Glenn Close hits the high notes as a cool diva in Meeting Venus, but romantic comedy set in a strife-torn Paris opera house is knocked on the head by a central love story that’s dumb and uninvolving.
Yarn opens in sprightly style with Budapest conductor (Niels Arestrup) flying in for a production of Wagner’s Tannhauser at the fictional Opera Europa. After being introduced to polyglot staff, he soon realizes that ‘here you can be misunderstood in six languages.’ The internal politics make old Eastern Europe look like a summer camp.
He doesn’t get any help from his lead soprano (Close), who initially dismisses him. Plot grinds to a halt halfway when Close suddenly takes a liking to the humbled Arestrup, and they’re soon exchanging confidences between the sheets. Film ends with the chaotic first night of Tannhauser back in Paris.
What must have seemed on paper like a light-hearted satire on Euro-squabbling and the multi-lingual opera scene works okay in the opening rounds. Magyar helmer Istvan Szabo directed the same opera in Paris six years earlier and makes no secret that the pic was inspired by his experiences. Things start to go wrong when the Close-Arestrup affair gets serious.