Bard Music Festival 2014 - Schubert and his World
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Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

Thumbnail : Boyhood

Boyhood

If Richard Linklater were anonymous, one of those painters who never signed their work, maybe he’d be known as The Master of the Gimmick. His first film, Slacker, tracked talk like a contagion or a unit of currency as it passed from one character to another, beginning with himself. Boyhood, his latest film, was shot […]

Thumbnail : George Eastman House Light & Motion Gala, May 5, 2014, at Three Sixty° in Tribeca

George Eastman House Light & Motion Gala, May 5, 2014, at Three Sixty° in Tribeca

My direct experience with the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, to give it its full name, began with their latest major restoration project, the recently rediscovered footage Orson Welles shot for the cinematic interludes in his Mercury production of Too Much Johnson. Apart from being a tour de force of conservation, the project underscored one inspiring aspect of the institution. George Eastman House is a museum, but, unlike virtually all art museums, which pride themselves on avoiding acquisitions in compromised condition, it actively seeks out films in need of conservation—that being its primary function, both to fill in the documentation of the history of photography and cinema, and to make lost works of art available to the public. This activity justifies itself of course, but its importance is heightened by the fact that motion pictures in particular were not considered worthy of preservation.

Thumbnail : Das Reichsorchester: The Berlin Philharmonic and the Third Reich, A film by Enrique Sánchez Lansch

Das Reichsorchester: The Berlin Philharmonic and the Third Reich, A film by Enrique Sánchez Lansch

It may seem like bad manners to welcome the Berlin Philharmonic to New York by discussing a film which deals with the darkest period in its history, but I have no trouble pointing out that its creator’s neutral position leads to a fair, even sympathetic treatment of the orchestra and the survivors who tell the story through their personal experiences and perspectives. The humanity and culture of these gentlemen shine through, and through the political murk, the viewer can develop a vivid sense of what made this orchestra and the musicians in it unique. Enrique Sánchez Lansch’s Das Reichsorchester is entirely the product of a contemporary German mentality, reflecting the desire of a later generation to understand the many gradations of complicity and innocence, courage and fear, their grandparents could grasp as choices in a political system which left them few.

Thumbnail : A Window on his World: Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street

A Window on his World: Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street

Jordan Belfort might be content to be a jerk if only he knew that he was one. Or perhaps his jerkiness is as self-evident to him as the truth that life is all about the Benjamins. At first The Wolf of Wall Street seems like the “I was going to be busy all day” climax of Goodfellas extended to three hours and accelerated from Cadillac to Ferrari pace. No other Scorsese movie is so playful, few are so funny; what a thrill to see Our Greatest Director disburdened of the weight of prestige almost to the point of bad taste. Like CasinoThe Wolf of Wall Street is a three hour film which never settles down. Instead of exposition, character development, subplot, landscape and wallowing in production design, there are fake TV ads (starting with the one which opens the film, blending with the production company logos), cover versions of once good songs, direct address to camera, the thoughts of characters narrated to us as voice over and several interminably uninspiring “inspirational” speeches. This is the world of a man whose vocabulary, grammar and syntax are made of such ticky-tack.

Thumbnail : Orson Welles’ Too Much Johnson, restored by George Eastman House

Orson Welles’ Too Much Johnson, restored by George Eastman House

Simon Callow, in his biography of Orson Welles, cites the Mercury actor, William Alland, on Welles’ personal devastation caused by the failure the company’s 1938 revival of William Gillette’s (1853-1937) Too Much Johnson (1894). According to Alland, who was with him most of the time, Welles “retired into his air-conditioned tent at the St. Regis, where he lay in darkness surrounded by 25,000 feet of film…convinced that he was going to die, racked by asthma and fear and despair.” Alland reported “the self-vilifications and the remorse for what he had done to those around him…” Although Welles returned to work and to his favorite diversions soon enough, it is clear that the failure of Too Much Johnson was a major defeat for him.

Thumbnail : ONE-NIGHT-ONLY screening of the newly restored  “Too Much Johnson” in New York, Monday, Nov. 25 at the Directors Guild of America Theater, 110 West 57th St.

