Thursday, September 19, 2013

201 of 1001 Movies: Carmen Jones (1954)

Suspense? Court room drama? How about a musical? Otto Preminger shows he can direct anything and make it good. While Carmen Jones might not be as strong as Angel Eyes or Anatomy of a Murder (for sure), it does still have some progressive and unique features that make it a stand out for 1954. Would this have worked as well now? No. Dorothy Dandridge is a name that rings familiar as well, but I had never seen her in anything. She is by far what makes this movie great. She received the first nomination for an African American actress at the Oscars for this role. She owns the role.

Summary: This take on the Bizet Opera, Carmen, uses an all African American cast, and sets itself in an army camp. Carmen is a civilian parachute maker, and the one who all the men have their eyes on, and she knows it. The man she has her eyes on though already has a fiancee, but she will stop at nothing to win over Joe. He doesn't want to mess up the perfect life he seems to have which includes his engagement to Cindy Lou, and his future in pilot training for the Korean War. Carmen Jones must be bad luck for Joe though, because she causes him to land in the stockade with further chaos following.

Acting: The cast is led by Dorothy Dandridge as Carmen and Harry Belafonte as Joe. Dandridge plays Carmen well, though you feel you don't know her character very well by the of the movie. What draws her to men? Did she ever really love Joe? She leads him into the worst predicament away from his life of security. There is also Harry Belafonte as Joe. There are questions you ask about him to. Like why would he leave his life of comfort to be with a woman who seems unstable? Is it because she sent him into the first steps of losing his dream by messing up his mission to send her to jail? Anyways, the acting is great from from Dandridge, and good from Belafonte. He doesn't feel believable all the time, and sometimes his character just seems really goofy.

Filming: The film was shot in color, so the appearance is beautiful. They used an array of colors to keep the movie lively with lots of natural colors. It seems Carmen favorite color to wear was a pink type coral color. You also have very easy transitions and shots that flatter the actors. The nice thing about about his movies is how everything feels unexpected though. You never know where the movie will lead itself to next.

Plot: If you have seen the opera or followed it any way, and enjoy the plot then you might like this one. Unless you hate when the director tries to mix things up and get really creative with the take on the story, as Otto does with this one. I think what he is good at is carrying the story in places that are unexpected. I never know which way it might be going, and Netflix thankfully misled me a bit with what they wrote in a very spoiler ridden synopsis. It's easy to see why men find themselves liking Carmen, but she seems like a short term woman, and Joe seems very desperate by the end.

I think it would mostly be difficult for me to recommend this movie because the dubs aren't always well done. When you switch from the characters normally speaking to the parts where they are singing it is pretty obvious it isn't them. Sometimes the voicing just doesn't align. You also might have to be able to listen to or enjoy opera music to some extent to get past the singing. I personally liked it, and thought it brought out a lot of the emotions, and I liked how the characters were in a way their worst enemies.

Rating 7 of 10

Carmen Jones (1954) on IMDb

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