Bel Canto Blu-ray Review
Is it possible that a critic is simply not right for a movie? I asked this because I kind of hated BEL CANTO, a movie based on a critically acclaimed book. I also ask this having looked at others who adored this film for being a melting pot of ideas and emotions during a real time of crisis. I actually did a little reflecting on why, on a personal level, I thought this movie was outlandish, silly, misguided and terrible. I’ll get to my conclusions later in this review.
BEL CANTO is about a birthday dinner party that’s abruptly ended by masked men with guns. The South American militiamen are there to demand the release of fellow imprisoned guerilla militants in exchange for the hostages they’ve acquired at this party. What kind of birthday party would this happen at though? The kind where several dignitaries, an opera singer played by Julianne Moore, a rich Japanese industrialist played by Watanabe, and other one-percenters are in attendance. The terrorists actually don’t want to harm anybody, as evidenced by their frustration when a hostage is killed accidentally during a hostage release.
What I think gets under my skin about BEL CANTO is that it finds humanity in people who are generally about to commit crimes against humanity. In some circumstances, that’s true. Hence why this film tries its hardest to keep the country location of the party unforeseen, as well as the religious and political ideology of the militants hushed. There is something to be said that there are those rare instances where civilians taking up arms and forming a militia are the cure, not the ailment. Unfortunately, I just can’t see or emotionally relate with that side. They might have been more human if we understood the oppression they were supposedly fighting.
I think this movie could play well overseas where militants are embraced as heroes more than being looked down upon as terrorists. My upbringing, coupled with the current climate of American society, doesn’t quite click with that sentiment. I could list several things that have shaped this opinion, like the near daily mass shootings in America, the deadly protests in Charlottesville, 9/11, the militarization of state militia groups and police departments. I honestly feel like we sometimes do a lot more in-person communication through anger and guns in this country. That also might just be my pessimism shining through. Regardless, I can’t quite get on board with a movie where the hostages literally cook dinner for their armed captors and have a nice meal with them.
Not only is there a nice meal, there’s romance between a captive and captor. At that point, I actually began to hate this movie. I could understand the love that developed between Moore and Watanabe’s characters, but not between the translator for hostage negotiations and a woman who’s never seen without an AK-47. There’s a lot more before and after these scenes, but nothing feels natural or realistic about this scenario. I’m not sure I could ever warm up to a group of people who’ve spent days pointing a gun at my face, and at one point, did a mock rundown of shooting all the hostages, just in case.
So what did this movie want to teach me? That we’re all human, with passions, interests, hobbies, talents, needs, wants, etc.? No. Because I get and understand that already. I’d like to believe I’m educated enough to believe that despite our cultural, societal and regional differences, we can all find commonality and get along. That’s noble, but this movie manages to make it stupid. Just utterly stupid and frustrating to the point where it’s actually insulting. This is the kind of movie that may actually solidify someone’s bigotry because of how ludicrous this film is. I actually laughed at several parts that were supposed to be serious, because I half expected the corpse of Leslie Nielsen to open a door and say, “We’re all counting on you, good luck.” I actually see how this could have been a good film, but BEL CANTO is being served in a tonally sloppy fashion.
Video: (1080p HD Widescreen 2:39:1) The film looks beautiful at least. I guess that’s a compliment. I’m curious where this was filmed because of how natural it all looks.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) Nothing wrong with the audio.
About the Characters (3:12): They try to explain the reasoning behind the characters, and do a poor job at it.
About the History (3:16): This feature talks about how the creators spent over a decade trying to get this made. You’d think after the first five years, they would have given up, and should have.