to land on the fallen leader. Last scene is the funeral. Everything in between is flashback of the life of the principal character. It's almost identical in both movies. The difference is Gandhi inspired people by not grabbing power. Gandhi dies when his work is finished, and his country is established and strong. Eva Peron dies just as things are going to hell for Argentina.
Jeez, I was thinking as I left the theater, "Oliver Stone should have written this!" Later I found out I was pretty close to the mark. Evita is many things, but it is not historically correct at all. I was surprised later to find that Stone did co-write the screenplay.
Just the Facts, Ma'am.
The movie depicts Evita as a woman born out of wedlock in disgrace, a peasant who sleeps her way to the top so she can help the poor of Argentina. Reality check here. Eva Duarte was a woman born out of wedlock in disgrace, a peasant who slept her way to the top so she could help herself to incredible Fascist power.
She kept black lists of people who had ever said anything bad about her. She and Juan Peron stole enormous wealth from Argentina.
The film also depicts Juan Peron as a general dictator who first grabbed power from the last general dictator. Then another bunch of generals grabbed power from him and he quit the military and ran for president.
The fact is Peron was never elected to any position. He grabbed power, and declared himself president the same as Anwar Sadat did in Egypt.
Evita, a long movie that's historically fiction beyond belief. Yes, Oliver Stone has had a hand in this.
Directed by Alan Parker
Released in 1996
MPAA Rating: PG
Reviewed by Mongo