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Farinelli [DVD] [1995]

Stefano Dionisi , Enrico Lo Verso , Gérard Corbiau    DVD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Actors: Stefano Dionisi, Enrico Lo Verso, Elsa Zylberstein, Jeroen Krabbé, Caroline Cellier
  • Directors: Gérard Corbiau
  • Writers: Gérard Corbiau, Andrée Corbiau, Marcel Beaulieu
  • Producers: Aldo Lado, Dominique Janne, Linda Gutenberg, Stéphane Thenoz
  • Format: Anamorphic, Full Screen, PAL
  • Language: French, Italian
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: R (Restricted) (US MPAA rating. See details.)
  • Run Time: 111 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000083OI9
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 136,255 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



"A lush, engrossing drama" -- Stephen Farber, Movieline

"Artistry abounds in every aspect of the film" -- Los Angeles Times

"Does for the singer what Amadeus did for Mozart" -- The Times

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Castrato extravaganza 12 Aug 2001
Format:VHS Tape
The idea of a digitally worked voice, comprising a female and a countertenor would not at first appear to be very promising, but the result has to be heard to be believed. At times the music, from the sumptuous delights of Broschi to the melancholy of Haendel, transports you from the cinema screen to the realms of the gods.
The film is not merely a vehicle for the music but has within itself a touching and heartrending storyline. Who could watch the forcible castration scene without a shudder. And yet it is through this that the angelic music comes to be.
A complex and moving film which I would recommend to anyone. If the music does not get you, the pathos will.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling 2 May 2010
Format:VHS Tape|Verified Purchase
This film is completely spellbinding from the start, and just gets better and better, the more often you watch it. You live his life, feel his joys and his pain, and identify with his loneliness and longings - and all the time the music sweeps your emotions along. The singing is exquisite and haunting - and the setting makes his story feel authentic. After watching it a few times through I now don't need to read the subtitles, so even the language adds to the drama. This is a film for music lovers and film lovers alike.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Farinelli 24 Jan 2005
A stunning film, with an incredible soundtrack. Something completely different, 10/10!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Farinelli - Il Castrato 17 July 2009
Format:VHS Tape
A beautiful film with some marvellous singing. Anyone interested in the Castrato voice will value it although the melding of the counter-tenor and the soprano bring a poignancy for the true sound one would go for the recording of Moreschi, the last surviving castrato. I treasure this film. A fantastic concept beautifully realised by all involved in the making of the film. Go to Amazon for the novel by Anne Rice: A Cry to Heaven. This book will bring the atmosphere of the age even closer.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  60 reviews
105 of 111 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Breathtaking and Complex Film 13 Jan 2003
By Anna Zayaruzny - Published on
This is possibly my favorite movie, and I was shocked to see bad customer reviews of it on To set matters right: The film is amazing, both as a look at 18th-century attitudes towards music, and as a story about the many different incarnations love takes. The film's sex scenes are probably some of the most beautiful around, and those that feel they are unnecessary to the film are probably looking at the past through puritanical filters. (The twentieth century did not, in fact, invent good sex...)
Castrati were, in fact, very much sex symbols in their time and farinelli, when in the service of the spanish king, was summoned ot him "most nights to sing until one or two o'clock in the morning," interptet it as you will. For more information on Castrati, see "Eunuchs and Castrati, a Cultural History" and also The chapter on castrati in "Singers of Italian Opera".
As far as authenticity is concerned, the film portrays baroque audiences, with theior liveliness and level of involvement, beautifully, and I find the director's portrayal of Farinelli quite satisfactory. The machinery and decadence of the opera of the time is conveyed to perfection, and much research has obviously gone into the film.
Handel's music, of course, speaks for itself. It can be easy to get lost in a Handel opera sometimes, among Da Capo arias, but this movie reminds us that this is, in fact, some of the most beautiful music ever written.
49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very worthwhile movie, especially if you like baroque 14 Jan 1999
By A Customer - Published on
