I stumbled upon this strange, surreal documentary on Knowledge Network in Vancouver, Canada last year. I hardly knew what I was watching until I began to see references to Maurice Ravel, one of my favorite composers. The movie itself was as impressionistic as Ravel's music, combining interviews with Ravel's actual friends and colleagues, dramatized scenes from his life that were very convincing as old home movies, and passages of his music, all swirled together in a way that could not possibly have worked in lesser hands. The strangest element was a sort of mini-opera sung by a baritone "doctor" performing surgery on Ravel, who eventually succumbed to an unknown brain disease. The notion that his disorder somehow shaped his music was intriguing, as there is a repetitive aspect to some of it as if he is crossing back and covering the same ground over and over. Bolero is only one example of this. I also think of Une Barque sur L'ocean and its endless hypnotic cycles. When he became "stuck" and could not compose any more, it was heartbreaking to watch. HOW I wish I had recorded this program to watch again, as I was barely able to take in what I was seeing and have not been able to find a DVD. Somehow I don't think it will be re-broadcast ever again. Did I dream this?
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