Described in the press notes as a story of "fate strummed by the hand of destiny", Vicente Aranda's new version of Carmen ditches the operatic Bizet score and works directly from Prosper Mérimée's 1847 novel. What emerges is little more than a torrid potboiler, brimming with grizzled, taciturn men, untamed, passionate women, betrayals, knife fights and oodles of bonking.
The delectable Paz Vega, done up to the nines in a ton of gypsy lace, sashays through the movie like a flirtatious doily, boffing practically everyone she meets. Trotting behind her is Leonardo Sbaraglia's glum virgin soldier, whose tale is woodenly related in flashback as he awaits execution...
Shot in a lush, painterly style that recalls the heritage-cinema excesses of Anthony Minghella and leavened with salty, anachronistic subtitles (at one point our ruffle-clad heroine is derided as a "shagbag"), it should be awful. But Carmen actually turns out to be something of a hoot.
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