Archive for July 14th, 2010

Tabula Rasa
Note:  Maurizio Roca, a film and music lover who resides in Brooklyn is the newest writer on the WitD staff, and this appraisal is his first official review for the site.
by Maurizio Roca
     This review is geared more towards those that have never heard this album before. Anyone that owns or has listened to Tabula Rasa is free to ignore it!
     Modern Classical dwells in the shadows of the contemporary musical world. It is a genre that suffers for obvious reasons. Its very name poses a problem for all future artists: How can one compete with the ghosts of history? Most Modern Classical composers toil in the same obscurity as modern-day jazz artists. The few recognizable names, like Max Richter and Johann Johannsson, are successful primarily because they fuse electronic and overt melodic elements with their rather simplistic compositions. And while they are respected by a younger audience, they are shunned by actual classical fans. The more traditional older composers—Morton Feldman, Gyorgy Ligeti, and Iannis Xenakis—are revered by the classical establishment albeit relatively unknown to the Pitchfork/Popmatters crowd.

     The one artist who seems to transcend all of this is none other than Estonian Arvo Part (although Steve Reich and Philip Glass come very close).

The best version of Tabula Rasa was released in 1984 for the ECM label. ECM has been responsible for other great releases, like Music For 18 Musicians by Steve Reich and Natura Renovatur by Giacinto Scelsi. All of these works have been re-released on cd with great cover art and insightful linear notes. Tabula Rasa features only Part’s instrumental music (many of his later works include vocals and Gregorian like chants), including three compositions (4 tracks) as well as minimal cover art. It incorporates his tintinnabuli technique and has a simple but beautiful style dubbed “holy minimalism.” The orchestral nature of what is presented on the ECM release has a clear cinematic feel. In fact, much of his music has been featured in various movies through the years. The cliche post-rock term, “music for an imaginary film,” can easily describe this album. Part boils everything down to its emotional core. You are meant to feel this music as much as think about it. While most twentieth century avant-garde places intellectual and mathematical theory over listening pleasure, Part is all about soul and indescribable beauty.  (more…)

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Guess the pic

Courtesy of Mr. Lyre

The winner can submit their screen-cap to movieman0283@gmail.com. Do not include film title in file name so I can participate as well! (Give a day or two for the new picture to go up)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 2001 487m) not on DVD

The writing on the wall

p  Claire Hirsch  d  David Moore, Hettie MacDonald  w  Kevin Hood, Neil Biswas  novel  Tim Pears  ph  Alwin Kuchler  ed  Bill Diver  m  Jocelyn Pook, Harvey Brough  art  Mark Stevenson  cos  Pam Tait, Dinah Collin

Robert Pugh (Charles Freeman), Helen McCrory (Mary Freeman), Shaun Dingwall (James Freeman), Kaye Wragg (Laura), Hazel Monaghan (Mina), Susannah Wise (Alice Freeman), Tony Maudsley (Simon Freeman), James Bradshaw (young James), Charlotte Salt (young Laura), Ravi Kapoor, Shirley Henderson, Kathleen Byron,

The BBC’s still baffling decision to only release to VHS despite the year of release hasn’t helped this masterpiece.  Nor did their decision to try and sneak it into the early year schedule like a wedding crasher.  One would be forgiven for thinking they were ashamed of it.  Yet let us make one thing perfectly clear, to say this is one of the great small screen achievements of the 21st century, despite being first shown only weeks into said century, does it a disservice.  It’s one of the great works of either screen of the modern era. 

            At its centre we have the Freeman family, headed by engineering industrialist Charles, and covers their lives from around 1952 to the mid 1990s.  Personal loves, hates and tragedies come and go, including a suicide and brutal murder, and continue to haunt not only the family but the fringe, in the shape of the housekeeper’s daughter.

            If that seems a stingy summation of eight hours of drama, then it’s meant to be, for it’s not the plot in itself that merits its reputation.  The early episodes are filled with the same sense of nostalgic, wistful memory – interspersed with old film clips – that recall the work of Terence Davies.  The family matriarch and patriarch are deliberately unsympathetic, the latter refusing to accept anything that doesn’t conform to his hard facts view of the world, the other stifled by him but at the same time cruelly disparaging of her own children – most memorably when smirking at her son’s desire to go into sales and venomously retorting “why not be really ambitious and train as a cost accountant?”  (more…)

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