ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

At San Francisco Opera, “The Magic Flute” gets a second run after its big 2012 debut and it’s still magical─through November 20, 2015

Mexican-American baritone and second year Adler Fellow, Efraín Solís, is Papageno, the cowardly but good-natured birdcatcher. Soprano Sarah Shafer is Pamina, the Queen of the Night’s daughter. Mozart’s "The Magic Flute" is at San Francisco Opera through November 20, 2015. Photo: ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Mexican-American baritone and second year Adler Fellow, Efraín Solís, is Papageno, the cowardly but good-natured birdcatcher. Soprano Sarah Shafer is Pamina, the Queen of the Night’s daughter. Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” is designed by Jun Kaneko, directed by Harry Silverstein and features David Gockley’s English translations and is at San Francisco Opera through November 20, 2015. Photo: ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Wildly colorful costumes, constantly shifting digital projections, huge puppets, adorable bird-like creatures and kids in contraptions in the sky are a huge part of the fairy tale magic in San Francisco Opera’s sparkling revival of its 2012 co-production, The Magic Flute.  And, of course, there’s the music and singing─at San Francisco Opera (SFO), Mozart’s whimsical masterpiece about the power of love and the forces of good and evil is presented in full splendor with sparkling arias, glorious ensembles, and breathtaking orchestral passages. Designed by Jun Kaneko, directed by Harry Silverstein, with David Gockley’s English translations of Schikaneder’s libretto, the beloved favorite opened on October 20 for a ten performance run.

A lot happens in three years though─the novelty of those groundbreaking digital projections, based upon 3,000 of Jun Kaneko’s tempura and chalk drawings, which so mesmerized me upon my first two viewings of the opera, has begun to fade. These projections, thankfully, are now commonplace in opera and have done more to revitalize staging than anything I can think of. (Read my review for the groundbreaking 2012 production here.)  Having witnessed that magical innovation firsthand, I can now better appreciate the opera’s total package─singing, music, staging.  This review pertains to Sunday, October 25, matinee performance.

Lyric tenor Paul Appleby (front center) makes his San Francsico Opera as Tamino and plays his magic flute for a host of colorful oversized animals of the forest which never fail to delight audiences. ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Lyric tenor Paul Appleby (front center) makes his San Francisco Opera as Tamino and plays his magic flute for a host of colorful oversized animals of the forest which never fail to delight audiences. ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

 

Animals, working drawing for “The Magic Flute,” 2011, colored pencil on hand-drawn digital template, 8.5” h x 11” w, courtesy Jun Kaneko.

Animals, working drawing for “The Magic Flute,” 2011, colored pencil on hand-drawn digital template, 8.5” h x 11” w, courtesy Jun Kaneko.

Under Lawrence Foster’s baton, Mozart’s opera with its lively arias, thrilling coloratura moments and intricate passages so well-suited to vocal harmonizing was in good hands.  He makes his SFO debut with this production and will go on to conduct The Fall of the House of Usher in December.  Foster, an LA native of Romanian descent, guest-conducts frequently stateside but has mainly worked in Europe.  His tie to War Memorial Opera House is special: when he was just 19, he made his debut conducting the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra.  Since 2013, he has been music director of l’Opéra de Marseille and l’Orchestre Philharmonique de Marseille.

On Sunday, as he guided the SFO orchestra in the lush overture, I found myself growing impatient with Kaneko’s hypnotic visuals which seemed to enforce the music’s slow pace making it seem almost static. The overture itself begins quite slowly and winds through various harmonies before it builds to its rousing conclusion. We were watching a series of straight and wavy colored lines, appearing one by one, slowly build an interwoven grid and then shift through blocks of color and various patterns.  It didn’t seem as fresh as it once had.  At other times, when singers were on stage, these projections were an enthralling accompaniment and enforced the mood of the music wonderfully, if only they could be better synced to the music, on a micro-level.

Soprano Sarah Shafer is Pamina (the Queen of the Night’s daughter), splitting the role with soprano Nadine Sierra. German bass-baritone Alfred Reiter is wise Sarastro (the thought-to-be evil sorcerer) in Mozart’s "The Magic Flute" at San Francisco Opera through November 20, 2015. Photo: ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Soprano Sarah Shafer is Pamina (the Queen of the Night’s daughter), splitting the role with soprano Nadine Sierra. German bass-baritone Alfred Reiter is wise Sarastro (the thought-to-be evil sorcerer) in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” at San Francisco Opera through November 20, 2015. Photo: ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Nimble soprano Sarah Shafer as Pamina, sang her famous Act 2 aria of lament “Oh, I feel it” (“Ach ich fuehl’s”) lyrically and hauntingly.  She sang Rosetta in this summer’s world premiere of SFO’s La Ciociara (Two Women), and is capable of great empathy in her singing and acting.  Her wonderful chemistry with Papageno/Efraín Solís made their Act 1 duet “In men, who feel love,” (“Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen”) pure joy, aside from its very vernacular language. Shafer was applauded enthusiastically after each of her solos and given a standing ovation at the end of the opera.  Soprano Nadine Sierra will sing the role in November.

