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CARMEN (2023)

Release Date: 05/19/23 [Cinemas]
Genre: Drama. Musical.

Studio: Sony Pictures Classics

"Benjamin Millepied's complete reimagining of CARMEN tells a story through an experimental dreamscape featuring an original score and songs." 


Carmen is a fascinating film - by all means it feels like something that should very much work for someone like me, but Benjamin Millepied's debut surrealist dance drama somewhat misses the mark in creating the audio-visual journey it wants to take you on. At the center of the film you have Melissa Barrera as our title character, and Paul Mescal in a forbidden romance along the US/Mexico border. While the performances and the story remain captivating, Millepied's directing feels somewhat flat in nearly every corner which makes Carmen ultimately disappointing.


Following Carmen and Aiden through their fugitive romance is perhaps the most engaging thing about the film; Aiden is a Marine on the run from the law with Carmen who is searching for answers about her family's past. Barrera and Mescal are tremendous performers, and their chemistry really shines here. They form a love that's quite palpable and poetic. The cast surrounding them is so-so; Rossy de Palma's supporting performance in it is especially powerful whenever she shows up. However, the remaining supporting cast give quite a handful of awkward performances, and sadly, there are other aspects that also feel quite off.


Millepied's directing here feels quite voiceless; being a surrealist dance film, it at least does have quite entertaining dance scenes for the most part, but it feels when the film doesn't focus on dancing and movement, the filmmaking becomes quite uninspired and average. The coverage and editing just fail to really engage with most of the drama, and some parts just end up feeling quite empty and lazy. Millepied has experience doing choreography for film's such as Black Swan and Vox Lux, but it feels even with that, Millepied's missing a few opportunities to make his dance sequences more impactful. There's needs to be some of that jolt that gets me feeling what the characters ate. Beautiful and sweeping at parts, yes, but still missing that one thing to really make them special.


Carmen was a disappointment, sure, but I am still glad I watched it. Millepied's got a lot of promise as a filmmaker here that he doesn't quite unlock. He's able to really bring out great performances from Barrera and Mescal, the dance scenes are fun to watch, and he's able to deliver an engaging story, but he still seems a bit unfocused in some areas, and they're quite vital areas. Unfortunately, Carmen just falters into being quite unengaging and awkward that leaves the viewer wanting so much more from it.

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