As a female, I wept buckets when watching this movie. The melodrama was, perhaps, a bit exaggerated but not to the point of losing emotional poignancy. The acting was, generally, quite good, including the singing scenes. Yes, the lip-synching was noticeable, but people who complain should try caraoke-ing the simplest coloratura piece in front of a mirror to see how well they would do! They'd notice that they were lucky just to stay within the tempo. From the standpoint of history, the movie is inaccurate. Handel's Rinaldo was composed and staged well before Farinelli ever got to England, while the movie implies that the score stolen by Farinelli's paramour was new. Likewise, I doubt that Handel ever promised Farinelli to never compose another opera ever again, because Handel continued composing afterwards. From the musical standpoint, the movie is also inaccurate. For example, Farinelli is shown singing both "Cara sposa," Rinaldo's aria, and then "Lascia ch'io pianga," the "sposa's" aria, in the same performance. Obviously, no single performer would sing both lead roles on stage at the same time. But this is really not important. The music was there to give flesh to Farinelli's sacrifice for the sake of art. Thus, "Lascia ch'io pianga" (Let me cry over my cruel fate) was there as a symbolic expression of Farinelli's pain, and not simply as a musical vignette. Pity, that it wasn't translated in the subtitles for the ones who don't know much about baroque opera. As a final point, although the soundtrack was pretty impressive, I know of a couple of countertenors who (without any electronic morphing) could do better justice to the legend of Farinelli. Dominique Visse would be my first choice.
55 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Second Review Of A Great Film 1 July 2004
By Rudy Avila - Published on
Director Gerard Corbiau's Farinelli won Best Picture of 1995. The foreign film, mixed Italian and French, retells the story of the famous and greatest castrato singer Carlo Broschi. The film is exotic, intensely emotional and loaded with beautiful music of the Baroque Era (1600-1750). With all the good things about this movie, comes some things that might be rather disturbing or inappropriate for a younger audience. This is assuredly an adult film. There are two explicit sex scenes at the beginning and end of the film. This is a movie for an adult who is interested in the period, in the life of the castrati and in opera at this time. The opening introduces Carlo Broschi as a little boy singing in the church choir. Another young lad has been castrated to preserve his voice and is so mortified he leaps to his death. Eventually Carlo's brother Riccardo is obligated to do the same to his brother. We don't learn until later in the film that it was Riccardo and not Carlos' brother that conducted the castration. Here, Farinelli is usually quite ill and is forced to take opium as medicine. Farinelli does not seem to think highly of his brother's operas, which are written exclusively for his voice. Instead, he believes the greatest composer of this time is George Frederic Handel, played convincingly by Jerome Krabbe. In a dinner party, in which the Nobles insult Handel, Farinelli is outraged and declares that Handel will long be remembered and not the Nobles and their operas. This ends up being true since Handel is considered one of the greatest composers of this period togeter with Johann Sebastian Bach.
The movie has some inaccuracies and are not historically true. Naturally, this being a costume drama, there are some elements which were entirely fictional created for the sake of sensationalism. Although it is true Riccardo Broschi did compose operas for his brother Farinelli, there is no real evidence they "shared" the women they bedded. In the movie, a Countess is so enamored with Farinelli that she jumps into bed with him only to discover he's castrated. Thus, Riccardo plants the seed and Farinelli only lures the women into bed and seduces them. This is fabricated material to "sex up" the movie. In real life, Farinelli I'm inclined to believe was chaste. He sung many times for religious services and was a devout Catholic. He may not have been at all bitter for his castration since he lived like a king all his life, surrounded in luxury. He was well acquainted with European royalty, all of Europe loved him and he died after years of singing in the chambers of King Phillip of Spain. The rivalry between the Nobles Theatre Opera and Handel's opera company is true. In fact, it remains the only true thing about this movie. The English in London disliked the German foreigner Handel and his prominence in London. He was so beloved that even King George and Queen Anne protected him. The Nobles schemed endlessly to get rid of Handel. The portrayal of Handel as a musical genius, a man of stubborn, perfectionist character is all true. I think the most moving scenes are those with Handel, such as the scene in which Farinelli is overhearing him play the organ in the church and is moved by the music and the scene of Farinelli singing "Lascio Chio Pianga" from Rinaldo which ultimately moves Handel to tears. All the scenes of opera and Farinelli singing in his majestic costumes in this movie are stunningly beautiful. Finally, this movie's soundtrack is incredible. It contains the combined voices of tenor Derek Rogin and soprano Ewa Mallas as the singing voice of Farinelli. The arias sung here are taken from Riccardo Broschi's operas Idaspe and Artaserse and from Handel's Julius Caesar and Rinaldo. A superb film and a must see for fans of Baroque opera.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Exotic History Of Opera: Farinelli The Great 13 May 2004
By Rudy Avila - Published on