Mexican-American baritone and second year Adler Fellow Efraín Solís is Papageno, the cowardly but good-natured birdcatcher in "The Magic Flute." Photo: ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Mexican-American baritone and second year Adler Fellow Efraín Solís is Papageno, the cowardly but good-natured birdcatcher in “The Magic Flute.” Photo: ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Second year Adler Fellow, tenor Efraín Solís, as Papageno, has such a warm and engaging speaking voice and a natural flair for comedy that he immediately won the hearts of the audience. He imbued his wonderful singing with so much personality that he made his zany character the opera’s focal point.  And his endearing Papagena, second year Adler Fellow, soprano Maria Valdes, made the most of her brief time on stage as well.

Queen of the Night, Soprano Kathryn Bowden, subbing for Russian soprano, Albina Shagimuratova, grabbed my attention in Act 1 with her first recitative and demanding aria, “Oh, Tremble not, my dear son” (“O zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn”). The former SFO Merola participant and winner of the 2014 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (Florida District sparkled in her high range as she aimed to persuade Prince Tamino to rescue her daughter Pamina from the grips of Sarastro.  In Act 2, when she is enraged that Tamino and Pamina are collaborating with Sarastro, she let loose full force with the Queen’s more famous aria, “Hell’s vengenace boils in my heart” (“Der Hölle Rache”), singing powerfully, scornfully to Pamina while thrusting a knife into her hands and ordering her to kill Satastro.  While she didn’t quite achieve the raging high drama that completely undoes an audience, she hit all the high notes and pulled off the exhausting passagework with great precision.

Lyric tenor Paul Appleby made his San Francisco Opera as the young Prince Tamino.  His expressive voice was wonderful in his Act 1 aria “Oh heavenly and rare image” (“Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön”) but his acting not as expressive.

German bass-baritone Alfred Reiter, as wise High Priest Sarastro, had a very imperial manner and put his rich deep voice to great use in the lower ranges called for by his role. On the other hand, Greg Fedderly’s Monostatos looked and acted like a character straight out of The Cat in the Hat.

The Three Ladies (from left) played by Zanda Švēde, Nian Wang and Jacqueline Piccolino, along with Tamino played by Paul Appleby in a scene from San Francisco Opera's production of Mozart's "The Magic Flute." Photo: ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

The Three Ladies (from left) played by Zanda Švēde, Nian Wang and Jacqueline Piccolino, along with Tamino played by Paul Appleby in a scene from San Francisco Opera’s production of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” Photo: ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

While all the singers were special in their own way, I was drawn to two sets of triplets: the delightful Three Ladies─Jacqueline Piccolino (First Lady), Wang (Second Lady) and Zanda Švēde (Third Lady) who sang so harmoniously together, each with a wonderful voice and the adorable three young boys/guiding spirits (Michael Sacco, Pietro Juvaram Rafael Larpa-Wilson) who are sent to guide Papageno and Tamino on their adventure. The boys sang angelically with their delicate high voices while hovering above the stage in brightly colored triangular containers.

(From left to right above stage) Michael Sacco, Pietro Juvaram, and Rafael Larpa-Wilson) are the three guiding sprits who are sent to guide Papageno and Tamino on their adventure. Photo: ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

(From left to right above stage) Michael Sacco, Pietro Juvaram, and Rafael Larpa-Wilson) are the three guiding sprits who are sent to guide Papageno and Tamino on their adventure. Photo: ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

The English translations by David Gockley, SFO’s General Director, with additional material by Ruth and Thomas Martin, were contemporary and very well-rhymed (when called for) but went way too far into vernacular and slangy language for my tastes.  Papageno’s “ Oy vey,” in particular, got to me.

Details: There are 6 remaining performances of The Magic Flute─Wed, Nov 4, 7:30 PM; Sunday, Nov 8, 2 PM; Thurs, Nov 12, 7:30 PM; Sat, Nov 14, 7:30 PM; Tues, Nov 17, 7:30 PM; Fri, Nov 20, 7:30 PM. Tickets: $26 to $381.  For information about SFO’s 2015-16 season, click here. War Memorial Opera House is located at 301 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco.

Advertisements

October 31, 2015 Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 7th Petaluma International Film Festival starts Friday, October 16, and offers a weekend of really diverse world cinema

Petaluma filmmaker A.D. Freese’s “Bastards y Diablos” (2015) has its Northern CA premiere and screens twice at PIFF 7. Freese will be in attendance. The story follows two half brothers, Ed and Dion, who travel to Bogotá to fulfill the wishes in their recently deceased father’s will, only to find a mysterious set of instructions sending them on an unexpected journey all over Colombia. Accompanying them on this quest is their unconventional father’s spirit, linking his own formative journeys as a young man with his sons’ present day adventures. Amid the mystical splendor of Colombia, Ed and Dion experience the brotherhood they missed out on growing up. (Screens: Friday, October 16, 6:15 PM and Sunday, October 17, 8:15 PM) image: PIFF

