DIRECTOR: Vicente Aranda | WRITERS: Vicente Aranda, Joaquim Jordà | CAST: Paz Vega, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Jay Benedict, Antonio Dechent, Joan Crosas, Miguel Ángel Valcárcel, Ismael Martínez | Spain
Vicente Aranda’s Carmen, based directly on Prosper Mérimée’s novella, is structured as a series of flashbacks as José, due to be garroted in the morning, tells Prosper Mérimee the story of his obsessive infatuation with Carmen. But the movie is really a Playboy Channel-style excuse to show Paz Vega’s preternaturally perky and suspiciously round and bouncy boobs at every opportunity, with some stunning location filming (including inside La Mezquita) and Leonardo Sbaraglia thrown in for an occasional change of pace and soothing rest for the eyes. Paz Vega’s Carmen is a brazen whore with delusions that she’s entered into a pact with Satan, and she attacks the role like a psychotic Winona Ryder doing a Gina Gershon impression. I suppose the intended audience for this movie doesn’t mind the fact that Vega’s gym-toned and worked-on body is a complete anachronism for an Andalusian streetwalker in 1830. Did such women wear bikinis when they lay by the swimming pool to work on their tans? What else would account for this Carmen’s tan lines? Did they save their pesetas for flawless manicures and pedicures even while living in bandit encampments in the Andalusian countryside? And where did they buy their hairspray and styling gel? Leonardo Sbaraglia’s José Lizarrabengoa stretches credulity too — not for a moment did I believe that he was a shy and naïve 23-year-old virgin until he met the Playboy centerfold with a mantilla — but there’s a quiet soulfulness to his performance that at least is not an embarrassment. Fortunately, Bizet’s glorious opera wasn’t invoked even in passing so it remains unsullied by this trash.