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Film Review: “Maria by Callas” (2017) ★★★★


For some, celebrities are stars that are farther in distance than the real ones. In reality, they’re just human beings like yourself and I. So why do we have to be concerned about their personal lives, what they eat, read, do, or even go out on a date with? Don’t we have other things to take care of? Talented people, actors, or singers are not politicians nor our employers. They don’t work for us. They owe us nothing. And the simple reason for that is they are generous enough to share with us their talent, so we can please our eyes, ears and bring more light to our seemingly uneventful days.

“Maria by Callas” is a documentary movie directed by Tom Volf which offers an intimate look at the life and work of one of the most renowned and influential opera singers of the 20th century, the American-born Greek Soprano, Maria Callas. The movie follows her life through her own words and supported purely by archival footages and an interview that is worth watching millions of times.

“There are two people in me,” she begins her telecasted interview with Frost, “I would like to be Maria, but there is the Callas that I have to live up to.” She continues throughout her interview in which she tells all about herself – reserved, calm, eloquent and with a wide smile. But through her charm and shiny smile, there’s a glimpse of sadness that never leaves her until the end, until the credits roll to black.

It’s a fascinating story the viewer will have a lot to learn about, Callas’ ups and downs, how she began her career, the education she needed to abandon for a musical career, and a Soprano voice the world was impatiently waiting to hear. But behind the curtains, there was a real Maria, the person who she always trusted, did not need to pretend to be someone else. As her marriage was falling apart, her love affair with one of the world’s richest then, Aristotle Onassis, would hit seven years mark. But all of a sudden, after giving up her US citizenship and ready to tie the knot with Onassis, she reads in the news that he is getting married to Jacqueline Kennedy.

As you can imagine, there’s a lot to digest in Tom Volf’s documentary, much more to process and get more reasons to admire Maria Callas, her grace, her talent, way of singing, and the piece of heart she would always leave on stage after finishing her performance. The funny part is, Tom Volf as a director confesses that “four years ago I did not know who Maria Callas was.” But the way he structured his movie, the way he brought Maria Callas back to life, appeared as if he knew her even in person.

In conclusion, “Maria by Callas” is a true gift to our generation. It has no gossips and nothing that would overshadow the beauty of Volf’s contribution, dedication and the hard work which resulted in such an amazing journey created for all of us to live through the silver screen. Callas made a great point by saying the following, “I am not an angel and do not pretend to be. That is not one of my roles. But I am not a devil, either. I am a woman and a serious artist, and I would like so to be judged,” which reminds us that artists of any kind cannot be blamed for failed voice, imagination or getting sick. The only thing an artist deserves to get from us is a logical and reasonable judgment filled with gratitude and understanding of a craft they deliver, which is not that easy. Thanks to Tom Volf for letting Maria Callas speak for the very last time, so the current or next generation will have a great reference to refer to.

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