Ten short pieces directed by ten different directors, including Ken Russell, Jean-Luc Godard, Robert Altman, Bruce Beresford, and Nicolas Roeg. Each short uses an aria as soundtrack/sound (...
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Ten short pieces directed by ten different directors, including Ken Russell, Jean-Luc Godard, Robert Altman, Bruce Beresford, and Nicolas Roeg. Each short uses an aria as soundtrack/sound (Vivaldi, Bach, Wagner), and is an interpretation of the particular aria.Written by
Ed Sutton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I have long wanted to comment on this film but have found doing so extremely difficult. When released it was promoted as a major work of art, whereas in practice it is a hodge podge of short sequences, unrelated in either style or content, so why bother with it? By its nature it could never have been a great film. Think of any film that you personally regard as a great work of art and imagine what it would have been like if it had been divided into ten segments, each created by a different Director commissioned to portray a different but fundamental aspect of human existence................
Aria "bombed" badly when it was first released - I left the cinema feeling that, despite many interesting sequences, I would not want to see it again. But some sequences proved very seductive, and I rented a tape to re-watch them a few months later. After this happened a second time I knew I must have my own copy; this has since become one of the most frequently viewed tapes in my private collection. The film comprises a collection of short segments, each presented against the background of a well known operatic aria, but illustrating or featuring some vital aspect of life as we live it. We can quickly decide which of the various segments mean most to us, but we need much longer to decide why and in what ways the others are less satisfactory. Such thoughts keep returning even when we believe we have basically forgotten the film, and ultimately make it virtually unforgettable. Clearly, even though we are not dealing with a great film, it is a very important one.
The only link between the ten segments of this film is the fact that each is presented against the background of a well known operatic aria. I would have expected opera buffs, who are totally familiar with each of the arias (and their context in the opera concerned), to have been much less enthusiastic about the very different and individualistic interpretations created by the selected directors than other viewers who are not really familiar with opera as an art form, and who accepted the aria concerned simply as background music. But from comments already recorded in the IMDb database this does not seem to be the case. Opera buffs as described above mostly seem to be significantly more appreciative of the various segments of this film than other viewers. This suggests both that the main appeal of opera lies in the music rather than the libretto; and that opera lovers are more ready to associate the arias with the emotions which the individual film directors are attempting to arouse, even when these are not those of the original opera.
Ultimately we are left with ten short films by leading directors, each visually creating an emotional experience associated with ordinary life. Inevitably each viewer will find that some segments will appeal whilst others do not. For each viewer the segments which appeal most will depend upon their individual character and life experiences. There are no rights and wrongs in this respect; and reviews of this film which suggest that segments A, B and C are excellent, whilst X, Y and Z are failures, are of very little value. A more helpful approach seems to be listing those aspects of life that the ten directors felt were brought to the forefront of their attention when they first studied their aria, and subsequently attempted to interpret visually in their segments. Not surprisingly love seems to be the most important of these, it is featured in half of the ten segments. One shows the love between a newly married couple; a second shows a not much older couple who have retained their love but have become disillusioned by the life they have lived, have few expectations for the future, and are prepared to end their lives together; a third shows the pain of unrequited love; a fourth the faded love between a married couple who are cheating; and a fifth the obverse side of love, obsessive hatred that has festered to the point where one human being is driven to plan the final destruction of another. These segments (as well as some of the others) feature extensive nudity and have led to comments that the film is little more than soft porn. This seems unfair - nudity still has a strong emotional impact and is therefore a useful tool for a director faced with creating imagery that effectively conveys the message he intends within a very brief ten minute film sequence.
Another universal aspect of human life is death, not surprisingly this is also recognised in several of the segments, Other emotions featured in these ten segments include humour and pathos, the subconscious urge felt even by the most beautiful women to adorn themselves, and the tranquility that old age can bring to those who feel they have done the best they can with their lives. An interesting challenge for those who do not know this film but are familiar with other works by the directors involved would be to watch these various segments and then try to identify the director responsible. Overall, it would be hard for anyone to watch this film without experiencing a strong emotional reaction to one of more of these segments; and it would be almost impossible for any individual review to do this film justice even if IMDb relaxed their length restriction on comments. This above all is a film where I would have expected that the opportunity to exchange comments about the various segments on the IMDb message board would have appealed to all those who have viewed it. For some reason this does not seem to have been the case.
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