ONE-NIGHT-ONLY screening of the newly restored  “Too Much Johnson” in New York, Monday, Nov. 25 at the Directors Guild of America Theater, 110 West 57th St.

If anyone needs no introduction, it is Orson Welles, although he in fact introduced himself countless times to movie and television audiences, above all in his many appearances in commercials, and even to live audiences. There is as much misinformation about him as there is about George Washington. (For one thing, Citizen Kane is not his best film, as impressive as it is.) As with any artist, we have to understand his life work as a whole, as compromised as some of it may be, before making judgments and creating hierarchies. The varied activities he pursued—in some cases with substantial success—before he made Citizen Kane are familiar enough, even outside the world of cinephiles, but not everyone has thought about how they worked together to bring him within reach of the innovations of Kane.

Thumbnail : Good People Go to Hell, Saved People Go to Heaven – Holly Hardman’s documentary about Hurricane Katrina and the End Times

Good People Go to Hell, Saved People Go to Heaven – Holly Hardman’s documentary about Hurricane Katrina and the End Times

Holly Hardman begins her important film, Good People Go to Hell Saved People Go to Heaven, with words in white lettering against a black background—words in a basic, analytical form, first the word “rapture” followed by a series of common synonyms—euphoria, elation, bliss, etc.—then a dictionary definition of the expression, “the Rapture,” Theology; aspect of Apocalyptic Millennialism. In Evangelical and fundamentalist Christian belief, the act of being lifted by Jesus into heavenly skies upon the Second Coming, either before, during, or after the Tribulation (a time of great suffering for those left behind on earth).” Before any moving image appears, we hear a strange, incoherent hissing sound, which becomes clearer as we observe a strapping man in early middle age. The man, who wears biblical robes and flowing hair and beard, is muttering the name of Jesus, as he carries a large cross along a highway. Then he half-chants, “Jesus have mercy, Lawd.” The cross has a small wheel or caster at its base to facilitate the bearing of it. This practical touch hints that the man is not carrying out some fanatical penance, but working.

Thumbnail : Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, with Philip Seymour Hoffman

Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, with Philip Seymour Hoffman

Apocalypse then. As an act of recollection, The Master captures the Fifties with perfect pitch, all the more remarkable because the film’s creator wasn’t there. Two stories collide from opposite directions. One is the story of an invisible man, a World War II veteran who never recovers from combat. The other is a charlatan savant […]

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  • A Singer’s Notes 93: Denève, the TMC Orchestra, and Berlioz; McGegan and Handel; Bernstein’s Candide at Tanglewood
    The excellent Stephane Denève chose two works of Hector Berlioz for his TMCO concert. Wholly remarkable was a performance of Les Nuits d'Été. The maestro gave these songs a sound I've never heard before. It was ravishingly quiet to begin with, not unlike the nearly silent playing Simon Rattle can achieve in his Mahler performances. It was like some
    Keith Kibler
  • Murder Myth Married to Music—Lizzie Borden Wields her Axe at Tanglewood
    In Jack Beeson and Kenward Elmslie’s 1965 retelling, Lizzie Borden is unequivocally presented the murderer of her step-mother and father; in the opening moments, as the orchestra starts up with a scream of outrage, Lizzie runs onstage with an axe and plants it firmly in the middle of the family table. It remains there for most of the opera, sometimes reached
    Larry Wallach
  • A Singer’s Notes 92: The Cherry Orchard
    The Cherry Orchard At Historic Park-McCullough in North Bennington, VT July 31 – August 9 Most remarkable in Living Room Theatre’s The Cherry Orchard by Chekhov on Friday night was a natural sounding translation of the play – something I have rarely heard. This was accomplished by the young actress who also played Anya, along with Randolyn Zinn. […] The post
    Keith Kibler
  • A Singer’s Notes 91: TMC Forever, and A Little Bit of Marlboro
    The Tanglewood Center Music Orchestra took on an enormous challenge in their first outing this summer. The Bruckner 4th Symphony is a magnificent leviathan of a piece which requires everything of its players and its conductor. The young French horn section deserves multiple plaudits. This work is one of the supreme tests of orchestral horn […] The post A Sin
    Keith Kibler