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Evita [1997] - £4.97

After more than a decade of false starts and several potential directors, the popular Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical finally made it to the big screen with Alan Parker (The Commitments) at the helm and Madonna in the coveted title role of Argentina's first lady, Eva Perón. A triumph of production design, costuming, cinematography, and epic-scale pageantry, the film follows the rise of Eva Perón to the level of supreme social and political celebrity in the 1940s. Like Madonna, Perón was a material girl (she was only 33 when she died); she was instrumental in the political success of her husband, Juan Perón (Jonathan Pryce). But Eva was also a supremely tragic figure whose life was essentially hollow at its core despite the lavish benefits of her nearly goddess-like status. The film Evita has a similar quality--it's visually astonishing but emotionally distant, and benefits greatly from the singing commentary of Ché (Antonia Banderas), who serves as a passionate chorus to guide the viewer through the elaborate parade of history. --Jeff Shannon

Customer reviews (av rating: 4.0):

Rating: 3:
beautiful film, terrible dvd : The big screen version of Evita has everything one expects from a film musical - great singing, great orchestra, a huge sense of scale... However, this DVD was released at the start of the DVD era, and lacks a Dolby Digital 5.1 track or an anamorphic transfer, so the image is soft and lacking in detail and the sound only in Dolby Pro-Logic. Your best bet is to purchase the French or Australian versions of the DVD, both of which have anamorphic transfers with excellent image quality and the full Dolby Digital 5.1 track, aswell as interviews, trailers and featurettes from the electronic press kit made at the time.

Rating: 4:
la la la this is my review la la : I liked this film. I liked Madonna, her acting fitted in with the style of the film nicely. I liked Jimmy Nail, his character and the way he delivered it was good. I liked Antonio Banderas, playing a kind of narrator that keeps popping up and letting you know what's going on - who knew he could sing? I liked the songs, the way the themes repeated themselves and intertwined. I liked the story, I felt a little educated along the way. The only thing I didn't like was the fact they sang EVERY line - it wierded me out. Yes I know it's a musical but they didn't do it in Oliver or Moulin Rouge, just seemed really silly at times.

Rating: 5:
Surprisingly effective throwback to the epic musicals of the 60s : Evita is a real throwback to 60s epic filmmaking, an incredibly spectacular adaptation that manages to be both stylised and still look authentic thanks to Alan Parker's excellent direction and Darius Khondji's striking Scope imagery that makes good use of the many lavish crowd scenes. The score is surprisingly good - just as well, since the movie is a virtual rock opera - and Antonio Banderas is a commanding and convincing enough musical presence to make you wonder what the Hell Andrew Lloyd Webber was thinking of dropping him from The Phantom of the Opera for the plank-like, flat-voiced but presumably much cheaper Gerard Butler. Madonna brings the required ruthless iconic status although her voice isn't always up to the demands of the part (she is especially flat when hitting the low notes and her rendition of Don't Cry For Me, Argentina lacks real power) and she's not much good at doing the tango, while the addition of a new song drags out the ending more than is necessary, but it's still the best movie musical in decades. The fact that Lloyd Webber hates it only adds to its appeal. And just think how bad it could have been had the Oliver Stone-Meryl Streep version got off the ground!

Sadly, Entertainment's 2.35:1 widescreem PAL DVD is barebones, featuring no extras at all.

Rating: 3:
History set to melodrama : The film covers two things: the rise of Eva Duarte and a look at her influence on Argentinian politics. The film is narrated by Che. Having the narration from an opposition figure provides a necessary counterbalance.

Eva works at a hotel in the countryside. The teenager is bedded by a singer from Buenos Aires. She demands to be taken back to the capital. When things don't work out, she decides to sleep her way to the top. During the Second World War, there is a military coup which brings Peron to the fore. Eva sets her sights on him.

It is an understatement to call the film a musical -- I would be surprised if you needed more than your fingers to count the number of lines that are actually spoken! Madonna's acting is, in places, wooden. Whilst that could have been down to the artificial style of the movie, I didn't get that impression from the other members of the cast.

Despite the disclaimer at the end, the amount of detail in the narration (especially dates) suggests that this is a biopic rather than pure fiction. A quick check on Google confirms that there really was an Eva Duarte who was involved with Peron, and who the people of Argentina called Evita.

The film is interesting. The narration is what raises the feature above a soap opera - Che shows you the other side of the coin so that the movie forms a debate rather than just a rose tinted view of things.

Rating: 3:
Good Film, Poor DVD : I don’t wish to criticise this film. It’s actually rather good (and much better than you might expect).

My issue is that the DVD itself is rather poor. The non-anamorphic transfer is poor and when blown up to 16:9 is very grainy. The soundtrack seems to be rather low quality – just a poor quality stereo transfer. The region 1 DVD is in 5.1 and much better quality, although that too is in letterbox format.

Let’s see some justice done to this film. It deserves better than this. (But I’ve no doubt that a ‘Special Edition’ will appear one day, so we can all buy this film twice!)

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