Petaluma filmmaker A.D. Freese’s “Bastards y Diablos” (2015) has its Northern CA premiere and screens twice at the 7th Petaluma International Film Festival, October 16-18, 2015. Freese will be in attendance for audience q & A’s after each screening. The story follows two half brothers, Ed and Dion, who travel to Bogotá to fulfill the wishes in their recently deceased father’s will, only to find a mysterious set of instructions sending them on an unexpected journey all over Colombia. Accompanying them on this quest is their unconventional father’s spirit, linking his own formative journeys as a young man with his sons’ present day adventures. Amid the mystical splendor of Colombia, Ed and Dion experience the brotherhood they missed out on growing up. Screens: Friday, October 16, 6:15 PM and Sunday, October 17, 8:15 PM. image: PIFF

When did you last see a film from Burkina Faso, Cuba, Ethiopia, Kyrgyzstan or Macedonia?  With 35 independent films from 18 countries, the 7th Annual Petaluma International Film Festival (PIFF7) offers a line-up that covers these and other remote corners of the globe, along with films from more familiar places, including Petaluma.  This year’s festival is Friday through Sunday at Petaluma’s Boulevard 14 Cinemas, and offers 16 full-length films, 19 shorts and the popular Sonoma Filmmakers Showcase with several filmmakers in attendance.  There’s also a new feature film from Petaluma’s director A.D. Freese, Bastards y Diablos, which has its Northern CA premiere at PIFF.

Organized by Saeed Shafa, who founded the popular annual Tiburon International Film Festival  in 2002, PIFF was created to support new indie filmmakers, great storytelling and international points of view.  Since most filmmakers start their careers out by creating a short film, Shafa has purposely paired all the feature-length films with at least one short film to demonstrate to the audience that short stories can be highly effective and so can new filmmakers.

Benjamin Meyer's debut feature film

Benjamin Meyer’s debut feature film “Fools” won the Audience Award at June’s Dances with Wolves Festival in Hollywood. It has its Northern CA premiere at the 7th Petaluma International Film Festival on Friday, October 16. The romantic drama was filmed in Chicago and is about two strangers who start a romantic relationship in a highly unconventional way–they brush hands on a crowded commuter train and a week later, without exchanging a word, they move in together. image: David Roberson PR

Friday’s Opening film:

Mumbai artist Sheikh Rehman is literally the last artist in Mumbai who is still painting movie banners by hand. And what colors and action they employ. Rehmen is the subject of German filmmakers Florian Heinzen-Ziob & Georg Heinzen’s documentary “Original Copy” (2015) which is a love letter to a lost art and a man lost in art.

Mumbai artist Sheikh Rehman is literally the last artist in Mumbai who is still painting movie banners by hand. And what colors and action they employ. Rehmen is the subject of German filmmakers Florian Heinzen-Ziob & Georg Heinzen’s documentary “Original Copy” (2015) which is a love letter to a lost art and a man lost in art.

The festival kicks off at noon on Friday with German filmmakers’ Florian Heinzen-Ziob & Georg Heinzen’s documentary Original Copy (2015, Germany), a delightful ode to Mumbai artist Sheikh Rehman who lovingly creates one-of-a-kind hand-painted film posters for an old movie palace in Mumbai.  Romanian director Andra Tévy’s 17 minute short The Wall (Mur, 2014) will also open the festival.  PIFF offers six screenings daily, running from noon till just before midnight.

Sunday’s Closing film:

The festival closes with a Sunday 10:15 PM screening of American director Tim French’s crime drama Intersection (2015) about a troubled man who is haunted by the circumstances of his daughter’s death in a car crash and returns to the small town where she died. Screening with this is Italian director Francesco Gabriele’s comedy, Italian Miracle (2015), a 9 minute short which screened at Cannes this year and is set in rural Italy where a young man is called upon to translate an English speaking woman’s confession to the local priest.

Saturday’s Sonoma Filmmakers Showcase:

Santa Rosa filmmaker John Harden’s 16 minute short, “New” (2014) screens in Saturday’s Sonoma Filmmaker’s Showcase. The story follows an elderly couple who are cryonically preserved at the time of their deaths in the hope that future medical technology will restore them to life. It works! They awake, totally restored, centuries later to face the joys and challenges of a second life in the distant future. Harden’s previous short, “La vie d'un chien” (“The Life of a Dog”), screened at top-tier festivals around the world and at MOMA as part of their New Directors/New Films series. It garnered numerous awards, including Best Narrative Short in the 2005 Los Angeles Film Festival. His screenplay, “The Sensitivity Program” (co-authored with Skot Christopherson) was chosen as Best Feature Screenplay (Science Fiction Category) in the Austin Film Festival competition, beating out over 700 other scripts in the category. Image: John Harden

Santa Rosa filmmaker John Harden’s 16 minute short, “New” (2014) screens in Saturday’s Sonoma Filmmaker’s Showcase. The story follows an elderly couple who are cryonically preserved at the time of their deaths in the hope that future medical technology will restore them to life. It works! They awake, totally restored, centuries later to face the joys and challenges of a second life in the distant future. Harden’s previous short, “La vie d’un chien” (“The Life of a Dog”), screened at top-tier festivals around the world and at MOMA as part of their New Directors/New Films series. It garnered numerous awards, including Best Narrative Short in the 2005 Los Angeles Film Festival. His screenplay, “The Sensitivity Program” (co-authored with Skot Christopherson) was chosen as Best Feature Screenplay (Science Fiction Category) in the Austin Film Festival competition, beating out over 700 other scripts in the category. Image: John Harden

Now in its third year, the Sonoma Filmmakers Showcase, Saturday at 6 PM, will screen four shorts from local filmmakers, recognizing our community’s rich and diverse talent.  All the filmmakers will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A.  On the program—Bill Chayes’ Metal Man (2014, 37 min). John Harden’s New (2014, 16 min), Janna Ji Wonders’ I Remember (2015, 30 min), and Quinn Fujii’s Nashville Yacht Club (2015, 10 min).

