Directed by Otto Preminger | USA | 105 mins
Carmen Jones, both the film and the transplanted archetype for whom it is named, comes on with quite a salvo: If you love me, that’s the end of you. The character of Carmen was introduced in a French novella in the year 1845 and made properly epochal in Georges Bizet’s opera about three decades later. Otto Preminger’s 1955 film, in CinemaScope and DeLuxe Color, is based on a 1943 Broadway revue by Oscar Hammerstein II in which Bizet’s “tunes” were adapted specifically for an African American cast. Part of Preminger’s directorial brand always involved the cursory pushing of the envelope, and he took things further here, insisting upon Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte as his leads, both of whom he knew exclusively as nightclub singers. Dandridge’s Carmen is avowedly Carmen with a difference. For Bizet, she is the quintessential “gypsy”, but in the exclusively black Deep South of this fantastical Second World War-set Hollywood musical, she carries traces of “hoodoo,” a creole paganism that may or may not hint to the viewer at something resembling a revolutionary wellspring.
-Written by Jason Wierzba
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