on December 25, 1996 by Jean Oppenheimer
Alan Parker's extravagant screen adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Rice/Tim Rice stage musical "Evita" proves a feast for both eye and ear. Superbly staged and choreographed (dance sequence editing is especially impressive) and beautifully lit and shot by Darius Khondji (who lensed last year's "Seven"), the Hollywood Pictures release also benefits from exceptionally fine performances by both Madonna and Antonio Banderas.
  &#160Madonna portrays Eva Peron, the ambitious small-town girl who rose from poverty to the top echelons of Argentine society as the mistress and, later, wife of the country's fascist president Juan Peron ("Carrington's" Jonathan Pryce). A calculating woman who used people--usually men--to get what she wanted, Peron also evinced great sympathy for her nation's impoverished masses and, once in a position of power, devoted herself to such social welfare measures as building new hospitals and new homes for the aged, and she oversaw the free distribution of thousands of household items to the poor. Such largesse helped drive the country into bankruptcy and antagonized her husband's military colleagues, who strongly disapproved of the political influence she wielded over him. It was the masses who worshipped Eva and immortalized her after her premature death from cancer.
  &#160Helping to guide the audience through both Peron's life and Argentina's complex political situation in this Cinergi production is Banderas as a kind of one-man Greek chorus. A strong singing voice and smoldering good looks contribute to his performance.
  &#160Although the film's voices are fine, "Evita's" one key miscalculation is the disembodied nature of those voices. All screen musicals are lipsynched, but here the songs don't seem to be emanating from the characters. Perhaps this is due to all the high-falutin' sound equipment in theatres these days, which bombard audiences with sound from every corner, rather than just from the screen. But it proves offputting; moviegoers at least need the illusion that the songs they're hearing are bursting from the mouths of the characters on the silver screen before them. Starring Madonna, Antonio Banderas and Jonathan Pryce. Directed by Alan Parker. Written by Alan Parker and Oliver Stone. Produced by Robert Stigwood, Alan Parker and Andrew G. Vajna. A Buena Vista release. Musical. Rated PG for thematic elements, images of violence and some mild language. Running time: 136 min
Tags: Madonna, Antonio Banderas, Jonathan Pryce, Alan Parker, Oliver Stone, Robert Stigwood, Andre G. Vajina, Buena Vista, Musical, violence, Argentina, love

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