Photo Credit / CBS Films
Film Distribution / CBS Films
Runtime 114 minutes.
Not being an opera aficionado, I have little interest in a documentary about Luciano Pavarotti. Producer/director Ron Howard did a good job, however, on The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years (2016), and he tells an interesting tale here, too. Because I am a Beatlemaniac, I didn’t mind the whitewashed story that ignored the drugs and the silly rationalizations, like John Lennon’s denial that “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was based on LSD (which is almost as ridiculous as Peter, Paul, and Mary’s preposterous denials that “Puff, The Magic Dragon” was based on marijuana, which it clearly is).
Howard is in the same ball park here with Pavarotti. While he tells the story of how this undisciplined, gargantuan fat man with a great smile and booming voice became il divo, he skims over his constant womanizing when he was married to the same woman for 34 years and fathered three daughters with her. He even sympathizes with Luciano when he tries to vindicate dumping his wife after more than three decades with the sophomoric lament “I fell in love” (with a chick more than 30 years his junior and after he had already fathered a child with her).
It also ignores the fact that after Pavarotti died, two of his closest friends for more than three decades, conductor Leone Magiera and his gynecologist wife Lydia De Marca, in an article by Paul Bracchi and Nick Pisa in “The Daily Mail” claimed that Pavarotti was extremely disenchanted with that second wife, Nicoletta. Dr. La Marca is quoted as saying after meeting with Pavarotti on his death bed and Luciano asking Nicoletta to leave the room:
“He just unleashed himself like a child.
“He said: ‘I am in a bad way. In these last years Nicoletta is tormenting me, she makes me live alone, I am isolated, my friends don’t come and see me anymore, she speaks badly about my daughters and she surrounds me with people I don’t like.
“‘She has even pushed away Tino (Pavarotti’s personal assistant) and his wife who were like children to me. I need Veronica (Tino’s wife)’,” he said.
“He was desperate and I know that he was very close to Veronica. To give you an example, it was she who dressed him and put his make-up on after he died.”
Dr La Marca added: “This went on for 20 minutes. He also said: ‘She thinks about money all the time, she arrives with documents for me to sign. She threatens to not let me see Alice, and she has these scenes’.
“Then he said something which gave me goosebumps. He said, ‘You know, Lidia, how this will end? Either I will shoot myself or we will separate’.”
Frankly, it seems to me that the way he treated his wife and children and the way his second wife treated him are interesting and important enough to give a balanced view of the man’s life. Unfortunately, Howard soft soaps that and the resulting dispute about his estate, and leads one to believe that everything was hunky-dory between them when he died. Tell the story and let the viewer make up its own mind about what to believe and how to think about him, but don’t leave out the bad stuff.
OK, I got that out of the way. Other than that, this is a highly entertaining film that follows Luciano almost from the start to the finish. It’s got some clips of Pavarotti singing, but not too much that might bore people like me who don’t appreciate opera.