Drame musical réalisé en 1954 par OTTO PREMINGER (la rivière sans retour, Laura, Exodus) d'après le célèbre Opéra CARMEN composé par Georges BIZET en 1875.
Malgré un budget restreint et le statut "indépendant" du cinéaste, CARMEN JONES sera tourné en cinémascope et en technicolor !!!
OTTO PREMINGER souhaitait créer une histoire composée exclusivement d'acteurs noirs afin d'accentuer le sens dramatique du thème au travers du prisme des feux d'une passion dévorante et dévastatrice au sein de la communauté noire américaine largement ignorée du cinéma des 50'S.
Le rôle titre est confié à la sensuelle et déjà célèbre "Dorothy Dandridge" qui donne la réplique au jeune "Harry Belafonte" jouant alors son premier grand rôle. Wikipédia précise que ce dernier eut recours à une doublure voix dans les passages chantés, quiconque connait le timbre si singulier du célèbre Harry sera surprit par la concordance des deux voix...!
Cette transposition dans l'Amérique des années 50 est longtemps restée inconnue en France, le film ayant été interdit d'importation en Europe pendant près de 30 ans à cause d'un procès intenté non pas par les héritiers de Georges BIZET, mais par ceux de ses librettistes (auteurs du livret contenant les paroles de l’œuvre lyrique).
Les héritiers ne pouvant se prévaloir des droits d'auteur qu'en France, c'est donc seulement chez nous que le film fut interdit.
Si les grands thèmes musicaux respectent scrupuleusement l’œuvre de G. Bizet, les paroles et la musique des chansons intermédiaires sont d'un niveau de niaiserie rarement atteint au cinéma. Les situations sont souvent puériles et forcément, le jeux des acteurs s'en ressent...mais la médiocrité scénique inhérente au genre musical des 50'S nous pousse à l'indulgence, la même que nous avions pour "West Side Story", "Grease", "Les Demoiselles De Rochefort"...etc, la liste n'est pas exhaustive.
Ne boudons pas notre plaisir donc, car la pétulance de Dorothy Dandridge et l'éclat du technicolor justifient à eux seuls de visionner les 101 minutes de cet "anti" soap opéra traité en drame lyrique...
le 10 juillet 2015
CARMEN JONES  [Blu-ray] [US Import] A Wonderful Event in the History of Motion Picture Entertainment From 20th Century-Fox!
Dorothy Dandridge delivers a star-making performance in the title role, as a femme fatale who seduces a handsome soldier [Harry Belafonte], setting in motion a classic tale of betrayal and jealousy. With the music of Georges Bizet and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, this musical feast sets the screen on fire with passion. Helping to set the screen on fire are Pearl Bailey and Diahann Carroll, part of the "sensational troupe" that makes this jubilant musical film "hard to beat."
FILM FACT: The film won the Golden Globe® Award for Best Motion Picture for Musical or Comedy. It was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Film. Dorothy Dandridge was nominated for the Academy Award® for Best Actress, who was the first African American to be honoured in this category. At the 5th Berlin International Film Festival the film won the Bronze Berlin Bear award. The film also won the Golden Leopard at the Locarno International Film Festival. Herschel Burke Gilbert was nominated for the Academy Award® for Best Scoring of a Musical. Harry Kleiner was nominated for the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Musical.
