Tuesday, December 20, 2011

More rapid reviews....

More briefs:

I finally viewed “There Will be Blood,” starring Daniel Day Lewis.  This is a great film, save the final third, which is rushed and compressed.  While the end is powerful, it speeds along at a pace that far exceeds that of the first third, which is dedicated to detailed character development.  But Day Lewis is top notch.  He inhabits his character is a way that few actors can and do.  From his raspy voice to his tension-filled forehead, he conveys without hesitation the anger that burdens his character.   We are not certain why there is such anger, but anger there is and Day Lewis owns it.  The cinematography is top notch and the sound track appropriately supports the story.  This is a movie worth seeing again.

“Day, Night, Day Night” is one odd movie.  It’s about a 19 year old girl who takes as her mission to become a suicide bomber in Times Square.  We don’t know what her motivation is, or what cause she represents.  Dialogue is minimal and even when she meets with her fellow terrorist, there is little said that would help us glean motivation.   Her accomplices,  whose heads are covered with sacks, help her fit her bomb device, give her instructions, and take a few dollars while leaving her just enough money to buy some food before the big event.  They also supply her with a pair of too-large shoes, which make a squishing sound when she walks, although the Foley artists seem to have been carried away with highlighting the sound as she walks the streets of Manhattan.   While on her mission, the young woman buys two large pretzels and assorted sweet treats.  She tries to screw up the courage to do the deed, but decides not to.  When she finally pulls the trigger, the device fails to go off.  She attempts to call her contacts, but can’t reach them.  The movie ends.  Better it had been called “A Day in the Life of a Would-Be Terrorist.”  This story leaves so much unsaid that I am not sure what the intent of it was, other than to show the mundane life of a suicide bomber.  I suppose that has some validity, but it focuses the story on the humdrum life of the main character, rather than on any political considerations she might have had that prompted her potentially suicidal mission.  I would not recommend this movie- it will be two hours invested that you will never get back.
The New Trinity Baroque presented its annual Candlelight Baroque Concert.  The program consisted of:
  • Torelli: Concerto In G Minor, Op. 8/6, "Per Il Santissimo Natale"
  • Bernhard: Weihnachtskonzert "Fürchtet euch nicht!" for Soprano, 2 Violins and Continuo
  • Torelli: Concerto for Trumpet in D major
  • Scarlatti: "Oh di Betlemme altera povertà" ("Cantata pastorale")
  • Manfredini: Concerto Grosso No. 12, Op. 3 in C major ("Christmas Concerto")
  • Handel: Aria "Let the bright Seraphim" from Samson, HWV 57
  • Handel: Aria "Rejoice greatly" from Messiah, HWV 56
  • Buxtehude: Passacaglia in D minor, BuxWV 161
  • Organ Preludes by J.S. Bach, Buxtehude and Böhm
Conductor Predrag Gosta again programmed a series of works that demonstrate the strength of his musicians and soprano Wanda Yang Tempko.  The sound of this group is so delicate and diaphanous that it is easy to loss oneself in the music, which for me, is a desirable outcome.  Tempko is a perfect complement- her voice is strong and clear, but she never overwhelms.  I was very surprised by the works of Buxtehude.  They were hypnotic and a very early kind of space music that floats lightly and never lands.  The NTB opens the door to Baroque music in a way that recordings never can.  The delicate sounds of the instruments, which sound harsh on most recordings, mixed with the reverberation of St. Bartholomew’s Church in Atlanta makes the sound light, yet sumptuous.  I look forward to every NTB concert. 

“The Tree of Life” is the controversial movie by Louis Malle, starring Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, and Sean Penn.  For me it was a brave new take on movie making and storytelling that combines brilliant cinematography, wonderful music, and careful character development.  This is not a linear story and it uses images, some of which are created by special effects and others from the Hubble, to underscore emotional points, such as a mother wondering why God took her son from her.  Pitt is perfect as a loving but overly strict father, who is frustrated in his life by an inability to get the recognition he feels he deserves for his invention.  He is also frustrated by the fact that he did not become the musician that he really wanted to be.  Sean Penn plays one of Pitt’s adult children.  For me, his performance was overwrought and melodramatic.  Chastain is luminous as Pitt’s cinematic spouse.  She has few lines, but her expressions and movements say everything.  The heart of the film is the relationship between Pitt’s two sons.  The older becomes a rebellious and depressed boy who reacts against his father’s repression.  The younger son, who dies at age 19, is a loving boy who idolizes his older brother.  Malle’s recreation of siblings playing together is stunning.  He sheds light on their maturating relationship related to trusting, loving, imagining, and appreciating life.  I was particularly struck by the character of the younger boy.  He had musical talent, much like his father, and his love for his older brother was touching.  Even when his brother was threatening him physically, he said “I trust you,” and the older boy did not break that trust.  The music chosen for the film was magnificent.  The film ends with Berlioz’s Grand Messe du Mort.  This achingly beautiful music that underscores the promise of reuniting with one’s lost loved ones.  It was the perfect piece to conclude this grand reflection on youth, innocence, ambition, relationships and love.  This movie may confuse, overwhelm, and bore but it will also create wonder and insight. It is one of the best I have ever seen.  

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