Madame Butterfly

on May 03, 1996 by Alex Albanese
   From the earliest days of filmic storytelling, a desire arose to not squander the medium on ³mere entertainment,² but to use film to capture and disseminate our highest cultural achievements. ³Madame Butterfly,² a Sony Classical production presented by Martin Scorsese, is a film that makes many of the same old elitist assumptions, and fails for many of the same old reasons.
   Puccini's opera is a good subject for the royal treatment, ranking among those ³great works² that everyone knows about, but few people really know. The production is French (cultural bonus point), and directed by Frederic Mitterrand, nephew of the late former French president (double bonus points). The movie's undoing comes in an odd ³intermission² section between acts--a simple montage comprised of stock footage from real turn-of-the-century Japan. These grainy black-and-white street scenes are more exotic and compelling than anything Mr. Mitterrand stages for his camera, and they provide a telling object lesson on the true powers of film. Starring Ying Huang, Ning Liang, Richard Troxell, Jing-Ma Fan and Constance Hauman. An Arrow release. Opera. Italian-language; English subtitles. Running time: 140 min.
Tags: Ying Huang, Ning Liang, Richard Troxell, Jing-Ma Fan, Constance Hauman, Arrow, Opera, Italian, storytelling, royal, exotic

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