There are three Cuban films at PIFF 7. Edith Mazzola is Estela in Joacenith Vargas’ short film “Estela” (2014). The shy middle-aged woman tries to isolate herself from the outside world. When she is called upon to break into her elderly neighbor’s house, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, she reconnects with childhood memories and experiences an awkward and brief moment of intimacy with a stranger. (Screens Sunday, October 18, 2:30 PM.) Image: Palm Springs Int’l Film Festival

There are three Cuban films at PIFF7. Edith Mazzola is Estela in Joacenith Vargas’ short film “Estela” (2014). The shy middle-aged woman tries to isolate herself from the outside world. When she is called upon to break into her elderly neighbor’s house, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, she reconnects with childhood memories and experiences an awkward and brief moment of intimacy with a stranger. (Screens Sunday, October 18, 2:30 PM.) Image: Palm Springs Int’l Film Festival

“Ghosts” (Ashbah) from legendary Iranian director Dariush Mherjul is a stylized melodrama based on a story loosely adapted from Ibsen about a married woman who learns that her tyrannical husband has been having an affair with their maid. She fires the maid unaware that she is pregnant and, years later, is confronted with the consequences. Mherjul, who studied under Jean Renoir, is a founding member of Iran’s new wave movement of the 1970’s. (Screens Sunday, October 18, 6:15 PM.) image: PIFF

“Ghosts” (Ashbah) from legendary Iranian director Dariush Mherjul is a stylized melodrama based on a story loosely adapted from Ibsen about a married woman who learns that her tyrannical husband has been having an affair with their maid. She fires the maid unaware that she is pregnant and, years later, is confronted with the consequences. Mherjul, who studied under Jean Renoir, is a founding member of Iran’s new wave movement of the 1970’s. (Screens Sunday, October 18, 6:15 PM.) image: PIFF

Full schedule here.

Film descriptions here.

PIFF Details:  The 7th Petaluma International Film Festival is Friday, October 16, through Sunday, October 18, 2015 at Petaluma’s Boulevard Cinemas, 200 C Street, Petaluma. Tickets: All screenings $12; buy tickets during the festival at Petaluma’s Boulevard Cinemas or online (click here) with a handling fee.  Passes: All inclusive festival pass is $180 and a day pass is $60. (click here) For more information: Phone (415) 251-8433 or email: info@petalumafilmfestival.org .

October 14, 2015 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 38th Mill Valley Film Festival starts tonight and runs through October 18─here are ARThound’s favs

The Indigo Bunting, a small songbird in the Cardinal family, sings with gusto. The male is all blue and looks like a slice of sky with wings. The plight of songbirds is the subject of Su Rynard's documentary,

The Indigo Bunting, a small songbird in the Cardinal family, sings with gusto. The male is all blue and looks like a slice of sky with wings. The plight of songbirds is the subject of Su Rynard’s documentary, “The Messenger,” which screens twice at the 38th Mill Valley Film Festival. Gorgeously photographed, with stunning super slo-mo shots of birds in flight and plenty of exquisite melodies, this thoughtful film celebrates these glorious magicians and explores their rapidly shrinking global populations, calling for drastic action to save them. image: MVFF

The 38th Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF38) is upon us─it kicks off this evening with two opening night films─Tom Hopper’s The Danish Girl and Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight─ and an always opulent gala afterwards at Marin Country Mart.  The festival runs full force (11AM to 10PM) for the next 10 days at several Marin venues, all within close range of Sonoma County.

Even with the catalog in hand, a 60 pager, redesigned to make it easier to figure out, it takes time and planning to decide which of the 170+ films and special programs to attend.  Long-time programmers Zoë Elton, Janis Plotkin and Karen Davis are so tuned in to our North Bay tastes, every film is a de facto good choice but I’ll point to some standouts.

I have a soft spot for world cinema that delivers a great story (the quirkier the better) and takes me to a (beautifully-filmed) place I’ve never been.  I also love documentaries that expose and inspire.  There are always a handful of films from Cannes and some that represent foreign language Oscar nominees.  As for the tributes and special programs, if you have the time, go to as many as possible.  Every special program I’ve attended at this festival has been well worth the extra money and I’ve been inspired to do wonderful things as a result.  In 2012, after seeing Luc Besson’s amazing bio-pic, The Lady, and hearing guest Michelle Yeoh interviewed about playing Burmese activist, Aung San Suu Kyi, I visited Myanmar for two weeks and experienced it on the brink of its transformation.  I got involved with supporting a school and I visited Suu Kyi’s family home in a posh suburb of Yangon─it was surrounded a high wall─and left flowers in tribute.

