La Bohème (2008) Poster


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Slick and superb
Spondonman13 December 2009
It is what it is: a film version of an opera - they can never be anything else after all. This must be seen as a film of people miming to music with cinematography augmented by digital cartoonery supplanting stage drama, and judged on those merits. As a film it's pretty - pretty enjoyable and pretty well worth watching … and of course Anna Netrebko as Mimi is fairly pretty too!

Young penniless couple meet, fall instantly head over heels in love for no reason at all but their dreams are cruelly cut down by her illness… and all to some of the most emotionally charged music ever written. So long as the music, libretto and script are adhered to a film version can't go wrong - the director generally sticks to it and doesn't force his own interpretations on us too much. When he does, it works: a restrained use of artistic license. And there's nice imagery, plush backgrounds and clever use of colour. Trouble is, the atmosphere generated by a live performance is lost with a film – the lavish 2008 Met Opera production by Zefferelli recorded with Angela Georghiu and Ramon Vargas had its faults too but imho is preferable to this. We all probably have our own favourite versions of Puccini's most famous opera – mine is the May 1938 complete recording in Milan with Beniamino Gigli as Rodolfo (especially of O Mimi, Tu Piu Non Torni at the beginning of Act 4 - something so beautiful which has not been bettered since the advent of stereo or digital - since the singer was unrepeatable). What's yours? For arguments sake I could also say the legendary Lucrezia Bori's Mimi still resonates well through the acoustic mono hiss from her century-old records.

Netrebko has a fine and well controlled voice, but having seen her repeatedly wallow in a swimsuit to Dvorak's Song To The Moon on the late UK Classic FM TV I still wonder whether she's punching above her weight with operas like La Boheme – incidentally great blood spattered acting in the Met's Lucia Di Lammermoor a few months ago but is she colouratura enough? Her acting for the camera here is also fine, something which is occasionally in doubt when she's performing live – however the rapturous applause from her adoring Met audiences for her various performances this year leave no doubt of her superstardom. Favourite bits from many: O Soave Fancuilla - definitely not bathed in moonlight; Dunque: E Propio Finita in the pouring snow; naturally the climax back in the garret – as suitably tearjerking as it should be. However, this is a film (with minor faults) well worth the time/effort and an admirable vehicle for Anna Netrebko, as it should be. Brava!
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A Film That Brings LA BOHEME to Life
gradyharp26 December 2009
It is surprising to see the number of naysayers among the reviews of this filmed version of Puccini's beloved LA BOHEME singling out the very elements that allow stage works to become transferred to the film medium (lip syncing, closeups of cinematic details, uses of both black and white and color, etc). What seems to be overlooked is this chance to see the two leading interpreters of this opera in wide distribution for those who cannot see them in person. As a film this version by Robert Dornhelm works wonders with the intentions of Puccini's bohemian lovers living on little but their love of the arts and for life in the Parisian garrets in the snowy wintertime. He introduces moments of Paris in the snow in black and white, much like old animated daguerreotypes, before the brief overture begins and keeps the flavor of the action moving seamlessly while adding additional elements of information using the same format. He offers some visual information about the passion of the lovers that allows him to reference these moments later in the story when memory brings them forward. All of this makes the opera more than opera: these elements make this a fine movie.

But the true pleasure of this film is the glorious singing and acting of Rolando Villazón and Anna Netrebko as the lovers. They are gorgeous to look at, magnificent in their vocal interpretations, and extraordinary actors. And close behind them is the camaraderie of the entire cast, especially Nicole Cabell as Musetta, George Von Bergen as Marcello, Adrian Eröd as an exceptional Schaunard, and Vitalij Kowaljow as Colline. The involvement in the story is solid and wholly believable and this is a cast of 'minor characters' whose presence is constantly felt and appreciated. Bertrand de Billy conducts with a sure hand. In short if anyone can watch this version of LA BOHEME with a dry eye, then perhaps they are not giving the power of Puccini a chance to be extended into the cinematic techniques required of really excellent film-making. Grady Harp
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a very good curates egg
lou-23825 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I loved this Boheme and I would have given it the full marks apart from two unforgivable problems. The direction dramatises the opera while never fully straying from the original staging; however the audience, instead of being fixed are taken onto, and around the stage. This opens the drama to subtle interpretations and allows the directions to expand, as in O Soave Fancuilla where there is considerable action outside the apartment. For the most part this worked beautifully. Where it worked to some effect was in allowing Netrebko to display her considerable talents.

