If I were to give any advice it would be watch her films first, as this interpretation does little to elevate her reputation or forge a career path where more stage directing seems either viable or cost effective…
This review is guaranteed to veer towards the unconventional. Films are easier to evaluate than recorded versions of stage plays, rock concerts and opera. They have genre, structure, narrative, action and more than one location. Therefore being asked to review Sofia Coppola’s version of Verdi’s La Traviata has thrown up a few obstacles. First one being my unfamiliarity with the subject matter and my second being similar in every way to my first.
What I know of Coppola and her films is somewhat more rounded so let’s start with that. Whether we look at Lost In Translation, The Virgin Suicides or Marie Antoinette, one thing that shines through is Coppola’s lack of directorial interference. At its best this builds a work of delicacy, defined my singular moments where she seems to be observing rather than refining and moulding. Kirsten Dunst and Scarlett Johansson epitomise this fragility through strength which many of Coppola’s protagonists seem to possess. Which is why her move towards opera felt strange to hear about and even more so when watching the end result.
There has been a lot made of Nathan Crowley’s involvement with La Traviata. An Oscar-winning production designer responsible for The Dark Knight, The Prestige and most other things Christopher Nolan related. His contribution here appears to be minimal at best, with sweeping staircases, summer house backdrops and ornate furniture summing up his presence. For someone who had a hand in the sequel which redefined Batman for a generation you sort of expect more. Apart from a few grandiose chandeliers which I suspect were already part of the existing décor, there is little to suggest anything special.
From the other side we have the involvement of Valentino for costumes, who does a great job of bringing all his pomp and ceremony to proceedings. Lavish gowns, tailored made attire and that sense of no expense spared you would associate with a top tier opera production. Which is unfortunately all that can be recommended here for the production itself seems flat. Now I am no opera critic but do know a thing or two about film and filmmaking. Which is why Coppola’s direction here should have something special, dynamic, cinematic, film worthy or at least unique as a selling point. But the stage is never really utilised fully in order to make an impact. People sit and sing, get up and sing some more, but beyond that there is nothing new offered which might raise this production beyond the norm. If I were to give any advice it would be watch her films first, as this interpretation does little to elevate her reputation or forge a career path where more stage directing seems either viable or cost effective.
Written by Martin Carr
Directed by: Sofia Coppola
Written by: n/a
Released: 2017 / Genre: Performance Film
Country: USA / IMDB
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La Traviata was released in UK cinemas July 9.