Beautifully acted, intelligently written and criminally neglected by critics and distributors (it wasn't even released in the UK or USA) Callas Forever is a haunting and poignant study of the sacrifices an artist makes for her art. The director Franco Zeffirelli based much of it on his own 25-year friendship with the lady herself. Still, this is anything but a straightforward biopic. In a fictional story set during the last few months of the diva's life, Zeffirelli plays a tantalising game of "What if..?"
It's the spring of 1977, and Maria Callas - the world\'s most famous opera star - is now a recluse in Paris. A tragic cross between Garbo and Norma Desmond, she spends her life popping pills, fighting off bad dreams and listening to recordings of her voice at its glorious peak. Fanny Ardant does a stunning impersonation of the Callas voice and mannerisms. She even looks uncannily like her (apart from the odd awkward shot where she looks like Nana Mouskouri!) But her private hell is disrupted by the arrival of an old friend...
Larry Kelly (Jeremy Irons) is a flamboyant gay impresario, complete with pony-tail! He's just had the brainwave of matching recordings of Callas in her prime with movie versions of her greatest opera hits. First up is Carmen, and this film-within-a-film (a riot of dancing gypsies, dashing matadors and floating lace mantillas) is easily the highlight of the show. We also get not one but two love stories - Maria's passion for a hunky young tenor (Gabriel Garko) and Larry's affair with a cute young painter (Jay Rodan).
At the end, Larry and Maria sit on a park bench and muse on how they have Sacrificed Their Lives For Their Art. Was it worth it? When the final result is as touching and lyrical as Callas Forever...well, most definitely, yes. Provided, of course, the public gets a chance to see it!