When Guy Maddin decided to make a film of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet production of Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary, he decided to "smash the proscenium arch" and represent the movement using an expressionistic cinematic style. That's a welcome change from the stodgy, unimaginatively-taped performances that have cluttered up public television for decades. Benoit Jacquot finds his own way of tapping into that near-radical filmic approach, using Giacomo Puccini's opera Tosca as source material. His movie rediscovers the voluptuous, emotive, wine-dark splendor of opera as a rich audio-visual experience. In responding to the heat and passion of Tosca, Jacquot does something sublime: he not only shakes up the pretensions of opera as class warfare snobbery ("I go to the opera because I can afford the tickets, see my friends, and have a splendid dinner afterwards.") -- he also reminds us that the music video, abandoned in recent years by MTV's dumbed-down programming, doesn't necessarily have to be confined to the 3 to 5 minutes allotted to the flavor of the month.

With a running time of two hours, Tosca might feel a little small and slight for opera lovers. The melodramatic plot is easy to follow, a bodice-ripping tragedy about doomed painter Mario Cavaradossi (Roberto Alagna) shielding a political prisoner from a relentless police investigator, Scarpia (Ruggero Raimondi). When Mario's jealous mistress Tosca (Angela Gheorghiu) starts to believe Mario has been keeping the company of another woman, the blonde Mary Magdeline he's been painting for their church, she turns him in. But Scarpia demands more from her, making arrangements to spare Mario's life if in return Tosca sleeps with him. This results in a series of violent betrayals, murders, and tearful confessions.

Continue reading: Tosca Review