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Film and the Arts

Stunning Conclusion to Mostly Mozart Fest

Louis Langrée and the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra. Photo by Richard Termine

The concluding Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra concert of the season—presented at Lincoln Center's David Geffen Hall on the evening of Saturday, August 19th, and conducted enthusiastically by Music Director Louis Langrée—was an unusually memorable one and a superb finale.

Before the main performance, a worthwhile pre-concert recital featured star soloist Gil Shaham, along with Adele Anthony, in Sergei Prokofiev's intriguing Sonata for Two Violins.

The concert proper opened magnificently with a sterling account of Prokofiev's brilliant, enormously popular "Classical" Symphony, a work perfectly suited to this festival. 

A gripping reading of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's dark, amazingly precocious Symphony No. 25 conjured the Classical atmosphere evoked by the Prokofiev work,  satisfyingly closing the first half of the program.

For the second half, Shaham took the stage for a wonderful rendition of the exhilarating, unforgettable Violin Concerto of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky—a work with a debt to Mozart's majesty—providing a marvelous capstone to a fine festival.

August '17 Digital Week IV

Blu-rays of the Week 
The Golden Age
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
(Bel Air)
The Bolshoi Ballet’s thoroughly delightful Golden Age, based on ridiculously catchy music by Dmitri Shostakovich, displays the company at its best with spiffy costuming, clever sets and some effortlessly stupendous dancing. 
In choreographer Alexander Ekman’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, only the title is Shakespeare’s: the music isn’t Mendelssohn’s classic score but a lukewarm one by Mikael Karlsson that doesn’t seem to challenge the men and women of the Royal Swedish Ballet, who still do their damnedest to make it work. Both discs include first-rate hi-def video and audio. The lone Dream extra is an Ekman interview.
In Mike Leigh’s 1984 television film, a working-class family deals with the effects of Margaret Thatcher’s regime, including skyrocketing unemployment and a possible youthful alternative like skinheads. 
Although ragged around the edges, this biting comedy-drama from the always political Leigh is a fine lead-in to his two best films, 1988’s High Hopes and 1991’s Life Is Sweet—both of which deserve a Criterion release—and also a great showcase for an array of young acting talent, including Tim Roth and (in his debut) Gary Oldman. The Criterion hi-def transfer is decent enough (this is, after all, an early ‘80s British TV film); extras are new interviews with Leigh and actress Marion Bailey and a 2007 Roth interview.
La Poison 
In Sacha Guitry’s jet-black but precise comedy, French great Michel Simon and Germaine Reuver play long-wedded spouses who’ve grown to loathe each other so much that they discuss how they will off each other—until she ends up dead and he is taken to court charged with her murder. 
Guitry’s poison pen is as sharp as ever, notwithstanding a sentimental opening credit sequence unlike any you’ve seen (unless you know other Guitry movies). Simon is superbly expressive, unsurprisingly, as is Reuver as his unlucky wife. Criterion’s hi-def transfer of this 1951 B&W film is nothing short of dazzling; extras comprise an hour-long 2010 documentary, Life On-Screen: Miseries and Splendour of a Monarch, about Guitry and Simon’s collaborations; an hour-long episode of French television series Cineaste de Notre Temps from 1965 about Guitry (who died in 1957); and an interview with an unabashed Guitry fan, director Olivier Assayas.

Broadway Review—Michael Moore’s “The Terms of My Surrender”

The Terms of My Surrender
Written and performed by Michael Moore; directed by Michael Mayer
Performances through October 22, 2017
Michael Moore in The Terms of My Surrender (photo: Joan Marcus)
In the nearly 30 years since his muckraking documentary Roger and Me made him famous, Michael Moore has perfectly honed his style of man-on-the-street reportage and progressive advocacy, including books (Downsize This!, Stupid White Men), television (TV Nation, The Awful Truth) and more documentaries, including Oscar winner Bowling for Columbine and Cannes Palme d’Or winner Fahrenheit 9/11.
Now he’s taken his act to Broadway, where, to put it mildly, he preaches to the already converted. But he doesn’t care: The Terms of My Surrender has the same strengths and weaknesses of Moore’s other work. The formula is the same: the shambling, baseball-cap wearing everyman walks onto the stage and begins his shtick, which includes corny, obvious jokes—like a game show that pits two audience members against each other, a so-called dumb Canadian and a so-called smart American—that alternate with on-target political satire and analysis.
Sure, he can be self-aggrandizing, but when he discusses himself, it’s in the context of what he sees as the greater good. For instance, in high school, he was the youngest ever member of the local Flint school board at age 17, and he shamed the Elks Lodge by winning an Abe Lincoln essay contest decrying the Elks as a whites-only institution. 
His point—and he has one—is that, in the age of Trump, if people are angry or shocked by what happened in November and what’s been happening since January, then there are things everyone can do to help ensure that the House and even the Senate flip in 2018 and the White House flips in 2020.
Moore knows his audience includes many people upset and embarrassed by Trump’s victory who nevertheless won’t do much to affect any meaningful change, so he tells stories, makes jokes and insults Trump to prod them to take matters into their own hands by making calls to their Congress people or running for local office or doing anything to help the country heal (not heel, as Trump’s tweets would have it) and move forward.
Of course, Michael Moore appearing on Broadway isn’t for everyone, and those people know who they are. But in Michael Mayer’s slick staging, the slightly overlong The Terms of My Surrender (the Dancing with the Stars finale has got to go!) is a funny, thoughtful and even cathartic time in the theater for anyone still stunned by the results of November 8.
The Terms of My Surrender
Belasco Theatre, 111 West 44th Street, New York, NY

