Posts Tagged ‘Musical’

Hair (1979) **** Bluray Release

Dir Miloš Forman | Cast: John Savage, Treat Williams, Beverly D’Angelo, Annie Golden | US Comedy musical 121′

Emblematic of the so-called Swinging Sixties this zany anti-establishment smash hit musical captured the imagination of Czech director Miloš Forman who made a film of it ten years later.

John Savage plays Claude Bukowski, a naive country boy who leaves Bible-bashing Oklahoma for a journey of love and self-discovery in New York City, before reality finally bites in the killing fields of Vietnam.

The film was nominated for two Golden Globes but came home empty- handed: only the music remains in the collective memory with a string of hits such as: The Age of Aquarius and San Francisco.

Loosely based on Hair: An American Tribal Love-Rock Musical, the musical play, book and lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado, the opening scene seems ludicrous today – it sees a group of hippies sashaying along a country lane extolling the virtues of masturbation, just as some rather posh women are riding by on their horses. But there’s a joyful energy at play throughout this coming of age musical that sees the wide-eyed Claude (Savage) waiting for his Vietnam drafting while falling in love with a rich but rebellious ‘it’ girl (D’Angelo). He certainly experiences a baptism of fire – but not the one he originally had in mind back in Oklahoma. And although Hair occasionally feels cheesy and dated, there’s plenty to enjoy in this provocative and sometimes downright hilarious musical memoir. MT

Celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year, HAIR will be released on Blu-ray (a UK premiere)/DVD in a Dual Format Edition by the BFI on 28 October 2019 as part of a UK-wide season, BFI Musicals! The Greatest Show on Screen.

Dual Format Edition release on 28 October 2019

The Seven Last Words (2019) *** IFFR Rotterdam 2019

Dir.: Kaveh Nabatian, Ariane Lorrain, Sophie Goyette, Juan Andres Arango Garcia, Sophie Deraspe, Karl Lemieux, Caroline Monnert; Canada/Columbia/Haiti/Iran/USA 2018, 73 min.

Canadian filmmaker Kaveh Nabatian has always believed that music and film are inextricably linked: they form a unit, and he illustrates the point with this essay film. The seven chapters are underpinned by the music of The Seven Last Words of our Saviour on the Cross (1787) by Joseph Haydn, played by the Callino Quartet. 

Forgiveness; Salvation; Family; Abandonment; Distress; Triumph and Life after Death all relate to Jesus’ words in his last hours. The chapters are aesthetically very different, reaching from Fiction; Documentary; Experimenta; Magic Realism to a matter of fact conventional narrative. Perhaps most impressive is Distress, a mixture of on on-screen writing and theatrical pantomime. The walls are blood red, naked people pose in front of the dripping blood, and furniture is positioned in front of the walls as in an exhibition. Water is an element common to some essays: in the prologue a woman climbs into a plane which then soars into the sky over the ocean. She later opens the cabin door and jumps out, flying over the water like a bird, her white clothes making her look like a dove. In Triumph we see the same configuration: a boy at the sea front, a woman under water with doves flying above them. Haydn’s music carries The Seven Last Words, its dominance is the connection between the very diverse chapters which leave the interpretation to the audience. The remarkable images shock, inspire and amaze. A cinematic and meditative piece of filmmaking.


The Song of the Tree (2018) Talinn Black Nights 2018

Dir: Aibek Daiyrbekov | Musical Drama | 93′ | Kyrgyzstan

THE SONG OF THE TREE is a sumptuously vivid story about a woman’s ardent love for a man and our deep connection with home. Based on real and mythical stories passed down from one generation to another, it is also Kyrgyzstan’s first musical film, set and filmed in this magnificent scenic country.

It follows the story of a feisty young man (Esen,Omurbek Izrailov)) who falls foul of his mountain community over time old issue of honour, after stealing some meat, which leads to the felling of a secret tree. Humiliated, he decides to leave with his love Begimai (Saltanat Bakaeva) but after they are  intercepted, the lovesick loner becomes hellbent on revenge. 

The musical elements embellish the nomadic narrative rather than driving it forward, the songs are gracefully performed and, despite subtitles, the story more or less tells itself pictorially to those who hate reading the bottom line. And there’s plenty here to enjoy. Filmmaker Aibek Daiyrbekov tells his tale against the stunning widescreen backdrop of the Tien Shan range of mountains. But there is an intimacy to the story that retains our interest throughout and this often involves a singing vignette in the foreground.

Set during the 1800s the film really conveys the stridence and casual violence of these exotic people who think nothing of whipping their adversaries savagely and pulling out daggers, without a ‘by your leave’. There are some spectacular chase scenes on horseback – one in particular sees a horse roll over and over down a sandy valley. Daiyrbekov keeps our attention on the lovers story (despite the odd subplot) and this eventually culminates in a face-off between between Esen and Oguz (Jurduzbek Kaseivov), the man who cut down the tree and murdered his brother.

There’s nothing particularly unique about the plot line but Daiyrbekov’s directing and mise en scene and Akzhol Bekbolotov’s camerawork is absolutely glorious and visually exquisite. Meanwhile Zholdoshbek Apasov’s compositions and use of local instruments give the film a lyrical quality that adds to its enjoyment. With a modest running time of 93 minutes, this is a worthwhile addition to Kyrgyzstan contemporary cinema. MT




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