Quartet (2012)

Tom Courtenay and Maggie Smith who star in Quartet, directed by Dustin Hoffman.
Tom Courtenay and Maggie Smith being utterly lovely in Quartet, directed by Dustin Hoffman.

The screen adaptation of Ronald Harwood’s stage play Quartet is a quirky yet touching depiction of the lives of former opera stars grappling with their personal and professional pasts, as well as – in one case – approaching a senile future.

In its own way – there are some crafting issues which do jar a little in places – Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut succeeds in bringing the audience in touch with the realities of the music world, one in particular most of us overlook: those responsible for our own formative musical experiences are themselves getting old. And of those who don’t have a family or money to cushion them in their old age, some end up in homes like the fictional Beecham House for Retired Musicians.

An horrific situation for a professional musician. You spend your teenage years and early twenty-years handling the competitive atmosphere dripping from the walls of music college, only to find yourself having to handle similar pressures in your professional life. The critics are constantly yapping at your ankles and then there’s the ever-increasing possibility that the very tool your career is dependent on is in danger of letting you down. And after that? You find yourself back in close proximity with the very same kind of people, if not the very same individuals.

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Another Doctor Who movie?

News that there might be another Doctor Who movie made gets me all excited, just like the news the series was coming back in 2005. I hope I won’t be disappointed.

The last attempt – with Paul McGann in the lead role – didn’t turn out to be quite what I thought it should be.

I was too rooted in Tom Baker and Peter Davison’s incarnations. I liked the TARDIS interior, quite like the regeneration, but wasn’t entirely satisfied with the denouement. I felt a little let down.

And then Russell T Davies came along. Everything settled down soon after that.

My Whovian movie-related thrills and spills are still to be found in Peter Cushing’s silver screen portrayal of the role. Flanked by Jill Curzon, Roberta Tovey and Ray Brooks, Cushing’s Doctor was the ultimate weirdo. Enticing, vacant, vulnerable and unnerving. His TARDIS looked cheap but feasible. High definition Daleks were to die for too.

Dalek Invasion Earth 2150 was the big screen remake of an already broadcast TV story a hungry audience devoid of VCRs were believed to be keen pay good money to see again. The film still brings me pleasure. If the next movie could capture the stuff I loved about this (and it’s predecessor), I’ll be one happy
Whovian.

On Zachary Quinto coming out

Positive in overall outlook, I can’t help reading dot429’s October 19 piece on actor Zachary Quinto coming out of the closet as being a thinly veiled piece of promotional copy for the actor’s latest film Margin Call.

Mounting a campaign to encourage people to see a film because the actor has recently ‘come out’ strikes me as a bit of a low blow. If it’s a good film, it will succeed. I don’t especially want it to succeed solely because Quinto revealed his sexuality prior to it’s release.

The actor has done a good thing. Let’s not blur the boundaries.


Film: Music Makes a City Louisville Orchestra

Music Makes a City

A genuinely gorgeous evening spent watching this DVD set charting the history of the Louisville Orchestra – formerly known as the Louisville Philharmonic Society.

An exhilarating introduction to a number of American composers some of whom I had – shamefully – dismissed because I’d assumed their musical language was impenetrable. The brilliant photography undoubtedly helped although there were times when my lack of familiarity with every US city led me to believe that every view was one of Louisville and its environs.

Focussed as the 100 minute doc is on the origins of the band and the way in which conductor Robert Whitney and staunched mayoral advocate Charles Farnsley secured the orchestra’s future through subscription recordings, the success of the film set up my expectations for a complete history.

I was left wanting more, in particular some reference to the US orchestral scene. This flags up my lack of knowledge as well as demonstrating the skill of the documentary maker capturing the recollections of a whole host of engaging contributors. Given the orchestras’s present state of affairs going further as far as the present day may have made for a bit of an unresolved ending. One hopes something will get sorted out at some point given that its early history is so proudly and passionately retold in this film.

A must-see for anyone who’s interested in orchestral music. An excellent introduction to contemporary American music or anyone looking for an overview of what was going on in American orchestral music during the mid-twentieth century.

Chris Langham & Black Pond

Good to see the brilliantly talent Chris Langham interviewed in the Guardian about his new project, the film Black Pond (above).

On the subject of ‘those‘ charges, I find myself gasping when I read this paragraph by journo Decca Aitkenhead:

I spend an afternoon at his family home in rural Kent, and for what it’s worth – because of course, we’ll never know – I believe his explanation. I’ve never heard of a paedophile downloading just 15 images – their computers usually contain thousands and thousands – and nothing he says makes me suspicious.

Good to see you back in business sir. We still owe you for your work on Posh Nosh (below). Looking forward to the film.