Bel Canto is an upcoming hostage drama film directed by Paul Weitz, based on a script by Weitz and Anthony Weintraub. It is based on the novel of the same name, by Ann Patchett. It stars Julianne Moore, Ken Watanabe, Sebastian Koch and Christopher Lambert.
It is scheduled to be released on September 14, 2018
A famous American soprano is trapped in a hostage situation when she is invited to perform for a rich industrialist in South America.
Can you make a sympathetic movie about radical terrorists in today’s world? That question must surely have plagued the creators of Bel Canto, which could explain why the film version of Ann Patchett’s acclaimed novel took almost two decades to reach the screen. The book was published in 2001, shortly before the terrorist attacks of September 11; It was inspired by a real-life hostage crisis that took place in Peru in 1996. But when the United States was attacked, all the ground rules changed.
Producer Caroline Baron opted for the novel in 2002, and although the film is not perfect, it was worth waiting for. A superb and multicultural cast, led by Oscar winner Julianne Moore, makes the fascinating story come alive, but the theme may still be too disturbing to imagine more than modest box office returns.
Moore plays Roxane Coss, a famous opera singer who accepts traveling to an unidentified South American country to perform at a diplomatic dinner. A Japanese industrialist (Ken Watanabe) who is at the head of a business has requested his presence due to his admiration for his talent. (His lifelong obsession with opera was further documented in the novel.) But Roxane has barely finished his performance when the group is invaded by a band of armed rebels who take the whole group hostage to demand the release of political prisoners. The rebels hoped to confront the president of the country, but he skipped the party because he did not want to miss his favorite telenovela, which was on television that night.
That macabre comic touch, extracted directly from the novel, is indicative of the irreverent approach adopted by writer and director Paul Weitz and co-writer Anthony Weintraub. There are other funny and tender moments as the film gradually expands its reach and presents us with more than a dozen characters, including the French ambassador (Christopher Lambert), a German negotiator (Sebastian Koch) and a Russian businessman (Olek Krupa) , along with the rebels. The characters often have trouble communicating, so a Japanese translator brought in by the tycoon and represented by Ryo Kase plays a crucial role in the drama.
Weitz took the wise decision that the characters speak in their own languages when appropriate, much of the film is subtitled. The theme of multicultural interaction remains timely, perhaps especially during Trump’s time. The performances are uniformly excellent. One of the most attractive actors is the Guatemalan actress Maria Mercedes Coroy, who starred in the movie Ixcanul a few years ago and who plays a rebel armed with weapons here. Watanabe has an imposing presence, and Moore acts with his usual warmth and skill. As the hostage crisis continues, their musical performances help unite the opposing factions. (The star of the opera Renee Fleming provides the voice, and the dubbing is technically expert).
We know from real-life hostage situations that captives and captives can develop a certain mutual sympathy as their forced intimacy advances. This was one of the strong themes of Sidney Lumet’s Dog Evening more than 40 years ago.
That movie went on for a long day. In Bel Canto, the hostages and prisoners are together for a much longer time, although it is never very clear exactly how long.
The real hostage crisis in Peru lasted four months.
This vagueness over the time frame leads to the only significant error in the image. As time passes, four of the people trapped in the mansion are paired as lovers, and this gives credulity, partly because the film never clarifies whether days, weeks or months have passed.
Here Weitz runs into one of the most challenging traps for a filmmaker: to establish the passage of time. A novelist can remind us how many days or weeks have elapsed.
A previous movie could have overlapping titles that indicate “Day 2”, “Day 23”, and a much older movie could have shown the pages of a dissolving calendar. Obviously Weitz did not want to rely on such archaic techniques, but he may have underestimated the difficulty of clarifying the time frame in an artistic but forceful way.
However, the film benefits from the fine cast and many sharp and moving moments. It is an impressive achievement also from the technical point of view.
The interiors of the South American mansion were filmed on a farm in Yonkers, New York, while the exteriors were filmed in Mexico City, and yet the atmosphere always seems authentic.
Even for people who do not remember the outcome of the hostage crisis in Peru, it is quite clear that this story will not end well. But the implications reverberate, and many small human moments remain in the memory.
“It’s the opera, so in the end everyone dies”, the soprano Roxanne Coss (Julianne Moore) confesses without help to a guest, before entering the living room of the manor of a politician to offer a private presentation for a small meeting of global elites and some feared waiters.
Definitely, the death comes for the Bel Canto, to slow fire, based on the acclaimed novel of 2001 of Ann Patchett, although not in the form of conquerors or pirates or consumption in an attic of Paris. Instead, it is geopolitical: a resistance movement desperate enough to become a militia by smashing a vice president’s party with machine guns and an impossible list of demands.
