Thursday, February 19, 2009

"The Car Man": UK ballet/TV "film" from 2001 follows Bizet very loosely (with American gas stations?)


Netflix, Image Entertainment and Warner Music Video offer a DVD of the 2001 “ballet” adaptation of Bizet’s opera Carmen, as a “pseudo-movie” called “The Car Man”, directed by Ross MacGibbon. The musical arrangement is by Terry Davies and Rodion Shchedrin , and the stagecraft (in the UK) is directed by Matthew Bourne. (The blocked string chords at the beginning of the play may be original music.) The ballet (rather crisp at 90 minutes) was filmed by Britain’s KDM 4 for 2001 broadcast in Britain.

The stage looks American, however; it sets up a small town with gas stations and repair shops in the 50s. The metaphor to the title of the opera seems clever but perhaps a bit artificial. A stranger waltzes into town as a kind of flim-flam man, stirring up rivalries leading to murder. The ballet plot very roughly parallels Bizet’s opera, and practically all of the music sounds like a chamber orchestra arrangement of the famous orchestral music and dances from the opera. Although the same rivalry from the opera occurs, there is a lot of homoerotic overtones (almost like a “gay” Carmen), with some “dirty dancing” (both among the “couples” and among the men themselves) and a big (male) kiss in one climactic scene. There’s a jail house scene that reminds one of the way Will Kemp is stunning as the agile, smooth-skinned and conniving Angelo. But not everyone fits into the fantasies of gay perfection, as at least one major dancer is actually overweight (and gets shot).

I don’t know if the “film” was aired at LGBT festivals in 2001.

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