These are my recommendations for this year’s not-to-miss films and events─

Embrace of the Serpent:

Ciro Guerra's

Ciro Guerra’s “Embrace of the Serpent,” won top prize at Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight and is Columbia’s submission to foreign-language category for the Academy Awards. Image: MVFF

Thirty-four year-old Columbian director Ciro Guerra is no stranger to Cannes.  His 2009 drama The Wind Journeys, which competed in the Uncertain Regard category, was filmed in some 80 locations all over Columbia and tracked a musician’s restorative journey to return an accordion.  His Embrace of the Serpent took this year’s Directors’ Fortnight prize at Cannes which is the top Art Cinema prize and it’s Columbia’s submission to foreign-language Oscar category.  Rich is the only way to describe the rare Amazonian languages you’ll hear and the exquisite black and white photography of fabled Amazonian landscapes.  The story unfolds from point of view of European explorer and a Shaman who work over the course of some 40 years to search for a sacred healing plant.  The thoughtful film delivers a fairly comprehensive critique of the destruction of indigenous cultures at the hands of white invaders.  Cast member Brionne Davis in attendance. (Ciro Guerra, Columbia, Venezuela, Argentina, 2015, 125 min)

Golden Kingdom:

“Golden Kingdom” is American filmmaker Brian Perkins first feature film and it has its US premiere at the 38th Mill Valley Film Festival. Image: courtesy: Brian Perkins

“Golden Kingdom” is American filmmaker Brian Perkins’ first feature film and it has its US premiere at the 38th Mill Valley Film Festival. Image: courtesy: Brian Perkins

 

The first feature film shot in Myanmar and a first feature for it its director, Brian Perkins, too, Golden Kingdom is a prescient widow into the culture of this remote fabled land.  This is the story of four young boy monks, all orphans (played by non-professional actors), who are left alone in a monastery in Shan State in Northeast Myanmar when their elderly head monk receives a letter and takes off on a journey.  The film cleverly uses the Buddhist motif of pursuit of enlightenment and knowledge and traditional Burmese storytelling to explore the unknown and overwhelming new world the boys encounter as they decide to leave and venture out into the countryside, only to encounter a land that is still engaged in remnants of a violent separatist uprising.  (Brian Perkins, US, 2015, 103 min) in Burmese (10/13 5PM; 10/15 2PM Sequoia 1)

Rams:

In Grímur Hákonarson’s “Rams,” two peculiar brothers in a small Icelandic farming community, who haven't spoken in 40 years, are forced to come together in order to save what’s dearest to them – their sheep. Image: MVFF

In Grímur Hákonarson’s “Rams,” two peculiar brothers in a small Icelandic farming community, who haven’t spoken in 40 years, are forced to come together in order to save what’s dearest to them – their sheep. Image: MVFF

When’s the last time you saw a film from Iceland or heard their language, Íslenska (Icelandic), spoken?  Grímur Hákonarson’s Rams, winner of the Uncertain Regard Prize at Cannes, weaves the story of two brothers, both single and getting on in years, who compete fiercely each year for valley-wide recognition for having the best ram.  They haven’t spoken in 40 years but are forced to come together in order to save what’s dearest to their hearts—their sheep.  Shot in remote lush valleys of Iceland, with added color in the peculiar characters of the two brothers, the film is also infused with some Norse humor. (Grímur Hákonarson, Iceland, 2015, 93 min)

Mustang:

Five beautiful sisters on the verge of womanhood in an Anatolian village by the sea suffer from their guardians' attempts to lock them away to protect their virginity. image: MVFF

Five beautiful sisters on the verge of womanhood in an Anatolian village by the sea suffer from their guardians’ attempts to lock them away to protect their virginity. image: MVFF

We’ve all heard of young girls cloistered away to protect their virginity and make them marriage worthy by their tradition-bound families.  Here’s Turkish female director Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s take on this. Mustang weaves a story of five young carefree Turkish girls, all orphans, who under the “protection” of their grandmother and uncle, are punished severely for being seen at the beach interacting with boys in what is interpreted as an indecent act by townspeople who report them.  One moment they are free and then they are not.  They are subjected to virginity tests, beaten and then essentially locked up until it is time to try and marry them off.  They don’t go down without a fight though and thus the aptness of the title–these gorgeous young mustangs, with their amazing flowing hair, yearn for the very freedom that defines them.  The filmmaker has crafted a potent critique of the suppression and demonization of female sexuality that is alive and well in Turkish society.  Mustang (Deniz Gamze Ergüven, France, Germany, Turkey, 94 min)

The Messenger:

Filmmaker Su Rynard's

Filmmaker Su Rynard’s “The Messenger” screens twice at MVFF38 and she will be at both screenings. Making a documentary is a labor of love that often takes years to realize. To understand what was happening with global populations of songbirds, Rynard and her team followed the seasons and songbirds on three different continents. Along the way, she met many people who shared her concern for the plight of these glorious musicians of nature. image: Su Rynard

