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Evita (15th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray]
15th Anniversary Edition
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Celebrate the 15th Anniversary (1996 - 2011) of an inspirational classic with a spectacular new release in Blu-ray High Definition! Join two of the world's greatest and most enduring superstars, Madonna and Antonio Banderas, in the epic musical event that is EVITA. Directed by award-winning filmmaker Alan Parker, EVITA is the riveting true-life story of Eva Peron (Madonna), who rose above childhood poverty and a scandalous past to achieve unimaginable fortune and fame. Despite widespread controversy, her passion changed a nation forever. Garnering an Academy Award(R) for Best Song (1996, "You Must Love Me," by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber) and 3 Gold Globe Awards (Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Song) -- critics across the world hailed EVITA as an indelible masterpiece. Now, with a new state-of-the-art digital restoration, you can experience every scene and unforgettable song like never before!
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Arguably one of Lloyd Webber's finest shows, EVITA's greatest strength lies in its wealth of excellent songs, matched to scale by Alan Parker's steady directorial hand, crafting a film whose sheer elegance meets (and perhaps even exceeds) the high bar set by the original musical. Like JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, an earlier Rice/Lloyd Webber collaboration, EVITA contains very little spoken dialogue, it is in fact almost an opera. What little dialogue exists was cowritten by Alan Parker and Oliver Stone. The toe-tapping highlights include "Oh, What A Circus", "Buenos Aires", "Another Suitcase In Another Hall", "I'd Be Surprisingly Good For You", "High Flying, Adored", and, of course, EVITA's iconic ballad "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina." Nabbing EVITA the 1997 Oscar for Best Original Song, "You Must Love Me", an additional tune cooked up by Rice and Lloyd Webber especially for the film, adds a tender emotional poignancy to the latter stages of Eva's saga.
If you are reading this review and have not seen the film, your primary concerns might revolve around Madonna as Eva Peron. How could a pop star, though not often an actress, fare in such a high-profile leading role? Forgive the (totally intended) EVITA-related pun, but...she's suprisingly good. Along with a solid performance in all other respects, Madonna's vocals convey well the many sides of Eva Peron's makeup: the fragility, pain, and lingering resentments from her youth, her drive and passion to help Argentina's working classes, as well as her eyes-on-the-prize iciness and savvy skill at manipulating both herself and others in the course of her ultimate ambition. Toward the end of the film, with terminal cancer setting in and Evita's demise imminent, Madonna's performance stirred me almost to tears. Crucify me now, but I believe Madonna proves herself a better Evita than Patti LuPone. I, for one, don't miss LuPone's overtly brash, annoyingly Americanized performance. I was always partial to Elaine Page's Eva Peron in the original West End production, and I feel Madonna is more in line with my preferred take on the first lady.
Antonio Banderas, though lesser vocalist compared to Madonna, still holds his own as a singer and delivers an overall excellent performance as Che. Both David Essex (Original West End) and Mandy Patinkin (Original Broadway) were superior in the role, but Banderas' presence does add some appreciated Hispanic representation to one of the key parts. Jonathan Pryce also provides a intriguingly ambiguous turn for what he is given. Despite it, however, Juan Peron remains nothing more than a supporting part; the primary gravity of the story stays where it should be, the conflict between Eva and Che. Though Pryce is briefly allowed to shine on his own in "She Is A Diamond."
I wholly recommend EVITA, a grand piece of entertainment in almost every regard, even for its handful of flaws. The most notable foible is the loss of some of the original musical's bite, with a fair few of Tim Rice's more provocative lyrics (the ones deemed too critical or unflattering toward Eva Peron) either toned down or removed completely in the translation from stage to screen. While still not afraid to lift the curtain on Eva's negative qualities, the film will seem noticeably neutered to any fans of, say, the original Broadway production and its accompanying cast recording. Viewers who do not count themselves among the purists will most likely not be bothered by the changes, for the musical's essence, and the political angle of its two creators, remains largely intact. These revisions were probably made as part of a deal allowing Alan Parker, his cast, and the crew into Argentina in pursuit of authentic locales. This seems to me a fair trade off, especially for their ability to shoot the crucial scene of Eva addressing scores of her followers from the balcony of the actual Casa Rosada. Another significant change which benefits the film version: the reeinstatement of "The Lady's Got Potential" and the reduction of the show's weakest link, "The Art Of The Possible", to little more than a passing mention. The song is not missed at all, to be quite honest.
To sum it all up, EVITA is a beautiful production, well worth the time of anyone who enjoys a great musical, and even more, a great story!
My review is based upon my Blu Ray version purchased from Amazon. The Disc's extra "The Making of Evita" brought into focus why this production works for me. Alan Parker stated that he went about making a movie in which dialogue was sung rather than spoken. The vastness of the sets and use of extras by the hundreds ( ? near thousands ) coupled with the lush musical score was very involving, personally. The 5.1 sound in my Home Theater was wonderful. My first exposure to this work was on Direct TV and one of the reasons for my Amazon purchase was to express my opinion.
The outstanding performance by the headliners was given by Banderas in my opinion, expressing great vocal sensitivity, range, and strength; his character was also the best developed. An additional highlight was Parker's close ups' of ordinary Argentinian's faces with wonderful lighting in emotional moments. Lighting 4+, Stage Sets 4+, Choreography 4+, Art Direction 4+, Costume Design 4+, Direction 4+, Sound and Film Scoring 4+.
Nonetheless, I can understand those with previous stage experience expressing disappointment. I saw stage productions of Les Mis (Colm Wilkinson) and the Phantom (Michael Crawford) 3 times each; the cinematic renditions were vast disappointments.
However, taken on it's own, this is a Wonderful Cinematic Musical Experience. I'm hard pressed to think of another Movie Musical that surpasses it. Additional viewings over time almost always bring to mind the thought: How did I miss that. Kudos to Alan Parker.
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