Now I have two rules regarding Puccini. Firstly, his soprano must be believable although she is larger than life. If she is not a diva, she is a homicidal nut case, or an utter bitch. In Boheme she is the girl you just cannot help falling in love with- just forget it -you are smitten. The second rule is that the singers must be Puccini singers they must have a strong vocal line so they can simply surf the waves of his glorious melodies. Netrebko brings the whole package and more, If you do not love this Mimi I am sorry for you. She sings beautifully, her line is strong, not powerful as in say De los Angeles. She also is aware of the production in that her singing is quite intimate. She is singing for the audience alongside her not up in the gods. The performance is correct for the medium she is in. Quite simply she is a star, a treasure. The Director took a little risk in Marcello,Colline, and Shaunard in that he hired actors to perform and they mimed the voices of the singers. Don't look for a Merrill or a Warren here, but what you do get is the most believable bunch of mates I've ever seen in Boheme. Nicole Cabell is Musetta, I personally found her more than adequate and along side Netrebko that must be good. I don't know where she found her inspiration for this role, but it must be a small world because I know this character. I did not like Villazon in this role which is a shame because his acting was good I didn't even mind his lapses into Mr Bean because it seemed to fit into his place in the company of his mates. His voice is good it has a warm colour to it; it isn't powerful but it should be more than adequate, unfortunately it seems to lack strength, in Che gelida manina he is fine until l'anima millionaria and from there, strength, not power is required; the line must hold the melody. Netrebko shows how it is done in her following aria; the line follows the melody with vowels, consonants and colour being applied with lightest of touches. He is good in the second act and again in the third until Dunque proprio finita and then again not enough strength to hold the line.

One star lost for the tenor; the other lost star baffles me, This is an Opera, not just any opera, most peoples favourite, I possess six versions. I want to hear the music and the singing there is no excuse for putting out an opera with sound faults, I tried changing amplifiers, speakers, and finally a different system, all gave the same sound break-up so I thought I had a rubbish DVD until I find others have the same problem. So there it is two stars lost and nearly a point off a third - what in the name of god is that thing on Marcellos easel, its supposed to be his masterpiece which he flogs as an inn sign when money is short. I spite of everything I loved this, the production works wonderfully and it has Netrebko and that should be enough for you to want this.
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La Boheme, the Movie
swamiharinanda23 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Some things were really excellent about this movie. The production and mimicry of Paris was superb. All scenes in the movie beautifully constructed, giving a correct pacing for the actors to have enough space to create their roles.

The colour superb.

Netrebko as always fine, but lacking in the bloom of her voice. I have heard her many times before on DVD, and it seems to me the sound engineer put a hard edge on her voice. Her acting is superb and it was finally nice to see the role interpreted as though Mimi was a mature woman and not some girlish female fingering her clothing is some coy way as Georghiu does in the met DVD production. Both woman I mention in this paragraph are stunning. Netrebko comes off tops because of her portrayal.

Villazon's voice , and he is not to blame loses its line because of a faulty sound engineers inability to keep the voice in focus and at the right forte, as in the example of his top C in Che Gelida Manina, where it seems to drop off in volume and tone. He also does not sing his mezza voce where it is called for in the score. As usual his acting is contrived and over the top, with flailing arms and hands touching his face and head in place of honest acting. He is not a very pleasant looking singer to watch in the way he has been trained to use his mouth.

The other men are fine actors and the behind the scene voices were admirable.

Musetta was fabulous and a real scene stealer in the café scene. She looked good. Her acting was great, and her voice was very fine for the role. I really liked her.

On the whole I will not watch this production again, as for me, in opera it is the voice which is the most important. Here I blame the sound engineer.

When I listen to La Boheme again, it will be the Met production with Vargas and Ghiorghiu - or the earlier recording of Teresa Stratas and Jose Carreras. Now this is a Mimi and Rudolpho, and although an older recording, you see and hear two artists in their prime.
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Stick to the stage version
benjweil24 December 2009
I was excited to watch this film on PBS after an early holiday dinner. It certainly didn't get off to a good start, with the young Bohemian roommates overacting and over-singing, about nothing at all. Apparently, director Robert Dornhelm had no idea how to play that down. Or else he didn't bother; I don't know. Rolando Villazón should have been encouraged to start off in a more subtle way, with less volume and less mugging. And the makeup artists surely could have done something to make him appear less lugubrious.

It was disappointing to see Anna Netrebko, a riveting actress and singer, so ill-used. Again, there must have been some way to make her appear both more attractive and more interesting; on stage, she is gorgeous and completely unique. The split-screen technique made no sense and added nothing to the drama, while scenes that featured people singing off-screen were confusing and boring.

I'm sure this is not entirely the director's fault. Grand opera fares best on the stage, and often appears stiff and overblown in film versions. Probably the best idea would simply have been to film the singers performing on stage in front of an audience. We would have gotten the benefit of verisimilitude, and the dramatic gestures and heroic singing that opera demands would have seemed much more fitting.

