BEL CANTO

April 17 – 2PM + 7:30PM

USA, 2018 – Rated: 14A – 102 minutes
English
Directed by Paul Weitz
Cast: Julianne Moore, Sebastian Koch, Christopher Lambert, Ken Watanabe

Based on Ann Patchett’s 2001 novel of the same name, Bel Canto mirrors the real-life events of the 1996–1997 Japanese Embassy Hostage Crisis in Lima, during which Peru’s rebel Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) raided Japan’s ambassadorial residence during a state function, holding hundreds hostage in an attempt to bring president Alberto Fujimori to account for a long list of human rights violations and political imprisonments. The film focuses on the fictitious relationships between numerous characters during the crisis, including a world-renowned opera singer (Julianne Moore, Still Alice, The Kids are Alright) and a wealthy Japanese industrialist (Ken Watanabe, Isle of Dogs, Inception).

On the eve of a soiree thrown in order to secure a Peruvian investment from Katsumi Hosokawa (Watanabe), US soprano Roxanne Cross (Moore) is flown in from the US, at Hosokawa’s request, to perform an intimate recital for the international group. The evening is quickly interrupted by a group of armed guerillas, who vow not to let anyone go until  their demands — primarily the release of comrades imprisoned by the president — are met. A Red Cross negotiator (Sebastian Koch, television’s Homeland, The Danish Girl) steps in to mediate the situation and provide aid by way of food and supplies, but the situation drags on for weeks, with the hostages and rebels beginning to bond and learn more about one another, bridging culture and language.

The passing of time is indicated by a MRTA fighter who marks the days on a cement wall. Using sweeping shots of the stately home and an increasingly calming visual tone, director Paul Weitz prompts the audience to question whether the hostages remain under actual restraint or not. As the characters find common ground, exploring forbidden friendships and even love, Weitz gracefully tells a story that, at its root, is about breaking down barriers.

“What makes every iteration of Bel Canto such a richly rewarding journey is the gradual evolution of its characters, who begin to form a makeshift family as the outside world grows more distant with every passing hour.”

—Matt Fagerholm,
RogerEbert.com