Callas Forever

Director Franco Zeffirelli made Callas Forever to honor his friend, the world famous singer Maria Callas (1923-1977). The film takes place in the twilight of her life, after a series of disastrous concerts. She is a virtual recluse, refusing to go outside, preferring to stay in her Paris apartment at all times. Callas Forever is not a true story. Zeffirelli (Tea with Mussolini, Jane Eyre) made an almost whimsical 'what-if' type story that shows Callas (Fanny Ardant, 8 Women, Change My Life) as the diva she is, yet presents her in a nice, sentimental light. His intentions were surely nice, but as a whole, the film borders on dull.

One of Callas' friends, Larry Kelly (Jeremy Irons, Being Julia, And Now...Ladies and Gentlemen) is a concert promoter. He was the person behind some of her recent concerts, including one in Japan that Callas felt went horribly wrong. The truth of the matter is that she is aging, and her voice is changing. She no longer has the sheer power or range she did in her younger years. Callas, already a diva, is now turning into a grouch. She refuses to see Kelly or their mutual friend journalist Sarah Keller (Joan Plowright, Bringing Down the House, Rock My World).

But Kelly has an idea. He thinks he can levy Callas' popularity with the emerging popularity of the videocassette. He wants to film her as she is today, in all of the roles from her glory days. The catch is that he wants to dub her voice with older recordings of her, when her voice was stronger. Callas finds this abhorrent at first, but after watching a short clip, becomes convinced that this is a great idea. She soon throws herself headfirst into a gloriously sumptuous production of Carmen, one of the few operas she did not perform in her heyday. Irons has been coasting for the past few years. He never challenges himself with roles, and worse, seems to do a few for money (Dungeons & Dragons anyone?). He can play Kelly in his sleep, and it sometimes seems like he is doing so. Plowright is a little better.

Ardent is mesmerizing as Callas. The throws tantrums, pouts, sulks, yet retains a sense of regality and dignity. In other words, she seems exactly like Callas. The one problem is that her accent is all over the place. Sometimes she sounds Greek, other times she sounds French. Most of the time she sounds like something in between. Zeffirelli and Martin Sherman's (Bent, Indian Summer) spend too much time on a subplot involving Kelly and his new boyfriend Michael (Jay Rodan, The Triumph of Love, The Caveman's Valentine). It does humanize Kelly a tad, but most of the time people are wondering "why?" Overall, the script is pretty thin, and goes for a last minute turn that was probably supposed to represent artistic integrity. It may achieve this, but also has the unfortunate outcome of making people groan.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 48 minutes, Not Rated but contains some language, a PG-13 or R.

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