Vivaldi's The Four Seasons and four outstanding violinists are the threads the filmmakers use to weave this exploration of how nature shapes who we are. As Spring reaches Toyko and the ...
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Vivaldi's The Four Seasons and four outstanding violinists are the threads the filmmakers use to weave this exploration of how nature shapes who we are. As Spring reaches Toyko and the cherry blossoms burst to life, violinist Sayaka Shoji demonstrates to her young students the timeless lessons in the music, and in their own culture. Niki Vasilakis and friends travel from all corners of Australia to the Far North to share the music of Summer with the Thursday Island Community, as the monsoon clouds gather. As the leaves turn, Cho-Liang (Jimmy) Lin and his neighbours reveal to us their New York City's vibrant, complex personality. Finally, in the icy reaches of Finnish Lapland, Pekka Kuusisto and his colleagues bring the warmth of music and human interaction to the small local community. A documentary full of fascinating characters, fine music and glorious images as it reflects on the global experience of the seasons. Written by
Music documentaries usually put me to sleep but this one is out of the ordinary. Four outstanding violinists (with orchestras) play a movement each of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" in the appropriate season in their country. Three of them are in their 20s and represent a new generation of classical music performers. All started playing at a very young age but still have boundless enthusiasm for music. Sayaka Shoji ("Spring") is only 24, yet already is an established teacher as well as performer in her native Japan and elsewhere. Niki Vasilakis ("Summer") is Greek-Australian, and a real rising star. At 45 the oldest performer, Cho-Liang Lin ("Autumn" or "Fall"), is a Taiwanese-New Yorker from the very heart of the chamber music establishment. Finally there is the ebullient Pekka Kuusisto ('Winter") from Finland.
What makes this movie watchable is the clever use of landscape (particularly in the Finnish and Australian segments), the sparking personalities of the principal violinists (particularly Pekka Kuusisto), and the cinema sound reproduction which is way above CD standard. At 90 minutes it is also succinct ("Four Seasons" itself takes about 40 minutes to play I'm not sure if we get to hear all of it but I believe the soundtrack is available). Each segment is different - Japan is mostly music and talk, New York is music, talk and a trip to a deli, Australia is mostly travel and music, Finland is landscape, talk, music and high jinks. These elements combine to produce a kind of cultural travelogue, or at least to show that to musicians everywhere, the music is the thing.
One rather ominous aspect of the film is that in each country someone observes (apparently unprompted) that the weather is changing. In Japan the cherry blossoms are out too early, Thursday Island (Australia) is missing the monsoon, the fall is late in Central Park, New York, and the Lapp winter (Finland) is warmer.
This sort of documentary doesn't usually make it into the cinemas, but the sound quality and photography justify a big screen showing. I have the feeling not many will make the effort, but if you are fond of Vivaldi's music, this will be an enjoyable and reassuring experience. However it's not a movie that will reassure climate change skeptics.
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