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This South African rendering of Carmen is only the latest attempt to make Bizet's chestnut more palatable to contemporary audiences. Sung and spoken in Xhosa, Mark Dornford-May's frenetic adaptation features solid performances by the leads (especially Pauline Malefane as Carmen, singing with gusto and carrying her large frame with considerable grace) and a shantytown setting that places this tale of fatal passions in a hardscrabble postapartheid Cape Town. The film is never dull and often rousing, but this is essentially a conventional version of a classic opera—the attempt to transform it into a critique of macho hubris comes off as an afterthought, and the poverty is just a backdrop. With subtitles. 120 min.

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