A review of “Callas Forever” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: **

Rating: Unrated but could be PG-13 for language and adult sensibilities

Run Time: 1 hour, 48 minutes. In English and a potpourri of foreign languages sans subtitles

 

 

Fans of gifted soprano Maria Callas will be weeping into their opera glasses over Franco Zeffirelli’s tired and campy portrayal of the waning years of the infamous diva. 

Fanny Ardant is the aging Callas, who has gone into seclusion after a disastrous Japanese concert that virtually ended her career.  Schlocky producer cum Callas friend Larry Kelly (Jeremy Irons) will have none of her pity party, forcing her out of retirement by promising her a lip-synced film version of “Carmen”.

Callas agrees to sell her creative soul to the devil and technology by mounting an ambitious production of the flashy opera, complete with hunky young co-stars and a garish set design. Think Ashlee Simpson in a contemporary version of “Tosca”. But Satan may have something to say about the repercussions of rediscovering yourself.

Callas is badly crafted filmmaking with a curiously convivial side. Credit a corny script (“Did Icarus have a second chance?”), smirky themes regarding the integrity of performance art and overblown performances by Irons (the definition of pony-tailed cheese) and Ardant, who plays it moody, melodramatic and sorrowful.  

I laughed repeatedly and in all the wrong places; there’s a saving grace in humor. Zeffirelli based this homage on his long-term friendship and collaboration with Callas, who must be spinning in her grave.