Panorama | Contemporary World Cinema
Ann Patchett’s award-winning bestseller comes to the screen in this immaculately cast production, with Julianne Moore as the famous opera singer caught up in a hostage siege in an unnamed South American city. Roxanne Cross has been hired to give a private performance before an audience of diplomats, politicians and business leaders as a birthday tribute to a Japanese industrialist (Ken Watanabe). But to the dismay of the revolutionaries who break into the Vice President’s mansion, El Presidente himself is a no-show. Instead they hold the distinguished guests at gunpoint and demand a prisoner exchange. With neither side willing to compromise, intense bonds are forged among the hostages, and even with their captors over the ensuing days and weeks, despite the fact that for many of them, music is their only common language.
Directed and co-written by Paul Weitz (Grandma; About A Boy), Bel Canto is both a suspense drama and a love story: it’s a film of serious themes but with a passionate heart. As in the novel, cultural and class divisions gradually evaporate in the oasis of the besieged house, with the voice of Roxanne serving as a catalyst (Moore’s singing is dubbed here by soprano Renée Fleming).
The supporting cast is like a United Nations of acting talent, including Sebastian Koch (The Lives of Others), Ryo Kase (Like Someone in Love), Tenoch Huerta (Sin nombre) Maria Mercedes Coroy (Ixcanul), and French veterans Christopher Lambert and Elsa Zylberstein.