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LA CELESTINA was written in 1499 by Fernando de Rojas and is considered
to be second only to Cervantes' DON QUIXOTE as the greatest work of
Spanish literature. Here the novel is adapted for the screen by Rafael
Azcona, Francisco Rico, and Gerardo Vera, the last contributor serving
as director of this sadly uneven film. Despite boasting a cast of some
of the finest actors in Spain, the dialogue is such a mishmash of old
rhythms and contemporary expressions that much of the magic is lost.
But then the story is a bit on the 15th century wild side: a handsome young knight Calisto (Juan Diego Botto) is obsessively in love with the beautiful Melibea (Penélope Cruz) yet it takes the love potions of the bruja Celestina (Terele Pávez), enlisted by Calisto's conniving servant Sempronio (Nancho Novo), to effect the magic. Calisto's faithful and humble servant Pármeno (Jordi Mollà) fails in his attempts to block the spells delivered by Celestina but to no avail. Once the magic is in effect the worlds of each person fall apart. The human passions of love, greed, lust, revenge, and desire interplay in a manner that brings destruction in the path.
Made in 1996 before many of the actors involved became famous, the film 'looks' magical with radiant costumes and sets and spot on music. But the dialogue is clumsy, the English translations even clumsier, and the whole story fails to work its spell on the audience. Instead of a fiery climax the film just sort of fizzles. But it is interesting to see Penélope Cruz, Juan Diego Botto, Maribel Verdú, Jordi Mollà and Nancho Novo in their early stage of development. This is an escapist period piece that could have been so much better, but even in this state it is entertaining. Grady Harp
'La Celestina' is based on Fernando de Rojas 1499 novel but this translation on screen is truly dull. 'La Celestina' looks good. The costumes and sets look radiant. The score is pleasant to the ears until it gets too repetitive and intrusive. The screenplay is poor especially the awful dialogues. 'La Celestina' is more a soap opera than a movie. Perhaps the director was confused about whether he was making a movie or a 'telenovella'. The dialogue delivery is laughably bad. The soliloquys are most annoying. The acting is overtly theatrical. With actors like Jordi Molla and Penelope Cruz, one would have expected better. Maribel Verdu is the only one who turns in a decent performance. For a fairy tale, 'La Celestina' has a lot of sex which are tastefully shot. Anyway, the film doesn't otherwise live up to expectation. Yawn.
Interesting movie to look at, but failed to make me really care about the characters. The dialogue and manner of speaking was rather artificial and overly-theatrical; as if it were trying to go for a Shakespeare-lite effect. The characters' actions sometimes seemed to be nonsensical and in service to the plot rather than being the way people in such a situation would really behave; they would often act against their own obvious best interests with little to gain. If there was any kind of theme here I'm not sure what it was: Greed is bad? Let love take a natural course, without resorting to supernatural means to advance it? And I'm not even sure that Celestina really did any "magic" to get the two lovers together; she was just more of a persuasive facilitator than potion-brewing sorceress. I myself didn't have any problem with the sex/nudity; there's nothing wrong with looking at beautiful bodies and people enjoying each other. In the DVD I saw, however, some of the full-frontal nudity was blurred out, and some--a scene of Mr. Botto arising out of a bathtub--was not, so I guess someone somewhere DID have a problem with it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Quite disappointing. Sometimes the Spanish confuse smut for art and this is a case in point. This movie was probably the point in time where Penelope Cruz's beauty and talent started to become a thing of exploit. I having been watching her films back to back for the past few months because I recently became a devoted fan and I have to say this is one of the worst films I am seen her in next to 'Don't Tempt Me' and 'Sahara', I honestly don't get the point of all soft porn scenes, I mean I know this film was shot in a era (15th century) when stuff like that was as normal and inconsequential as tying ones shoe laces but come on the point was made when it was shown once or twice. That said, it's nice to see that Ms. Cruz has blossomed as an actor since then.
If you like Penélope Cruz or Juan Diego Botto, don't ever watch this film. Possibly it is their worst interpretation. But La Celestina is more than these two players. All the supporting actors and actresses make a really good job, and it is always a pleasure to see Terele Pávez playing. The setting is good, the dresses are quite correct and the adaptation of this difficult book (novel or theater play or whatever the critics decide it will be) is, at least, acceptable.
Nothing stands out as particularly bad in this movie. The problem is, nothing is especially good, either. The story kept me mildly interested, but the entertainment value was usually kept to a minimum. The ending surprised me a little, but it certainly wasn't enough to cancel out the overall mediocrity. A decent way to kill some time, but nothing more.
Based on the famous classics book of Spanish literature, La celestina is a tragic history of desperate love in the XIV Century in Spain. Calisto is in love to Melibea, hoping to seduce her, he contracts the services of Celestina, who will make all that is needed to make lovers meet. However, destiny will play a part, and the end will show us the consequences of loving too much. The movie has a great job of adapting to the time is set, moreover, the work of the actors is quite good and the directing is not bad. What's the problem? the story, it is boring and make the 2 hours a time too long to spend in this movie. In addition, the fact that most of the time characters are like saying a poem instead of speaking make it a little hard to follow because you have to be very aware of this boring movie to understand it completely. If the main book was better, the movie could have been quite good, but that's the problem, the plot is boring and empty, that spoils all the enormous job of the technicals.
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