August '17 Digital Week III

Blu-rays of the Week 

After the Storm

(Film Movement)
Although he’s made memorable dramas about family bonds (Still Walking; Like Father Like Son),Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda comes up short with his latest about Ryota, a writer and gambler behind on support payments for his son. As always, Kore-eda has enormous sympathy or every character, and Hiroshi Abe’s sensitive portrayal beautifully balances Ryota’s irresponsibility with half-hearted attempts to mend fences, letting us root for him even as he keeps screwing up. But Kore-eda’s insight into tempestuous family relationships is only intermittent, despite wonderful moments scattered throughout, especially in the final rainstorm scenes. The hi-def transfer is excellent; extras are a 75-minute making-of documentary and a short film, The Last Dream, by directors Noemie Nakai and Carmen Kobayashi.
Beatrice et Benedict
(Opus Arte)
French director Laurent Pally’s amusing 2016 production of Hector Berlioz’s charming opera based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing juggles with, but doesn’t puncture, either the Bard or the composer, and the result is an unalloyed delight. As the eponymous haters-turned-lovers, American Paul Appleby and French soprano Stephanie d’Oustrac are perfect together and apart, while Sophie Karthauser provides winsome support as the aptly-named Hero. Hi-def video and audio are superb; lone extra is a backstage featurette.
Everything, Everything 

(Warner Bros)

I know, I know: I’m not the target audience for this treacly adaptation of a YA novel by Nicola Yoon. But even teens and pre-teens surely see the contrivance and melodrama of a plot about a teenage girl stuck in her house since she was a baby due to a damaged auto-immune system who finds love—and freedom—when the new cute boy next door notices her. Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson are good and Anika Noni Rose as the over-protective mom is superb, but the movie never breaks out of its cutesy trajectory from the first frame. The film looks quite good on Blu; extras are deleted scenes and featurettes.
Freebie and the Bean
(Warner Archive)
Richard Rush—who went on to direct the dazzling 1980 feature The Stunt Man—helmed this ramshackle, politically incorrect but eminently watchable comic drama about a couple of borderline-inept detectives who fight each other more than they track down criminals. James Caan and Alan Arkin are at the top of their game, while Rush dazzlingly uses San Francisco locations for several daring car chases all the more impressive for their authenticity, unlike fake, CGI-laden sequences proliferating today. Warner Archive’s hi-def transfer is first-rate.
The Zodiac Killer 


Low-budget doesn’t begin to describe the Z-movie specs of Tom Hanson’s 1971 drama that ineptly but earnestly tries to dramatize the horrifying drama of the infamous murderer that terrorized the Bay Area: amateurish acting, distaff writing and non-existent directing all sink it. The Blu-ray—which shows off a messy surviving print in hi-def—also includes an equally risible feature, Another Son of Sam(1977), director’s commentary and retrospective interviews.
DVDs of the Week
The Summer of All My Parents
Louise on the Shore
(First Run)
In one-named director Diasteme’s intimate character study, The Summer of All My Parents, teenage sisters—one 17, the other 14—must deal with their own (and their sister’s) sexual confusion and their divorced parents’ new lives; a superlative cast led by two remarkable young actresses as the sisters, Luna Lou and Alma Jodorowsky hits all the right marks.Louise on the Shore, Jean-Francois Lagionie’s inventive animated film, about a 70-ish woman who finds herself alone after a freak storm at her usual vacation spot strands her, is filled with spare, lovely touches (including a talking dog companion) that make this far more than a mere kids’ flick.

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