Review: 'Pavarotti' is the perfect encore

Posted September 24,2019 - 03:11 PM

Director Ron Howard is quickly creating a rather impressive cottage industry in music documentaries with the Beatles' Eight Days A Week and now with Pavarotti. I mean it's not like the multi-hyphenate prodigy is hurting for money, but he's proving to be quite adept at his new endeavor.

All I really knew about Luciano Pavarotti before sitting down to watch this film was that he was one of the famed Three Tenors and those in my parents' generation absolutely adored him. To be fair, during his heyday, I was more into punk and rock music, but I have come to appreciate his unique talent as I have gotten older.

In this film, Howard deftly weaves performance film with previously unreleased footage to create an accessible portrait of the larger-than-life performer. Known as one of the most beloved opera singers of all time, Pavarotti shows that there was so much more to the man than simply a golden voice.

There's little doubt that Ron Howard is a gifted filmmaker, but he's not just a one-trick pony. While he's quite adept at orchestrating big blockbusters, he's equally impressive with intimate looks at cultural sensations. Whether it's the Beatles or Pavarotti, he is able to present his subjects in a new light that captures the imagination of several demographics.

Let's face it. Opera and classical music isn't everyone's cup of tea, but with Pavarotti, Howard is able to present a compelling narrative and insight into the human side of the larger-than-life singer. I was, until now, unaware of the scope of Pavarotti's philanthropic endeavors, but this film spends a great deal of time showing his generous heart.

Pavarotti died in 2007, but he lived a dozen lifetimes worth in his 71 years and Howard is able to capture his cultural impact over two short hours. As time goes by, the memory of these legendary performers tends to become foggy and we soon see them simply as iconic touchstones instead of human beings. With this film, we are reminded of Pavarotti's human side and love of life.

Luciano Pavarotti was a man that indulged in all of the pleasures of life. While his pursuit of excess might not have rivaled the biggest rock and roll stars, he certainly embraced his fame and notoriety. They were able to capture his zeal for life through both his public appearances and rare intimate moments. It's quite clear that while he loved to perform for the lights and camera, he was also quite remarkable when the cameras were no longer rolling.

As far as his legacy is concerned, he was not without his own failures in life, but I think those are presented and balanced well, all things considered. With the litany of praise heaped on the man over the course of the film's 115 minutes, it goes without saying that his legacy will forever be assured thanks to Pavarotti.

In addition to the nearly two hours of film, the combo pack also includes a trio of featurettes that dig deeper into his performances and his friends. But, it was the one that interviewed director Ron Howard that really got to me. It was evident that Howard had a great admiration the man and that love carries forward in the film.

It is unusual for such a robust documentary to include additional special features, but they do indeed complement the main feature well. If you're even remotely interested in Luciano Pavarotti, then this film is definitely for you.