The message of Su Rynard’s riveting documentary, The Messenger, is urgent─songbirds are disappearing and many species are in serious decline.  Changes in our world have brought utter catastrophe to theirs and soon they will be gone.  Each year, twice a year, songbirds embark on a dangerous and difficult migratory journey.  Every species has its own story to tell but the resounding commonality is that songbirds are in danger.  Whose song will we hear when they are gone?   The film is full of gorgeous shots of birds and clips of bird songs.  Director Su Rynard in attendance. (Su Rynard, Canada, France, 2015, 90 min)

Son of Saul:

Géza Röhrig is Saul Auslander in Laszlo Nemes' holocaust drama,

Géza Röhrig is Saul Auslander in Laszlo Nemes’ holocaust drama, “Son of Saul.” image: MVFF

 

First time director László Nemes’  Son of Saul (Saul Fia) is a Holocaust film that won the Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and everyone’s buzzing about.  (Earlier this week, NPR’s Terry Gross devoted a full hour to the film, click here, to read or listen to her interview with the director.) The dark story is centered on Saul Auslander (Géza Röhrig), a Hungarian Jew Sonderkommando at Auschwitz-Birkenau who is forced to assist the Nazis with the killings of Jews and the gruesome disposal of bodies afterwards.  In exchange, he is given some special privileges.  When he spots a young boy’s body that he believes is his son, he sets out to give him a proper burial.  The film captures the organization and chaos of the camps like no other film has and, at its core, it is the story of one man’s brave rebellion and humanity.  The camera rarely leaves his face in which there are worlds of grief.  The story is based on the actual testimonials, the so-called Scrolls of Auschwitz.  (László Nemes, Hungary, 2015, 107 min)   image: MVFF

Amnesia Centerpiece Presentation, October 13:

Crafted from events in his mother’s life, Swiss filmmaker Barbet Schroeder’s “Amnesia” stars German icon Marthe Keller as a German expat hiding out in idyllic Ibizia whose cage is rattled by a young German man who is her new neighbor and it's not just because he falls in love with her. Image: MVFF

Crafted from events in his mother’s life, Swiss filmmaker Barbet Schroeder’s “Amnesia” stars German icon Marthe Keller as a German expat hiding out in idyllic Ibizia whose cage is rattled by a young German man who is her new neighbor and it’s not just because he falls in love with her. Image: MVFF

An interesting take on a Nazi story and moral culpability by Swiss director Barbet Schroeder. Amnesia is set in picturesque Ibizia and the story involves a younger man’s attraction to an older woman, who is hiding the fact that she is German, and much more, from him.  The young DJ tries to crack this hard nut by peeling away her layers.   Writer/director Barbet Schroeder in attendance (Barbet Schroeder, Switzerland, France, 2015 96 min)

At RUSH but keep your eyes out in Bay Area theaters for─

The Assassin (Nie Yinniang) (Hou Hsia-hsien, Taiwan, 2015, 105 min) spectacular Ibizan landscape (Thurs 10/8 6:16 PM; Sat 10/17 8:30 PM─both screenings at Rush)

Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015, 118 min) (Sun 10/11 5:30PM; Wed 10/14 4 PM──both screenings at Rush)

The Dressmaker (Jocelyn Moorhouse, Australia, 2015, 118 min) (10/16 7PM; 10/18 11AM─both screenings at Rush)

Details:   MVFF38 is October 8-18, 2015.  Screening venues include: Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center (1118 Fourth Street, San Rafael); Century Larkspur (500 Larkspur Landing Circle); Lark Theater (549 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur), Century Cinema (41 Tamal Vista Blvd, Corte Madera); CinéArts@Sequoia (25 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley), Throckmorton Theatre (142 Throckmorton Ave, Mill Valley) and other venues throughout the Bay Area.

Online ticket purchase is highly recommended (click here to be directed to film descriptions, each with a “Buy Ticket” option. (Online purchases have a $1.75 per film surcharge).  There are also several box offices for in person purchases, offering the advantages of getting your tickets on the spot, no service fee, and picking up a hard copy of the catalogue—

SAN RAFAEL

Smith Rafael Film Center 1112 Fourth Street Sept.19-Oct 7, 4–8 pm (General Public)

MILL VALLEY

Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center, 85 Throckmorton Ave, October 7, 11 am–3:00 pm; Oct 8-18, 10 am to 15 min after last show starts

Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center 85 Throckmorton Ave October 1, 11:00 am–3:00 pm October 2–12, 10:00 am to 15 minutes after last show starts

October 8, 2015 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“101 Pianist’s” at Weill Hall Sunday─ Lang Lang’s dedication, passion, and teaching prowess front and center

Lang Lang at

Lang Lang at “101 Pianists” at Weill Hall on Sunday, October 4, 2015. The superstar spent two hours guiding 100 young pianists, from all the Bay Area, in an on-stage music workshop, culminating in a performance of Schubert’s “Marche Militaire” No. 1 and Brahm’s “Hungarian Dance” in F sharp minor. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Green Music Center’s season openers are always magical but yesterday’s finale event, “101 Painists,” led by Lang Lang, was most of my most memorable afternoons ever at Weill Hall.  One hundred gifted young piano students, from all over the Bay Area, gathered for an on-stage music lesson and performance with Lang Lang.  The piano legend, who gave the very first performance at Weill Hall in 2012, opened GMC’s 2015-16 season on Saturday evening with a sold-out concert of music from Chopin, followed by a gala reception and dinner.  Sunday’s finale concert, though, was all about kids and musicianship and giving back.  Packed to capacity with families and scampering kids of all ages, Weill Hall was hopping as we experienced Lang Lang inspiring the next generation of young musicians with his passion, humor, and undeniable gift for communication.

