East Penn Press

Friday, July 19, 2019
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO COURTESY CBS FILMSLuciano Pavarotti subject of ”Pavarotti” documentary film. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO COURTESY CBS FILMSLuciano Pavarotti subject of ”Pavarotti” documentary film.

Movie Review: ‘Pavarotti’: Life as opera

Monday, July 8, 2019 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

After Ron Howard directed the documentary film, ”The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years” (2016), one can Imagine (the name of Howard’s and Brian Grazer’s film and television production company), Howard saying, “How can I top that”?

First, there was the little matter of directing the feature movie, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” (2018).

When it came to the topic of his next documentary, Howard chose the rock star of opera, tenor Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007).

The documentary film is not only about Pavarotti, but the world of opera, the singing of opera, and tenors, in particular. Pavarotti’s career is charted from his earliest days, growing up as son of a baker who was also a tenor, but who didn’t have a professional career.

The film presents opera in the context of an Italian family. Pavarotti grew up in post World War II Italy and seemed to have a sense of destiny about his life and his career.

One cannot forgot that indelible smile of Pavarotti, his quick-witted remarks, his love of food and cooking, his passion for life and his larger-than-life personality, all represented in “Pavarotti,” which succeeds in telling the story of a great talent and making the movie-goer want to learn more.

“Pavarotti” is life as opera. Look for a feature documentary Oscar nomination for “Pavarotti.”

Pavarotti’s early days, his big break, his rise to fame and his superstar status as an arena concert headliner in the age of rock concerts is chronicled. The career of Pavarotti changed the way we think of and appreciate opera. Pavarotti helped to popularize opera in the United States, and especially in China.

The private life of Pavarotti is also delved into. Pavarotti’s life was the stuff of opera plots. All this and the incredible singing of Pavarotti, heard throughout the film. The film alone is worth seeing to see and hear Pavarotti sing and perform.

Howard (director, “Apollo 13,” 1995; Oscar director and picture recipient, “A Beautiful Mind,” 2001), directs from a screenplay by Mark Monroe (“The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years” and many outstanding documentary feature films) and consulting writer Cassidy Hartmann (“The Apollo,” 2019).

Howard culled archival footage of Pavarotti performances, television interviews with Pavarotti, interviews conducted for the film with Pavarotti’s ex-wife, daughters, second wife and artistic and business associates (including U2’s Bono, pianist Lang Lang and producer Harvey Goldsmith), family still photos of Pavarotti, newsreel footage of luminaries in Pavarotti’s orbit (Lady Diana, Nelson Mandella) to tell the story with a wealth of detail, understanding and humor, ironic or otherwise (Pavarotti is said to have often traveled with 28 suitcases, one of which was stuffed with pasta, cheese and other ingredients for him to cook with).

Among the more fascinating aspects of the documentary is the explanation as to how the promotion of Pavarotti concerts made him a household name; the concerts, “Pavarotti & Friends,” which became star-studded annual fundraisers, and “The Three Tenors” concerts, with Plácido Domingo and José Carreras, which launched a genre of concert performance.

If youre a fan of opera and classical music, “Pavarotti” is a must-see. If you’re not a fan, “Pavarotti” may make you a fan. Don’t miss it.

“Pavarotti,” MPAA rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Parents are urged to be cautious. Some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers.) for brief strong language and a war related image; Genre: Documentary, Biography, Music; Run time: 1 hr., 54 min. Distributed by CBS Films.

Credit Readers Anonymous: The album,”Pavarotti: Music from the Motion Picture,” available on digital download and CD, has 22 studio and live tracks.

Box Office, July 5-7: “Spider-Man: Far From Home” crushed the July 4 week and weekend competition, opening with $93.6 million, weekend, $185 million, since opening July 2, putting aside “Toy Story 4,” ending its two-week run at No. 1, with a still respectable $34.3 million, $306.5 million, three weeks, as “Yesterday” continued rather strongly at No. 3, with $10.7 million, $36.8 million, two weeks.

4. “Annabelle Comes Home” dropped two places, $9.7 million, $50.1 million, two weeks. 5. “Aladdin” dropped one place, $7.6 million, $320.7 million, seven weeks. 6. “Midsommar, $6.5 million, weekend; $10.9 million, since opening -- 7. “The Secret Life Of Pets 2” dropped two places, $4.7 million, $140.7 million, five weeks. 8. “Men in Black: International” dropped two places, $3.6 million, $71.9 million, four weeks. 9. “Avengers: Endgame” dropped two places, $3.1 million, $847.8 million, 11 weeks. 10. “Rocketman” dropped one place, $2.7 million, $89.1 million, six weeks. 14. “Pavarotti” moved up three places, $470,000, $2.9 million, five weeks.

Box Office, June 28-30: “Toy Story 4” continued as the favorite, No.1 two weeks in a row, with a healthy $59.7 million, $238.6 million, two weeks. keeping the homecoming of “Annabelle Comes Home,” opening at No. 2, with $20.2 million, weekend, $31.1 million, since opening June 25, and “Yesterday,” the fake news film about The Beatles opening at No. 3, with $17 million.

4. “Aladdin” dropped two places, with $10.1 million, $306.6 million, six weeks. 5. “The Secret Life Of Pets 2” stayed in place, $7.3 million, $131.4 million, four weeks.

6. “Men in Black: International” dropped two places, $6.6 million, $65.1 million, three weeks. 7. “Avengers: Endgame,” in re-release with a new scene, moved up six places, $6.1 million, $841.8 million, 10 weeks. 8. “Child’s Play” moved down six places, $4.4 million, $23.5 million, two weeks. 9. “Rocketman” dropped three places, $3.9 million, $84.2 million, five weeks. 10. “John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum” dropped three places, $3.2 million, $161.3 million, seven weeks. 17. “Pavarotti” dropped once place, $553,067, $1.8 million, four weeks.

Unreel, July 12:

“The Farewell,” PG: Lulu Wang directs Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Gil Perez-Abraham and Diana Lin in the Comedy Drama. The grandmother in a Chinese family only has a short time to live.

“Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable,” PG: Aaron Lieber directs the documentary about Bethany Hamilton, a surfer who at age 13 had her arm ripped off by a shark.

“Crawl,” R: Alexandre Aja directs Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper, Ross Anderson and Anson Boon in the Thriller. A young woman, trying to save her father during a Category 5 hurricane, must fight off alligators.

“Stuber,” R: Michael Dowse directs Karen Gillan, Dave Bautista, Betty Gilpin and Steve Howey in the Action Comedy. A detective gets an Uber driver involved in a night of adventure.

This review is dedicated to my mother, Ruth Frederick Hartman Willistein, who finally got me to love opera.

Four Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes