Cheers for F. Mitterrand
Sacha | Bloomfield, NJ | 06/25/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"When considering the characteristics of opera, it naturally follows that the genre would be difficult to film. Not so for Mitterrand with his Madame Butterfly; from casting to direction to filming, Mitterrand wins. The title role must do far more than "look Asian," she must also live the role...even more so when being filmed as "Butterfly." Ying Huang proves herself a sensitive and sensible actress as well as a singer with an expressive and powerful voice. Richard Troxell as "B. F. Pinkerton" shines in his role, allowing the callousness of his character clash with an accidental love. Troxell uses the flexibility of the film medium to act as many opera singers seem unable to do upon finding themselves on a stage. In fact, the power of this video lies in the fact that the singers realize that they have the opportunity to be better actors than they could be in a staged version of the same work. There are retakes, more natural positions, beautiful scenery, and an amazing acoustic, even when outdoors! All in all,it is a fine work by Frederic Mitterand, Huang, Troxell, Cowan ("Sharpless"), Liang ("Suzuki"), and the rest. None of the roles had less than an accomplished actor and singer; even the role of "Kate Pinkerton" played by Constance Hauman was rendered with a delicate hand aware of a conflicting position and an involuntary hostility. Enjoyable for the everyday opera viewer as a fresh, beautiful feast for the eye and ear, and a first-rate film for the opera newcomer."
PUCCINI'S BUTTERFLY MORE BEAUTIFUL ON FILM
Michael D. Villecco | Fort Lauderdale, Florida United States | 10/29/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Martin Scorsese's cinematography is utterly unparralleled in his filming of the beautiful Puccini opera "Madame Butterfly". It is with a reserved caution that I say it surpasses any staged version of the opera I have ever seen! I say that cautiously so as not to offend those die-hard traditionalists, myself having been one. Scorsese transports us to an authentic Japan and his photography captures all of the intricate details and beauty for the setting of one of the worlds most beautiful stories. The film is so real that one is truly moved to tears by the end and emotionally overwhelmed. The mixed cast of both Asian and Western singers makes it even more beliebable. Soprano Ying Huang sings and acts delicately the fragile geisha who will wed the American lieutenant Pinkerton, sung by American Richard Troxell. Both are aptly cast in the film and compliment one another. Ying Huang plays the child-like Butterfly accurately as the composer would have intended. Troxell is handsome, charming and plays well the role of a not so nice character, leading Butterfly to believe he will one day return to Japan and take her back to America. He's so charming, in fact, that at times one feels he may have a change of heart along the way. From the beginning of the film with the torii standing in the Nagasaki harbor through the duration of the film, much in the leased 100 year paper and wood house built for Butterfly, one experiences many visual nuances. Scorsese can even film the softness of a breeze blowing at sundown through the house, captured by flowers moving in the dimming sunlight in a vase. The only fault I can find with the film, and it's considerable enough to detract from the overall experience, is the very unrealistic Bonze flying down from the sky at the end of the wedding ceremony. It looked somewhat foolish, considering the rest was unprecedented. Of the many filmed scenes, one that was effectively done was at the end of the opera, where Scorsese created a bad thunderstorm around the time Butterfly committed hara-kari and just at the time Kate and Sharpless pulled up in a carriage in the pouring rain to have Suzuki push the child out of the house and picked up by the Americans to be returned with his father to the States. Lastly, the cowardly Pinkerton runs into the house hoping to once more see Butterfly, but rather finds her dead on the floor. Scorsese captures the intense awkwardness and ambivalence of this moment that closes the film. In my review, I've talked little about the music or the voices. Puccini's music was sung convincingly by the cast and particularly Ying Huang and Richard Troxell, who both had great acting ability as well. But the true essence of this production was the filming and Scorsese's ability to capture so many delicate moments through the use of cinema. Please do yourself a favor and watch this beautiful opera, but rather on film as an alternate to the stage. Highly highly recommended!"
Beautiful, precious, heartbreaking
Peter Reeve | Thousand Oaks, CA USA | 03/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Mitterand's version of Madame Butterfly is that extreme rarity, a beautifully acted, beautifully sung, beautifully filmed movie version of an opera. The cast is suited, in age and appearance, to their characters, which is hardly ever the case in stage productions. Ying Huang, who as Butterfly, carries most of the weight of the drama, gives a particularly heartbreaking performance. Yes, be warned, this is the weepiest of stories and you will need a good supply of tissues close to hand.
The cinematography is employed to great effect, enough to make this more than just a filmed stage production, yet not so much as would detract from the tightly focused drama. Any filmed opera has the problem of what to do with the intermezzo. Do you omit it? Do you leave the screen blank? Mitterand's solution is to retain the music and show actual film footage of early twentieth-century Japan as a visual filler. I think this works very well and helps to support the overall realistic feel of the movie.
There is just one false note: at the wedding, the gonze (Buddhist priest) appears as a supernatural figure, floating through the air. There is no good reason for this and it simply detracts from the dramatic impact of the moment. No matter, this remains an unmissable movie for all actual and potential opera lovers. Just be prepared to cry and cry and cry...
Only the heartless could be unmoved.
Ned Fuller | Arlington, VA USA | 09/01/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The format of this production is unusual: a movie of an opera, and believe me, it works, and it works exceedingly well. A measure of Mitterand's outstanding direction is that there are no weak performances, not even for the smallest roles. Troxell is a wonderful Pinkerton and Ning Lian's Suzuki is superb (by the way, it's very refreshing to see so many Asians played by...well, Asians). The famous Scorsese attention to detail is everywhere evident, and the filming is masterful.But Madame Butterfly is the story of a woman, and Ying Huang is the real power of this production. She captures the grace, the constancy, and the heartbreaking vulnerability of Butterfly to near perfection. Her singing and her acting are absolutely marvelous.I am an opera fan from way back, but I watched this film with a bunch of my buddies who don't understand anything that isn't shaped like a football, and it pulled them in completely. Take it from me, it'll get you too...don't care who you are."