19 July 2007

Sonata for Viola (3/5)

First of all: Shostakovich is the shit motherfuckers, and I'll stab anyone in the face who doesn't agree.

As for the documentary [ IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes ], it was exemplary at times and yet somewhat too abstract (formalist?!?) for what I wanted. The archival footage was both phenomenal in its clarity and impact (Bernstein's version of the ... 7th ... IIRC) and suspicious in its splicing (a video of a speech had mute talking and canned applause?). I wanted a second, special edition DVD with all of the source material. Alas.

It was more symphonic music than chamber, I prefer his chamber and solo works, and yet it quickly won me over. His story was told with care. There was no plodding on about the Stalin brouhaha and neither too much about his being a tool of the party. But also, the ambiguity we understand--while scholars of both sides argue--was somewhat elided. What's the appropriate way to handle such a subject?

There are clips of him playing piano (I knew about his skill but never really knew. wow.) and hugging Bernstein in the above concert (not what you're thinking, he was married three times). Shots of his grave, hospital room (phone number 140-94-06), at Prokofiev's funeral, signing manuscripts, et al. were phenomenal to see for me. I'm not sure what impact they have on those unfamiliar but again, face stabbing is threatened. Worth the effort for who he is and for the rare footage you might otherwise not get to see. I'm obviously biased, but it might even win you over with his music.

[ posted by sstrader on 19 July 2007 at 9:35:47 PM in Cinema ]