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France / Italy / Germany, 1979 (MIFF 1999, Mozart: Mad & Marvellous)

Director: Joseph Losey

Unlike other Mozart operas, the action of Don Giovanni is played out in a brief 24 hour period. It has its fair share of doors slamming and women running through corridors dragging long skirts—but within its tight, dynamic plot is woven a web of intrigue, greed and revenge. From the opening seguence at a glass factory, Don Giovanni leers somewhat naively over the open furnace that will eventually —albeit symbolically—consume his soul. In the process, he becomes embroiled in betrayal and misadventure and under the spell of corruption.

Losey satisfies lovers of the aural delights by casting vocal big names Ruggera Raimondi (Don), Kiri Te Kanawa (Donna Elvira) and Jose Van Dam (Leporello). He then removes them from the safe conventions of the stage, instead choosing a highly interpretive, grainy terrain: the Palladio's Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, Italy. Spared the stilled feel of many operatic films, Don Giovanni screams with grit, daring and suspense.

Losey claimed—somewhat brashly, although not without an element of truth—that this was the first time opera had been shot as a movie rather than as either filmed performance or a moment for television. Shot primarily on location, this is a production where the only things staged are the hairstyles. Often described as dark, brooding and real, this is an excellent introduction for the uninitiated to the work of both Losey and Mozart.

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