A photographer and his wife take photographs of Armenian churches for use in a calendar. Their driver, a local resident, expounds on the history of the churches while the wife translates. ... See full summary »
The 'Exotica' is a nightclub on the outskirts of Toronto, where Eric, DJ and MC, watches nightly as his ex-girlfriend Christina performs. Watches jealously, especially as far as the extra ... See full summary »
A struggling actor's job as a hotel custodian is a front for his real job: being rented out as a gigolo by his supervisor. A co-worker is obsessed with him, but he ignores and avoids her. ... See full summary »
An uptight and conservative woman, working on tenure as a literacy professor at a large urban university, finds herself strangely attracted to a free-spirited, liberal woman who works at a local carnival that comes to town.
K. O'Connor, a young journalist known for her celebrity profiles, is consumed with discovering the truth behind a long-buried incident that affected the lives and careers of showbiz team Vince Collins and Lanny Morris.
The Russian poet Andrei Gorchakov, accompanied by guide and translator Eugenia, is traveling through Italy researching the life of an 18th-century Russian composer. In an ancient spa town, ... See full summary »
If classical music is a marginalised artform, than what of its most demanding component, chamber music, austere, difficult, technical, as a small group of players indulge in an intellectual rite so private, we the audience feel like voyeurs. But what then further of chamber music stripped to a single instrument, denied even the interplay of other instruments and players, left with nothing but itself, solitary, anguished?
Bach composed a lot of music for solo instruments (most noticeably the Goldberg Variations, on which director Girard based his 32 SHORT FILMS ABOUT GLENN GOULD), much of it formal exercises for mastering the particular instrument, but his Cello Suites are something else, so hermetic and unyielding, manipulating the profound lugubriousness of the featured instrument, sounding like a stifled moan from the grave. They are the loneliest sound in the world, as technically perfect and helpless as a Borges short story, verging on the unlistenable: you will not hear them advertising Old Spice.
Yo-Yo Ma in this series tries the impossible, to release that moan, to set the suites free, bring them out of the chamber into the open, into life. In each of these six programmes, he tries to ally a suite with a different art-form, such as gardening or dance, to show that these are not forbidding abstractions, but can connect, be made tangible, ours.
In the programme I saw last night, The Silence of the Carceri, he links the Second Suite of with architecture, arguing the similarities of the art-form in terms of realising blue-prints and utilising space. On one level, it becomes a fascinating discussion of acoustics, about how music exists in space, the conditions in which we recieve it, the possible distortions of 'bad' space, and other questions that verge on the ontological.
In particular, the major architect is Piranesi, the great 18th century engraver, whose pictures of ancient and modern Roman buildings have a very Gothic brooding that seems alien to Bach's pure Protestant art. The thing about Piranesi is, only one of his blueprints were ever built, so, using computer graphics his Carceri, a model prison, is stunningly recreated by computer graphics, as Yo-Yo plays serenely in a vast, decaying, otherworldly prison, seemingly boundless, but actually labyrinthine in its possibilities.
This idea of a vast architectural space that exists only in the realm of ideas is of course similar to music, whose realisation is never concrete, but especially Bach, whose structures are profoundly architectural. 'Experts' are trotted out to explain the sense of entrapment in Bach's suites, similar to the Carceri, and the Kafkaesque journeys they both suggest, but this is literalising what we probably already feel.
AA Gill dismissed this series, decrying its repressive pretentiousness, but this is surely the fun, as we watch Yo-Yo and his sound engineer turning problems over 'reverb' into metaphysical crises, or the repeated, unjustified invocation of abstracts - time, memory etc. But even if you resist the intellectual tightrope-walking, or even the staggering recreations (there is one hilariously sceptical architect who politely rubbishes the whole project), there is always Bach, fiddling while we burn.
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