King of the High C’s’ and arguably the most famous opera singer in modern history, Luciano Pavarotti’s tumultuous life is explored with vivid detail in the Ron Howard helmed documentary, Pavarotti.
It is clear that Howard, whose directorial credits include The Beatles (The Beatles: Eight Days a Week, 2016) and Jay-Z (Made in America, 2013), is a filmmaker obsessed with cataloguing musical pioneers. Particularly those that have defined their genres.
With Pavarotti, Howard expresses his dire affection for a musician whose legacy had transcended opera into the mainstream. His charisma, outside of his powerhouse tenor vocals, being able to draw newcomers into a genre considered exclusionary and elitist. Howard achieves this by studiously detailing the demeanour of a man whose generosity was as extravagant as his vocals.
Archival footage captures Pavarotti lovingly, with interviews featuring Pavarotti and those closest to him revealing the virtuoso’s vulnerable nature. The lows of Pavarotti’s life do receive some coverage but are never investigated deeply enough. The viewer is merely offered a glimpse into his infidelity, with Howard’s enamoured gaze keeping the focus on the icon’s successes.
Howard struggles to keep Pavarotti interesting enough to justify the two-hour runtime. Other than express admiration, Howard offers check-box direction; ticking off Pavarotti’s achievements without having something compelling to say about them. He then follows this up with the occasional performance being slotted in disjointedly. Because of this, Howard makes the remarkable feel tired and never allows the film to resonate outside of a surface level.
For fans of Pavarotti, this adoring account of a charismatic musician who made his extraordinary talent seem effortless will be a delight to behold. For others unfamiliar with Pavarotti’s work, Howard’s bug-eyed fascination proves tedious; a feat which could have been forgiven had Pavarotti been thirty minutes shorter and not felt like an aria on loop.
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