Cast: Harry Belafonte, Dorothy Dandridge, Pearl Bailey, Olga James, Joe Adams, Brock Peters, Roy Glenn, Nick Stewart, Diahann Carroll, LeVern Hutcherson, Marvin Hayes, Alvin Ailey (uncredited), DeForest Covan (uncredited), Carmen De Lavallade (uncredited), Bernie Hamilton (uncredited), Margaret Lancaster (uncredited), Marilyn Horne (Carmen Jones voice), Joseph E. Crawford (Dink Franklin singing voice) (uncredited), and Madame Sul-Te-Wan (Carmen's Grandmother uncredited)
Director: Otto Preminger
Producer: Otto Preminger
Screenplay: Harry Kleiner and Oscar Hammerstein II [libretto]
Composer: Georges Bizet
Cinematography: Sam Leavitt
Video Resolution: 1080p [Color by Deluxe]
Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1 [CinemaScope]
Audio: English: 4.0 DTS-HD Master Audio and Spanish: 1.0 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French
Running Time: 105 minutes
Region: Region A/1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: `Carmen Jones'  was a rarity for Hollywood: a mainstream film with an all-African American cast. It had been done only a few times before, notably `Hallelujah' , `Cabin in the Sky'  and `Stormy Weather' . None of these had been a box-office success, so it isn't surprising that director Otto Preminger had so much trouble securing financing to make the film. Just coming off of United Artists' `The Moon Is Blue' , Preminger approached United Artists executives Arthur Krim and Robert Benjamin with the idea of adapting the stage show `Carmen Jones' that Billy Rose had done in 1943, still using the original music from Bizet's opera “Carmen” but with a new libretto. He was turned down. United Artists didn't think it would be commercially viable. Preminger later wrote, "I could do anything else I liked for them but not this. I soon discovered that most other companies would not touch it either." While he was in post-production on the Marilyn Monroe film `River of No Return'  at Twentieth Century Fox, production head Darryl F. Zanuck asked Otto Preminger to let him read his `Carmen Jones' script. Two days later, Darryl F. Zanuck committed 20th Century Fox to the project and secured an $800,000 budget.
`Carmen Jones' is a retelling of Bizet's opera about an independent woman who lives by her own rules and discards men when she grows tired of them. The characters were changed from Europeans to African-Americans on an Army base in the Deep South. Preminger admitted, "This was really a fantasy, as was Porgy and Bess. The all-black world shown in these films doesn't exist, at least not in the United States. We used the musical-fantasy quality to convey something of the needs and aspirations of coloured people."
As far as an all-black musicals are concerned, 20th Century Fox's 1954 production of `Carmen Jones' is a towering achievement. In this adaptation of Georges Bizet's classic opera "Carmen" and producer-director Otto Preminger guided actress Dorothy Dandridge to a sizzling, sultry performance that made her the first African-American actor to receive an Academy Award® nomination for a leading role. `Carmen Jones' is a retelling of Bizet's opera about an independent woman who lives by her own rules and discards men when she grows tired of them. The characters were changed from Europeans to African-Americans on an Army base in the deep South. Preminger admitted, "This was really a fantasy, as was Porgy and Bess. The all-black world shown in these films doesn't exist, at least not in the United States. We used the musical-fantasy quality to convey something of the needs and aspirations of coloured people."
Now that `Carmen Jones' has at last been released on Blu-ray (and a very nice Blu-ray it is), the inherent flaws in the film stand out more boldly than ever before. To be fair, Otto Preminger had a huge challenge in making an opera (even one that had a successful run on Broadway) appealing to a mainstream audience. Otto Preminger did a great job of making the music and dialogue flow organically into each other. He also did all right in accenting the story's dramatic tension and gritty settings, but what mostly stand out here is the artificially over-dubbed voices, awkward lyrics, and not so compelling story. At the time, no major studio had attempted an all-black musical since 1943's `Stormy Weather' and `Cabin in the Sky' yet those films actually hold up better today, since their scores held some authenticity in drawing from jazz and rhythm & blues. It even falls short when compared with Fox's other big-budget Broadway adaptations of the period, such as `Oklahoma!' and `The King and I.'
Despite the awkward dubbing on the lead characters' singing voices, ‘Carmen Jones’ benefits from having a cast of professional actors giving their all. Although stymied by her character's lack of depth, Dorothy Dandridge oozes with charisma as the destructive vixen Carmen Jones, opposite a confident Harry Belafonte as Joe, the soldier who gets caught up in Carmen's wanton ways. As with a lot of operas, it's hung on a flimsy plot full of spectacle at a North Carolina Army base during World War II, Joe is assigned to deliver hellcat Carmen to the authorities for fighting with a co-worker at the parachute factory where she works. En route, however, Carmen persuades Joe to stay at her grandmother's place and she escapes after seducing him. After getting punished, Joe eventually catches up with Carmen at a nightclub where she parties with her friends Frankie [Pearl Bailey] and Myrt [Diahann Carroll]. After arrogant boxing champ Husky Miller [Joe Adams]) offers to take Carmen and her friends to Chicago, an altercation between Joe and his superior officer forces the couple to hightail it to the Windy City. Joe is now a fugitive in hiding and shackled to a manipulative shrew, but will his true-blue girlfriend, Cindy Lou [Olga James], arrive in time to set him straight?