What they do not know is that the president with whom they have come to speak is not even there; he is at home watching his soap operas. Which means that the only influence they have is these minor citizens, and all the time it takes for the powers to respond.
No one is thrilled to be caught suddenly at hell’s dinner, and less Roxanne. She did not even want to be in this elegant house in this Latin American country without a name in the first place; She only agreed to come because she is paid a very large fee to sing specifically for Katsumi Hosokawa (Ken Watanabe), a Tokyo mogul that the local government hopes to attract to build a factory in their troubled city.
Director Paul Weitz is best known for lighter and more observational stories such as About a Boy and Mozart in the Jungle, and the strongest moments at Bel Canto are the little ones. The broader situation outside the walls of the house is never explained in detail, especially since it is not necessary.
On the other hand, as the captivity extends from days to weeks, the narrative is about all the small human dramas that happen inside: the unlikely attractions that are formed and the tentative gestures of friendship; the way a curious rebel gets a quilt on his nose to sniff the silk or a silver-haired hostage teaches one of his young captors how to shave more.
For the most part, it’s a study of acting in class: Moore’s Coss is a diva on stage and offstage, imperious but lonely; Hosokawa de Watanabe is an old-world gentleman, intelligent enough to know how bad his disorder is, and the part that men like him play in it; Tenoch Huerta (No Name) is stubborn and touching as the rebel leader, and Ryo Kase and Maria Mercedes Coroy, as the translator and soldier who silently builds a bridge between their language barriers, are Romeo and Juliet transcultural of the film.
Not much happens for a long time, until it does: the calm of the medium leads to a sudden and heart-rending climax before dissolving into a clumsy postscript (although to be fair, the rewriting here could be better than the left margin of the book takes) . Too bad that Weitz chose to keep a coda; in those penultimate scenes, he has already played the best notes of Bel Canto
Works & Process, the Guggenheim performing arts series, presents Bel Canto: Inside the Music with Renée Fleming, David Majzlin, Anthony Weintraub and Elena Park on Sunday, September 16, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. M.
For the new film Bel Canto, based on Ann Patchett’s award-winning novel, Renée Fleming offers the soprano voice of Roxane Coss (Julianne Moore), the famous diva who is dragged along with the wealthy Japanese industrialist Katsumi Hosokawa (Ken Watanabe) , in a long hostage crisis in a South American country. This dramatic love story, directed by Paul Weitz (who also co-wrote the script), is developed with a dazzling score that features David Majzlin’s original music and classic opera arias. Fleming and Majzlin join Anthony Weintraub (producer / co-writer) of Bel Canto and Elena Park (music producer, who will moderate) to talk about the creation of the film and musical choices. Soprano Marguerite Jones, pianist Ken Noda and Ensemble 63 will perform music selections presented in the film. Bel Canto debuts in theaters on September 14.
The main funding for Works & Process is provided by The Florence Gould Foundation, The Christian Human Foundation, Mertz-Gilmore Foundation, Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Evelyn Sharp Foundation, with public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and New Department of Affairs. Cultural of the City of York in association with the City Council.
Described by The New York Times as “an exceptional opportunity to understand something of the creative process”, for more than 34 years and in more than 500 productions, New Yorkers have been able to see, hear and meet the most acclaimed artists in the world, in a intimate environment different from any other. Works & Process, the Guggenheim performing arts series, has promoted new works and has offered the public unprecedented access to generations of leading creators and performers. Most of the performances take place in the intimate Peter B. Lewis Theater designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, 285 seats, designed by the Guggenheim.
Screen Media has acquired North American rights for “Bel Canto,” Paul Weitz’s adaptation of Ann Patchett’s acclaimed novel. The drama about a hostage crisis is played by Julianne Moore and Ken Watanabe. The legend of the opera Renée Fleming contributes with the voice of the film. A national theatrical release is planned for September.
“Bel Canto” focuses on Roxane Coss (Moore), a famous American soprano, who travels to South America to give a private concert at the birthday party of a Japanese magnate (Watanabe). The festivities are interrupted by the guerrillas who ask for the release of their imprisoned comrades. A long confrontation takes place and, as the talks continue, links are formed between hostages and captors.
Sebastian Koch, Christopher Lambert, Ryo Kase, Tenoch Huerta and María Mercedes Coroy complete the cast. The film was written by Anthony Weintraub and Weitz. It is produced by Caroline Baron and Anthony Weintraub of A-Line Pictures; Weitz and Andrew Miano of Depth of field; and Lizzie Friedman, Karen Lauder and Greg Little, who are producing and financing through their company Priority Pictures.