This DVD comes equipped with English translation from the Italian that this movie was made in. There are also subtitles in French and Spanish, as well as scene selections. French director Gerard Corbiau decided to make a lush film about the life of Farinelli, the greatest castrato singer in all history, portrayed by Italian actor Stefano Dionisi. On DVD, this film looks exquisite. It's a film of adult material (nudity and sex) and for specialized interests. Opera buffs will want to take a glimpse back to the early days of Baroque Opera when the castrati were the music idols of their day, enjoying rockstar status and great wealth. Everything about this film is really engaging to look at. The authentic historic costumes and the precise European locations provide the film with an immediacy and virtual historic escape. We are there in 17th century Italy following this dramatically heightened take on the career of Farinelli. Stefano Dionisi does a great performance, though his effiminate looks, mischief and diva temperament reveals something of a homosexual but this notion is taken into question when we see him in the love scenes with the many beautiful women that are his groupies and loyal admirers of his voice.
This drama may not be entirely true. The story of how the two brothers who are at conflict (one brother reaps the benefits the other is left frustrated and obscure) may be a deliberate attempt to resemble Milos Forman's Amadeus.Farinelli came from a family of musical ambitions and when he was about to hit puberty he wanted to be castrated for the sole purpose of making millions of money and acquiring world fame as a singer. Castrating male youth so as to keep their high-pitched soprano range was an Italian custom, which died out in the 18th century where women began to enjoy more prominet roles in opera, such as the operas of Mozart. Farinelli was the greatest castrato singer of his day. He was incredibly rich and enjoyed the company of royalty. After his many theatrical performances in operas by Handel and other composers, he gave up the stage to sing in the private chambers of Spanish King Phillip V. He lived in luxury there for the rest of his life.
The film is exotic and beautiful to look at and to listen. The music of Handel is prominent, since it was Handel who most wrote for the castrati voice. Impressive are the scenes at the opera, where Farinelli dazzles and mesmerizes his audience against the colorful and elaborate Baroque stage sets. In one scene early in the film, he sings what looks like the sun god Apollo, in a feathered helmet, and is briefly interrupted by a young lady's turning the pages to a libretto. He continues his singing and finishes with an elongated note that is impossible to hold for any tenor or soprano nowadays. Today, the castrati vocal sound is extinct. Perhaps close to it, and even this by a little off, is the male countertenor or a highly developed falsetto. I find that the female mezzo soprano voice is the closest to castrati singing, especially Cecilia Bartoli. Her singing in the recent Salieri Album comes dangerously close to sounding like castrati.
In the movie, creative editing and synthesizing combined a tenor's lung power and a soprano's high top register to effectively portray the sound of a castrati, which sounded like a weird blend of male and female voices, with the female being the stronger range. With that voice, coloratura is unleashed with freedom, agility and high-flung acrobatics.
32 of 38 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful But Silly 30 Mar 2007
By John J. Schauer - Published on
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Visually opulent, and with a stunning soundtrack, this film could have been so much better if it didn't take completely unnecessary--and foolish--liberties with the story of the real Farinelli. Unfortunately, much of the plot is just plain silly. Whether or not a castrato would have been capable of sexual relations (and it is believed that they were), it is absurd how the film proposes that Farinelli would have sex with a woman, but then had to turn her over to his uncastrated brother to finish her off, as it were. I doubt that a man's ability to ejaculate has much to do with a woman's sexual satisfaction. And the portrayal of the composer George Frideric Handel is just plain ridiculous. When I saw this film in a theater with three friends, the scene where Handel hears Farinelli sing and nearly has a heart attack, with his wig falling off, prompted all four of us to laugh out loud. (In reality, Handel didn't have as high an opinion of Farinelli's singing as some, and chose not to hire him for his own opera troupe.) The film also depicts Farinelli plotting to sing Handel's music by having a maid steal a manuscript from Handel's apartment. The result is Farinelli singing "Lascia ch'io pianga" from the opera Rinaldo--which makes no sense at all, since that aria was written for a woman soprano, not an alto castrato, and Farinelli didn't perform travesty roles. Besides, by the time of the incident portrayed, the score of Rinaldo had been published and Farinelli could have simply purchased a copy. The main attraction of this film is the soundtrack. We really have no idea what the castrati sounded like (yes, I know there is a recording of "the last castrato" made in 1902, but it's a terribly weak representation of what the great ones must have sounded like), so for the film they concocted a unique voice by digitally combining the sounds of a woman soprano and a male falsettist. The result is dazzling; my recommendation is to buy the soundtrack. The best elements of the film are the beautiful costumes and camera work. The staging of opera scenes is beautiful enough that you wish they had included complete excerpts, instead of frustratingly brief teases; at least the musical selections are complete on the soundtrack CD.
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