Otto Preminger likely had the best intentions in mind for `Carmen Jones,' but his decision to place the story in an earthy, contemporary milieu makes it an earnest, straightforward bore, but strangely enough, the most adventurous segment here is the opening credits sequence, the first of many times, Otto Preminger enlisted the help of legendary designer Saul Bass. Maybe I'm drawing an unfair comparison here, but the way Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger treated opera in 1951 with the film `Tales of Hoffmann' as a purely stage-bound spectacle filled with heightened artificiality and makes it by far, the more exquisitely done work of the two. `Carmen Jones' is well-crafted and entertaining enough, yet Otto Preminger's efforts to make it "real" are undone by the dubbing on Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte (talented performers who could actually sing, although not in an operatic style) and the disconnect between the music and the setting. Despite the concessions, I'm sure it was a huge step forward for African-American visibility; although unlike `Stormy Weather,' it comes across like the kind of thing white folks do to enlighten them about black culture.
`Carmen Jones' is actually a really enjoyable and unique experience. The performers largely overcome the limitations of their simplistic roles, as well as the decent yet often cringe-inducing lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II. For instance, Pearl Bailey gets to perform a lively number that well showcases her sassy voice, with the song title "Beat Out Dat Rhythm on a Drum." Sweet-voiced yet underused Olga James also belts out a fantastic song in which she pleads for Joe's safe return. The musical arrangements are beautifully done, and the maligned dubbing is well-performed by vocalists Marilyn Horne and LeVern Hutcherson. Flawed as it was, the film was successful enough for Otto Preminger and much of the cast to reunite for 1959 in the George Gershwin adaptation `Porgy and Bess' although legal entanglements have kept that film under lock-and-key for decades.
Otto Preminger did indeed get good performances from his actors and from Dorothy Dandridge in particular. When the film was premiered on 5th October, 1954, her portrayal of `Carmen Jones' made her an overnight sensation with the public and both the black-and-white press. Not only was Dorothy Dandridge the first African-American actress to be ranked among the world's top beauties, but again Dorothy Dandridge was also the first African-American to be nominated as Best Actress by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Blu-ray Video Quality – `Carmen Jones' lush, naturalistic colour photography and grand CinemaScope proportions have been well-preserved with this disc, which presents the film in widescreen letterboxed 2.55:1 format. While I'm not sure if it's been restored especially for this disc, the picture quality is excellent with very few instances of aging, dust and fading. Lacking the vividness of Technicolor, as the Color by Deluxe is an Eastmancolor based process, used here as a warm and beautifully calibrated image.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The 4.0 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack sports an appealing, full-bodied mix that puts the clear dialogue front and centre supplemented with atmospheric scoring which stands out without being intrusive. The musical numbers have a surprising lack of degradation and hiss. A Spanish 1.0 Dolby Digital dub soundtrack is also included, along with optional subtitles in English SDH, Spanish and French.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Theatrical Trailer  [480i] [2:47] The only bonus included is the film's Original Theatrical Trailer, which weirdly sells this challenging effort as a gay (in the old-fashioned sense) `Singin' in the Rain' style tune feast.
Finally, `Carmen Jones' unites adventurous producer/director Otto Preminger with African-American sex symbol Dorothy Dandridge in a torrid story that brings Bizet's Carmen up-to-date. Sure, the opera-meets-black-culture concept hasn't aged as well as other ambitious projects of the era, but I actually think everyone should see this film at least once for sheer historic value. Despite its indifferent packaging, Fox's Blu-ray sports excellent picture and sound. Despite some critics have given this a thumbs down reception, but I have always loved this film, as the characters come alive and bring it up-to-date for the 20th Century, even though we are now in the 21st Century. I thought all the actors were totally superb and made Bizet's concept comes alive for a modern audience in bringing out the best in his Bizet's music that I would rather watch, than the actual opera, as it makes it so much more appealing for a modern audience and now I have it in the best Blu-ray format ever and it is the best they were able to achieve with what was available in bringing out on the Blu-ray format. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom