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Archive for December 4th, 2009

 by Sam Juliano

     From the House of the Dead, based on a novel by Dostoyevsky, may well be famed Czechoslovakian composer Leos Janacek’s most extraordinary opera.  The rather extreme musical style of the last years of Janacek’s life is complemented here by a dramaturgy in opera that was actually years ahead of its time.  This is a stark work with vocal writing that exhibits powerful expressive force.  It is the final work from Janacek, and like the three that preceded it- Kata Kabanova, The Cunning Little Vixen and The Makropoulos Case it speaks with a deeply humanitarian voice.  The composer aimed here to portray the bleakest suffering, unknowingly creating resonances with historical events and places he would never live to see – notably, the gulags of Soviet Russia and the concentration camps of the Nazi regime.  The raw power of the situation itself is paralleled brilliantly in the composer’s style.  Janacek’s depiction of the Russian penitentiary is so belligerant, so forceful in its realism that it takes on a kind of white-hot fervor.  In fact Janecek once wrote: “You know the terror, the inner feelings of a human being who will never cease to breathe: complete despair which wants nothing and expects nothing.  This will be developed in my Dostoyevsky opera.”  (more…)

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(UK 1992 85m) DVD2

Shining a torch into the night sky

p  Olivia Stewart  d/w  Terence Davies  ph  Michael Coulter  ed  William Diver  md  Robert Lockhart  art  Christopher Hobbs  cos  Monica Howe

Marjorie Yates (mother), Leigh McCormack (Bud), Anthony Watson (Kevin), Nicholas Lamont (John), Ayse Owens (Helen), Tina Malone (Edna), Jimmy Wilde (Curly), Robin Polley (Mr Nicholls),

Watching Terence Davies’ autobiographical piece was, to this reviewer, rather like flicking through a family album, heralding from a family barely removed from that depicted in the film, in location, time and spirit.  It isn’t a prerequisite to be acquainted with the north, or with Catholicism, or remembrances of the 1950s, but it certainly helps.  And though those who cannot tick those boxes can and do enjoy and celebrate the film, they do miss something in the translation. (more…)

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