The subject who is profiled in this fine film was a man who dared to build bridges between the oft-rarefied world of opera and a wider public. Great numbers of people doubtless have this man to thank for the chance to be surprised and delighted by the unique pleasures associated with opera in general and a voice like Pavarotti’s in particular.
In assembling this documentary profile of such a significant musical figure, celebrated film-maker Ron Howard has skillfully conveyed the exuberance, generosity, and joy that were such important parts of the Pavarotti persona. In addition, Howard has certainly not attempted to conceal or erase the indiscretions that Pavarotti was guilty of, nor the disappointment he engendered with his infidelities, and the resentment he inspired in some opera purists by ‘crossing over’ to popular success and widespread fame.
Howard presents his look at the man’s colourful life in a generally unsurprising format of talking-head interviews and archival footage, but he has structured the film smartly and paced it smoothly, while achieving an ideal balance of musical and non-musical sequences. Candid images from toward the end of Pavarotti’s life lend an early poignancy to proceedings; his climactic triumph with Nessun Dorma is utterly electrifying as ever, and perhaps the ultimate reminder of why this man was more than deserving of a movie about him.
The only true disappointment to be found here is the absence of any hint whatsoever of the reality that Luciano Pavarotti failed in every respect to conquer the world of cinema when convinced to star – essentially playing himself – in a misbegotten, over-budgeted romantic comedy named Yes, Giorgio. Perhaps its omission from the Pavarotti time-line here is purely a rights issue – or else merely a matter of politeness from one Oscar-winning director to another. Whatever the explanation, it’s tempting, for this reason alone, to dock Ron Howard’s film half-a-star – but that would be churlish in the extreme.
Perhaps the highest praise that can be foisted on a work such as Pavarotti is that it runs for nearly two hours and that even a non-opera-aficionado can be absorbed and entertained by virtually every minute.
Pavarotti will screen at the closing night of the Lavazza Italian Film Festival. Arrivals from 6pm next Wednesday 23rd October at Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas. Internationally acclaimed Baritone Mario Bellanova will perform live in the cinema accompanied by pianist Sachiko Hidaka prior to the screening.
Pavarotti then opens its theatrical run on October 24th.