Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

"The honesty and decency of his character never forces the narrative into areas of embarrassment." | Photo: EntertainmentOne

Son of a baker Luciano became "a legend in his lifetime" which is easier to say than re-enact. Ron Howard's affectionate documentary explains in passing that "he didn't plan things" meaning success fell into his lap like leaves from a late summer storm. What he had was a natural talent and a belief in fate's generosity. There was the voice, of course, but even closer to the season of adulation, the charm. Women flocked, men admired from a distance. No rancour. no jealous cuts. Even on old film stock, filtered from the archives, his personality blazes like a May morning in Modena.

Howard, who made Apollo 13, seems more interested in the man than the music. The story of Luciano's life is the story of his wives, his daughters, his celebrity friends, his "obsession with what he could do for others". Although this may sound like a public relations puff-a-dom - bring on Lady Di, make room for Bono, are those figures lurking in the shadows Stevie Wonder and Spike Lee? - it is so much more than names on a credit list. The honesty and decency of his character never forces the narrative into areas of embarrassment. His modesty and sense of humour feel like the work of "one of the great emotional arm wrestlers of all time".

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When his dad, also a tenor, wasn't making bread, he was singing in the local choir. Luciano had the advantage of his advice and dedication before starting in the outer world as an elementary teacher. And then in the early Sixties, he was offered the part of Rodolfo in La Boheme at Teatro Reggio, Emilia, when the lead singer couldn't make it, which happened again two years later at the Royal Opera House when Guiseppe Di Stefano called in sick. He was on his way, nurtured in England, adored throughout the world.

"Technique and language was everything," he said. "The public don't know what you are doing but they feel it."

Later in the more commercial era, he joined with Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras as The 3 Tenors, one of the most famous bands to populise classical music.

Howard's biopic is more like a love letter to a friend and should be appreciated on a personal level.

Reviewed on: 22 Jul 2019
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Pavarotti packshot
Documentary about the Italian tenor.
Amazon link

Director: Ron Howard

Writer: Cassidy Hartmann, Mark Monroe

Starring: Spike Lee, Princess Diana, Luciano Pavarotti, Phil Donahue, Stevie Wonder, Bono, Plácido Domingo, Nelson Mandela, Zubin Mehta, José Carreras, Nicoletta Mantovani, Madelyn Renée Monti, Kofi Annan, Joan Sutherland, Harvey Goldsmith

Year: 2019

Runtime: 114 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: UK, US


Karlovy 2019

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