Oh, well!
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Your tiny lips are frozen
Gyran27 January 2010
I expected to hate this because I can't stand dubbed opera but, to my surprise, I found that I loved it. Considerable trouble seems to have been taken with the lip synching and Rolando Villazón in particular really looks as though he is singing rather than just opening and closing his mouth in time to the music. So what this film lacks in operatic authenticity it makes up for in dramatic impact. Villazón has an impressive dramatic range with a very mobile face, OK so sometimes he looks like Mr Bean. Anna Netrebko does not have to do much more than look lovely and sing divinely, two things that she does supremely well. Nicole Cabell is a scream as Musetta and almost outglams La Netrebko. I was going to say that Schaunard, Marcello and Colline are well sung and well acted but, checking the credits, I see that they are performed by three on-screen actors miming to the singers' voices. That probably explains why I thought that the lip-synching was not so good in those roles.

There is just enough opening up of the action. We see Mimi right at the beginning in her room listening with interest to the antics of the four artists. We also see her cross the landing and deliberately blow out her candle before knocking on Rodofo's door. Most surprisingly, we see Mimi and Rodolfo pause on the way to the Café Momus to go to her room and consummate their relationship.

Such a splendid production makes you wonder why they did not do it this way and also record the sound live. The technology is available these days. I suppose it was a question of priorities with the first priority being to make a perfect CD with the film being a subsidiary aim.
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rps-223 December 2015
I discovered this production on You Tube while surfing. What a great find! I am an opera buff and Boheme is my number one favourite. (There is a disk of the last scene in ACT 1 filed with my will with instructions it be played at my funeral.) I have seen Boheme live and on video many times. I have countless productions on VHS, DVD, casettes and CD's. But I never have seen Netrebko in it. She is a SUPERB Mimi --- devious, flirty and coy. (A little too healthy looking for somebody dying of "consumption" but what the heck... this is opera...) Nicole Cabelle is a wonderfully unique Musetta. And they have captured the boisterous camaraderie of the students perfectly as well as the atmosphere of Paris in the early nineteenth century. I've always loved the Zeffirelli film of La Traviata. This is its equal!
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TheLittleSongbird19 February 2011
As some people may know, I am a huge fan of opera and classical music. And I am a huge fan of La Boheme, so I wanted to see this naturally. And I thought overall it was beautiful. My only complaint was the sound, some of it sounded a bit off and lazy particularly in the middle of Che Glenida Manina, at first I wasn't sure whether it was the sound or whether it was Villazon trying to be even more delicate than he was being- anyone who's seen him before will know he does have quite an eccentric, passionate and exciting presence particularly when he's talking about singing and opera.

Other than that, I loved this production of La Boheme. It's not the best(I remember the 1988 production with Mirella Freni and Luciano Pavarotti with such fondness), but it doesn't try to be. On its own, it is a very solid performance of a beautiful opera. The production values are wonderful. The photography has some interesting angles that don't jar, while the sets, lighting and costumes are very pleasing to the eye.

Puccini's music is amazing. It is an incredibly lyrical and poignant score, with some of the most breathtakingly beautiful tunes in the history of opera, particularly Mimi's Act 1 aria and the Act 3 duet, both of which bring a lump to my throat always(and it did here too). I also cannot hold back my tears during Act 4, knowing what is going to happen at the end just has me in floods, and here it did do that.

La Boheme while heart-rending does also have one or two humorous spots. Particularly in Act 2, primarily Musetta's entrance and Marcello's reactions to her and the men's shock over the expensive bill. The story is beautifully constructed and never feels forced or superficial.

The performances are top drawer. Anna Netrebko is a stunning Mimi, she is in beautiful voice, she looks beautiful, here her stage presence feels natural and understated and she really moved me in Act 4. Rolando Villazon is a pleasant surprise. Although the sound does him little favour, Villazon does do what he can to give a delicate acting performance as well as using his powerful voice to the limits without overdoing it too much. Nicole Cabell is a sheer delight as Musetta, and really holds her own, she is deliciously flirty, charming and seductive in Quando M'en Vo, yet in Act 4 we see a completely different side to Musetta that we don't expect as here she is more humble and sensitive. Marcello and Colline also perform well, and the dubbing actually doesn't distract.

Overall, beautiful version that could have been even better had the sound been more than it was. If you haven't seen it before, or any other version of La Boheme, have a box of tissues at the ready, I think you'll need them. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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A Good Effort
CanadianRonin26 June 2018
This isn't as good as most stage versions I've seen, and the 1920's version of the film is far superior (I know many people won't like it because it's so old), but this is still a good film. The story is so good it still works even when it's not a perfectly told version. Acting is good.
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Opera for the iPhone generation
angelofvic25 October 2011
This is definitely not a production for traditionalists.

Rodolfo and Mimi have sex after finding her key, before joining the others at the Café Momus.

From the beginning, Mimi is dressed like a harlot -- in red, with plunging décolleté, large exposed breasts, and bright red lipstick.

The set colors in general are loud and bright, sets are incongruous, and the cinematography is grossly oversaturated in an almost cartoonish fashion.

It might fly with the iPhone generation and the sex-obsessed, but I'd bet Puccini is turning over in his grave.
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