on Blu-rayfor the first time in a special 15th anniversary edition (and also simultaneously enjoying a Broadway revival), Evita has aged exceedingly well and makes more recent musical adaptations like Chicago, Hairspray and the current Rock of Ages look puny in comparison.
tells the story of Eva Peron, wife of Argentinean dictator Juan Peron
during the 1940-50's. Various directors tried and failed to adapt the
show into a film since its 1980 debut, with such actresses as Barbra
Streisand, Liza Minnelli (!) and Meryl Streep in discussions at various
points to play the title role. Finally, Alan Parker (who had previously
helmed such diverse movie musicals as Bugsy Malone, Fame and Pink Floyd's The Wall)
succeeded by casting the one woman truly born to play Evita: Madonna.
News of Madonna's casting filled many fans of the stage version with
dread, based on the various poor performances she had given in movies.
However, the part was a natural for the dance diva who had endured many
of the same criticisms that Evita herself had. Also like Evita,
Madonna continues to enjoy a popular appeal among the masses that
ensures her a permanent place in pop history.
Apart from its magnificent song score, the greatest artistic achievement of Evita -- both
on stage and film -- is in presenting its subject as both a saint and, to
put it delicately, a whore. While depicting Eva Peron as having
considerable talent in the areas of leadership and diplomacy, for which
she is still revered in Argentina more than half a century after her
death, she is also shown to be a masterful manipulator who slept her way
to the top and stole from her people. She certainly gave her public
what they wanted, but she and her husband made them pay handsomely for
it behind their backs. Eva's early death from cancer foreshadowed the
demise of the Peron era but also served to enshrine her as Evita, a
popular saint of the people whose cult endures to this day.
anyone familiar with Madonna's career knows, similarities between her
life and Eva's are far from coincidental. Madonna has walked in Eva's
shoes, if not in political circles then in cultural ones. Both Madonna
and Evita have utilized principles of Catholic ritual and popular
devotion to get where they got. While both women have been vilified at
times for actions some have seen more as desecration than reverence,
both can rightly be considered legendary.
musical, can be frustrating for some viewers for its ultimate refusal
to either canonize or condemn its protagonist. Instead, it shows her
simply as she was perceived by a variety of foes and admirers, warts and
all. The film adaptation is able to present both more detail and more
nuance than the original stage version, and is superbly photographed by
Darius Khondji and -- as is especially apparent on Blu-ray -- impeccably
edited by Gerry Hambling. I wish the movie had more full-on dance
numbers, but a fresh viewing reveals it as one of the last large-scale
productions with a literal cast of thousands before digital imaging took
over. Supporting cast members Antonio Banderas (perhaps in his sexiest
screen role) and Jonathan Pryce are also excellent.
perspective of traditional Catholic anthropology, each human person
embodies both the qualities that define a saint and the qualities that
define a sinner. Just like the rest of us, the true nature of Evita's
soul (and Madonna's) can be known only to God.
Also new on Blu-rayin a special combo package is the delightful 1992 comedy-with-musical-numbers Sister Act and its unnecessary but still enjoyable sequel, Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit
(1993). Whoopi Goldberg headlines both (in a role originally written
for Bette Midler) as a lounge singer-turned mob informant-turned
erstwhile nun. Maggie Smith, Kathy Najimy, Wendy Makenna and the late,
great Mary Wickes shine as her fellow convent dwellers.
Sister Act: B+
Sister Act 2: B-
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.