BEL CANTO (Paul Weitz) is set in an unnamed Latin American nation in the late 90s, as guerrilla fighters storm an ambassador’s residence, taking a Japanese industrialist (Ken Watanabe) and an American opera singer (Juli- anne Moore, singing with the voice of Renée Fleming) hostage along with the staff and a handful of dignitaries. Adapting Ann Patchett’s 2001 novel (which was inspired by an actual incident in Peru), director/co-writer Weitz (Grandma, Admission) plays up the absurdity of the situation, juggling scenes in a multiplicity of languages as characters struggle to make themselves understood in order to prevent misunderstandings from escalating into violence… while Moore and Watanabe conjure a mature, simpatico understanding that makes dialogue seem almost unnecessary. The midsection gets a little static, and viewers may be inclined to share the frustration of the UN negotiator (Sebastian Koch) at the lack of narrative progress. But that’s a necessary evil for this kind of story. Stick with Bel Canto, and you’ll find it knows exactly what it’s doing. 101 min. Some subtitles. NNN (Norman Wilner)
Ken Watanabe and Julianne Moore act in harmony in Bel Canto.