THE TRUTH IS a strange thing in the film industry. All too often the disclaimer that a piece is ‘based on the unbelievable but true story’ is used in the marketing junket. Does it really matter? Does it work? Do people flock more to see a film that offers a semblance of veracity than one that is a pure figment of a writer’s imagination? One thing is for sure: when you see Ron Howard’s documentary on Luciano Pavarotti, you will never again settle for the fictional biography of anyone. No matter how much fact it promises you. This is the real thing.
Even if you are not a Pavarotti fan, you will be seduced by this intensely well researched and beautifully constructed foray into the life of this imminently popular tenor. It’s replete with popular culture heroes, from conductor Zubin Mehta to Princess Di, Nelson Mandela to Bono. There is footage of Pavarotti’s wives and children and parents. He died of pancreatic cancer in 2007, having given opera a popular face and a universally known energy during the 72 years in which he graced the planet.
It’s a biopic which demonstrates a keen understanding of human relationships, arias and the deathly pall of too much talking heads or shopping lists of detail. What you get, then, is a highly readable portrait filled with fresh and vibrant detail that really hits the sweet spot. There is neither too little nor too much music or words and the piece doesn’t lionise the man unnecessarily. A giant with a voice so clear you feel as though you could count the molecules of sound it contained, Pavarotti didn’t have a flawless personal life and nerves, love affairs, loneliness and doubt threatened him in the same way as they threaten anyone.
You learn a lot in this work, but you come away from it beautifully entertained. It feels like every aspect of the research formalities have been attended to, in this thorough and strong piece that will make you look back on films that bend over backward to recreate an historical persona. The entertainment and film industry in which we currently live has sufficient access to archival resources and technology that doesn’t necessitate some hapless actor to be physically moulded to fill the shoes of a hero. You, in the audience, can rather get to see the real thing. It’s always the first prize.
- Pavarotti is directed by Ron Howard and written by Cassidy Hartmann and Mark Monroe. It features archival footage, which includes Kofi Annan, Bono, Herbert H Breslin, José Carreras, Enrico Caruso, Princess Diana, Plácido Domingo, Phil Donahue, Angela Gheorghiu, Harvey Goldsmith, Vittorio Grigòlo, Andrea Griminelli, Russell Harty, Clive James, Láng Lang, Jim Laurie, Spike Lee, Nelson Mandela, Nicoletta Mantovani, Zubin Mehta, Anne Midgette, Madelyn Renée Monti, Adele Pavarotti, Cristina Pavarotti, Fernando Pavarotti, Giuliana Pavarotti, Lorenza Pavarotti, Luciano Pavarotti, Terri Robson, Tibor Rudas, Joan Sutherland, Carol Vaness, Adua Veroni, Joseph Volpe and Stevie Wonder. Produced by Jeanne Elfant Festa, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Michael Rosenberg and Nigel Sinclair, it features creative input by Ric Markmann, Matter Music, Dan Pinnella and Chris Wagner (music), Axel Baumann, Michael Dwyer and Patrizio Saccò (cinematography), and Paul Crowder (editing). Release date through Cinema Nouveau: September 26 2019.