After initial preparation with their local music teachers, the lucky 100 young pianists, sitting two to a keyboard, perfected and performed Schubert’s “Marche Militaire” No. 1 and Brahms’s “Hungarian Dance” in F sharp minor.  Since its launch in 2009, “101 Pianists” has been presented in global cities from Amsterdam to Kowloon, to Rome to Washington D.C..  Rohnert Park is the 14th participant to date and 1400 young pianists have participated so far.  The program allows students of the solo piano to enjoy the social nature of creating music as an ensemble.

Green Music Center executive director, Zarin Mehta, introducing Lang Lang to a crowd of proud families and young musicians at Sunday's

Green Music Center executive director, Zarin Mehta, introducing Lang Lang to a crowd of proud families and young musicians at Sunday’s “101 Pianists” at Weill Hall. Photo: Geneva Anderson

In between the rehearsal and performance portions of the two-hour session, Lang Lang took questions from the students and responded thoughtfully about his favorite music, his practice routine, and how to infuse music with emotion.  He revealed that he began playing at age two and a half and had a rigorous rehearsal regimen─ six hours a day on weekdays and longer on the weekends.  Now days, though, he practices 2 hours daily, unless he’s preparing for a concert.  He revealed frankly that there’s no sense practicing if your heart is not in it, “best to take a break.”  There’s great complexity in motivating young musicians to imbue their playing with heartfelt emotion.  He encouraged parents to motivate their children with positive reinforcement, mentioning Transformers (toys) and candy.  Many of us recall the relentless pressure that Lang Lang’s parents placed on him at a very young age to succeed.  Lang Lang, now 33, seems to have digested that and is trying to inspire a passion for playing with much gentler methods.  And, as a teacher, he is gifted─within minutes he helped the group work through nuances in pacing, volume and pitch relationships that made a tremendous difference in their final performance.  There were one or two moments of fast-handed flash but Lang was very focused on bringing out the color in the students’ playing.

It was endearing to hear Lang Lang relate how, at age 17, he got his big break from GMC executive director, Zarin Mehta, whom he considers one of his great mentors.  Mehta, at that time, was in Chicago, working with the Chicago Symphony, and was president and chief executive of the Ravinia Festival.  Lang Lang was a student at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. Having heard Lang Lang audition at length on a Tuesday for the following year’s Ravinia festival, Mehta called him up and asked him to return to Chicago on Saturday to play with the Chicago Symphony for their “Gala of the Century,” as a last minute substitute for André Watts.  The piece─ Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1.  Lang Lang’s intensity, delicacy, fabulous technique and absolute control through those unforgiving tempos in that performance launched his career.

Lang Lang has also long been championed by Joan and Sandy Weill, who met him in 1999, when he was 17, and gave a stunning performance at Carnegie Hall for significant donors.  Over the years, they have become musically and philanthropically entwined and have become friends. Since 2008, Weill has been on the board of the Lang Lang International Music Foundation and it was Lang Lang who convinced him to invest the money ($12 million) that finished the concert hall that was ultimately named Weill Hall.  Lang Lang also suggested that Zarin Mehta would be perfect for the executive director position at Weill Hall.

The afternoon was also a great success in audience building.  Afterwards, there were lots of kids asking their parents if they could come again and the season brochures were flying off the stand.

Now Smell this─ This past January, Lang Lang launched his first fragrance, “Amazing Lang Lang,” for men and women (90 to 100 Euros and initially available just in Europe).  I didn’t get close enough for verification but the two scents apparently share notes (pun intended) of jasmine, kyara wood, and pepper.

October 5, 2015 Posted by | Classical Music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Asian Art Museum’s “First Look” showcases its own growing collection of contemporary Asian artworks─ through October 11, 2015

Untitled, No. 25 (2008), by the Beijing-based husband and wife team, RongRong and inri, depicts the couple joined as one by their hair, which has braided together into an elegant snaking form. In 2007, they founded the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre,in Beijing’s Coachangdi art district, the first private contemporary art space dedicated exclusively to photography in China. The gelatin silver print, gifted by Jack and Susy Wadsworth, is one of 57 artworks on display in “First Look,” at the Asian Art Museum through October 11, 2015. Image: courtesy AAM.

Untitled, No. 25 (2008), by the Beijing-based husband and wife team, RongRong and inri, depicts the couple joined as one by their hair, which has braided together into an elegant snaking form. In 2007, they founded the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, in Beijing’s Coachangdi art district, the first private contemporary art space dedicated exclusively to photography in China. The gelatin silver print, gifted by Jack and Susy Wadsworth, is one of 57 artworks on display in “First Look,” at the Asian Art Museum through October 11, 2015. Image: courtesy AAM.

