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In a Medieval Roman chapel, now an oratorio, an elderly factotum sets up for rehearsal. The musicians arrive, joking and teasing. A union shop steward explains that a TV crew is there, talking to them is optional, and there will be no extra compensation. Musicians talk about their instruments. The German conductor arrives and puts them through their paces. He yells, he insults. The shop steward calls a 20 minute break. The conductor retreats to his dressing room and talks about how the world of music has changed, moving away from respect for the conductor. He returns to the rehearsal to find the orchestra in full revolt. What can bring them back to the music? Written by
A grand effort from Federico Fellini. Wonderful in every way.
This is likely the finest make-believe documentary that I have ever seen. The setting is a rundown Medieval Roman chapel, now an oratorio where an orchestra gathers. A television crew is making a documentary about this orchestra (while the orchestra is dealing with a union dispute). The bulk of the film's first half focuses on individual musicians, many of whom reminisce about their first encounter with the instrument they play. When the musicians talk about their instrument, they often share thoughtful and stimulating metaphors about the meaning and the function of their instrument. There are a few times during the film where the action is interrupted by a large rumble in the building. We don't know what this is exactly until the end of the film. The film transforms from poetic, to pure comical delight, to complete chaos, to lyrical beauty when the musicians play the music.
Composer Nino Rota's contribution was an immense one. He composed all of the pieces the musicians play in the film, and I believe they the music is absolutely wonderful (my personal favorite of Rota's compositions for "Orchestra Rehearsal" being the final piece the orchestra performs). This was the last time Rota scored a Fellini film, he died the next year.
I also must comment on the top-notch cinematography, which is quintessentially Felliniesque (ex. incredible long shots of the orchestra playing, shots of musicians lined up in very particular angles, and a couple of sweeping pans).
Anybody who loves orchestral music will like this film to some degree. I happen to immensely love Fellini, Rota, AND orchestral music, so for me, this film is nothing short of absolutely marvelous entertainment!
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