Tosca

Puccini's extravagant operas haven't fared well in the movies; the medium magnifies theatricality, and close-ups of singers belting out arias can be distracting, especially if they don't quite look the part. Director Benoit Jacquot plays with these limitations in this 2001 version of Tosca, a melodrama so lurid it invites caricature. The libretto has been pared down to psychological portraits of the three principals: the tempestuous Tosca (soprano Angela Gheorghiu), who wrongly suspects her lover of having an affair; the object of her passion (tenor Roberto Alagna), an ardent painter and revolutionary who's jailed during Napoleon's invasion of Italy; and the police chief (baritone Ruggero Raimondi), who offers to trade the painter's life for sex with Tosca. The sets are like islands floating in a void, juxtaposed with sepia shots of Rome and extraneous video clips of the singers and orchestra in a recording studio; the technique purposely draws attention to the movie's artifice, but the performances pull us into the story's elemental emotions. In Italian with subtitles. 120 min.

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