Under director Jay Xu, things have been shifting at the Asian Art Museum (AAM); there’s a heartfelt effort to exhibit and collect more Asian contemporary art and thereby engage with today’s issues.  Its current show, First Look, which closes on October 11, emphasizes the museum’s recent acquisitions, some as new as 2015, and presents highlights of its contemporary collection acquired over the past 15 years.  I was somewhat surprised to learn that the AAM’s collection includes over 18,000 artworks but only 1,100 (rough estimate) were created within the past 50 years.  Organized by curator Allison Harding, who co-curated the smashing 2014 show, Gorgeous, this show presents 57 of those intriguing artworks.  It’s a thoughtful response to the questions─“What is Asian contemporary art? “What is its status and relationship to more traditional modes of Asian art?“ How is it understood by native viewers versus those outside the region?” On the heels of its summer show 28 Chinese (June 5–Aug. 16, 2015), which featured some of China’s most exciting artists from its vast contemporary art scene, First Look features works from artists from all over Asia and a bit beyond, like Ahmed Mater from Saudi Arabia.  This is a show that grows on you with each successive visit.  Allow adequate time: some of First Look’s mesmerizing videos are so seductive, you’ll find that you can’t tear yourself away.

Yang Yongliang’s HD video, “The Night of Perpetual Day” (4 channel 8’30”)” blends traditional Chinese landscape drawing with painstakingly manipulated digital images to transport China’s fabled mountains into a shimmering bustling urban night. Follow closely and you’ll perceive a subtle commentary about China’s unchecked development and that Yongliang, born in Shanghai in 1980, lives in a rich fantasy-land. Purchased in 2013 with funds from Gorretti and Lawrence Lui and Richard Beleson. Image: courtesy AAM

Yang Yongliang’s HD video, “The Night of Perpetual Day” (4 channel 8’30”)” blends traditional Chinese landscape drawing with painstakingly manipulated digital images to transport China’s fabled mountains into a shimmering bustling urban night. Follow closely and you’ll perceive a subtle commentary about China’s unchecked development and that Yongliang, born in Shanghai in 1980, lives in a rich fantasy-land. Purchased in 2013 with funds from Gorretti and Lawrence Lui and Richard Beleson. Image: courtesy AAM

Chen Man “Long Live the Motherland, Shanghai No. 1, 2010. Beijing-born Chen Man’s career in photography and as artist took off with a bang when, in the early 2000’s, she produced a series of sleek images that were unique amongst Chinese magazine covers, capturing the culture’s fascination busting out of the Chinese straightjacket and into the brave new world. Shooting style, beauty and fashion for magazines like Harper’s Bazar and Vogue, she has created a visual language that heralded a visual revolution. Image: courtesy AAM

Beijing-born Chen Man’s career in photography and as artist took off with a bang in the early 2000’s when she produced a series of sleek images that were unique amongst Chinese magazine covers, capturing the culture’s fascination with busting out of the Chinese straightjacket and into the brave new world and the various ironies associated with those aspirations. Shooting style, beauty and fashion for magazines like Harper’s Bazar and Vogue, she has created a visual language that heralded a visual revolution. Chen Man “Long Live the Motherland, Shanghai No. 1, 2010. Image: courtesy AAM

Elegant, handbuilt and referencing Confucian ritual vessels from Korea’s Joseon (Choson) period, Korea’s last dynastic period, ceramicist Kim Yik-yung (1935) creates modern forms that explore the boundaries between old and new. Faceted bowl with lid, approx. 1960-2000, porcelain, acquired by AAM in 2010. Image: courtesy AAM.

Elegant, handbuilt and referencing Confucian ritual vessels from Korea’s Joseon (Choson) period, Korea’s last dynastic period, ceramicist Kim Yik-yung (1935) creates modern forms that explore the boundaries between old and new. Faceted bowl with lid, approx. 1960-2000, porcelain, acquired by AAM in 2010. Image: courtesy AAM.

Illumination Waqf, 2013, by Ahmed Mater (Saudi Arabian, b. 1979). Gold leaf, tea pomegranate, Chinese ink and offset X ray film print on paper. Purchased 2014. Image: courtesy AAM

Taking his inspiration from the process of illumination of religious texts, Saudi artist Ahmed Mater’s diptych, “Illumination Waqf,” (2013) creates two holy pages by combining x-ray images with ancient symbols and manuscript preparation techniques─blending pomegranate juice with tea and applying it to paper to achieve a richly luminous background. X-ray images of man and woman are shown side by side and face to face, an objective expression of the inner self, illuminated for all to see and in defiance of the Qu-ran’s taboo of representation. “Illumination Waqf,” 2013, by Ahmed Mater (Saudi Arabian, b. 1979). Gold leaf, tea pomegranate, Chinese ink and offset X ray film print on paper. Purchased 2014. Image: courtesy AAM

Details:   First Look closes October 11, 2105.  The AAM is located at 200 Larkin Street near Civic Center.  Parking is easy at Civic Center Plaza garage which offers a discount with your validated AAM ticket. (Get it stamped upon entry to the museum.) Hours: Tues-Sun: 10-5; Thursdays until 9 (end Oct 8); closed Mondays. Admission: $15 General admission; Seniors, students, youth (13-17) $10; 12 & under are free.  You can pre-purchase your tickets, with no processing fee, online here.

October 1, 2015 Posted by | Asian Art Museum, Photography | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment