Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Theresa Russell, Stephanie Lane, Buck Henry, Beverly D'Angelo, Elizabeth Hurley
Directors: Robert Altman, Bruce Beresford, Bill Bryden, Jean-Luc Godard, Derek Jarman
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama
This omnibus directors fest brings together 10 different filmmakers making 10 different films based on operatic arias. Jean-Luc Godard is stylistically the boldest, Robert Altman possibly the most imaginative, Franc Roddam... more »
ARIA - Classic Lost....
Robert W. Jones | San Antonio, TX | 07/05/2008
(1 out of 5 stars)
"ARIA is a wonderful film. Each director chose an Operatic Aria to work with for interpretation to the screen.
The new DVD release is to be avoided. I pre-ordered this a couple of months ago and upon arrival, was totally dissapointed by the quality. It's not 16x9 as advertised. It's not even full frame as it was filmed. Very poor transfer from an old answer or release print. Poor sound, doesn't even look good with a 1080 upconvert DVD player.
I have this film on VHS tape. Three years ago I transfered it to DVD. My VHS tape copy is far superior to this release.
In short, it sucks......."
Compilation of film "arias" with emotional impact.
JSM | Middleboro, MA USA | 11/15/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although I have extensive musical experience as a classically trained singer, I think that even the novice appreciater of opera will find "Aria" appealing. The concept for "Aria" is compelling. Ten directors each make a short film using music from opera that has moved them in some way. As with any compilation of shorts, some do a better job than others. The five star review at the outset means that I think the best shorts of the bunch are worth buying the entire DVD. I will review each short separately.
The short films in this series can be catagorized in several ways. There are films that use excerpts from an opera to tell its film "story", while others use only a single composition. There are films where the visual story takes precedence and the music "accompanies", whereas others have the music as the star.
Images from Bill Bryden's short film are interspersed between each of the others giving the viewer a marker for when one film ends and another begins and this creates a story arc through the whole compilation which culminates at the end. (I will review Bill Bryden's film last.)
1. "Un ballo in maschera" (4 & 1/2 stars) - Dir. Nicolas Roeg uses excerpts from Verdi's opera to tell the story of a lustful Albanian monarch (played by actress Theresa Russell in a pants role!) wooing a young Baroness in Vienna while exiles plot to assasinate him. Those of you who know the opera will recognize the opera's plot mirrored in the film. I delighted in attention to details like the double-headed eagle (Albania's national symbol) over the entrance of the embassy.(Yes, I am Albanian.) The film succeeds in telling its story before us while allowing the music to carry us along. (Warning for brief partial nudity)
2. "La forza del destino" (5 stars) - The lovely aria, "La Virgine degli Angeli", performed by Leontyne Price, is clearly the star in Charles Sturridge's tragic black & white short and gives the film its needed emotional impact, particularly at the end. (Incidentally, the beautiful voice of Leontyne Price was featured in the previous film also and two other films later.)
3. "Armide" (1 star) - Jean Luc Goddard's short left me scratching me head going "Huh?". Two comely young cleaning ladies flit about, sometimes nude, through a gym and are ignored by the very muscular gym rats. The music would fade in and out to be replaced with the sound of the work-out machines in use. I found this distracting and annoying. The unfamiliar music (though not displeasing for me) and the images it accompanied did not fit well. Takes only ten minutes, but it was too long. Couldn't wait for it to end. By far, the stinker of the bunch.
4. "Rigoletto" (4 stars) - This one is the comedy and it works well. A film producer (Buck Henry) leaves his sick wife (Anita Morris) at home to go scout a location, but he is really going to rendez-vous with a sexy blond (Beverly D'Angelo) at a resort hotel that has "theme rooms". Unbeknownst to him, his wife has her own date with her tall handsome paramour at the same hotel. Near misses abound. Dir. Julien Temple uses several "oners", long continuous takes with no cuts, to propel his tale. Watch out for the Elvis impersonator. Its inclusion and the music that goes with him was a masterstroke. Laugh-out-loud funny.
5. "Die tote Stadt" (5 stars) - Have you ever had a deliciously beautiful dream you didn't want to end? Gorgeous music, breath-taking images, beautiful actors (Elizabeth Hurley nude, vavavoom), no storyline (no need for one) all blended seamlessly by Bruce Beresford to make this fairytale aria.
6. Les Boreades (2 & 1/2 stars) - A film of disturbing beauty. I was unaware of the fact that European aristocrats found it fun to bring people from an insane asylum to the opera. Robert Altman shot his subject from the stage looking out at the audience and all the antics that ensue. The unfamiliar music from the French Baroque might not be to everyone's liking.
7. "Tristan und Isolde" (5 stars) - In my humble opinion, this is the best overall film of the compilation. Music, images and story, Franc Roddam creates the complete package. If you are familiar with composer Richard Wagner and "Isoldes Liebestod", the music featured, this film's impact will be especially jarring. (WOW!) I warn everyone of the sexually expicit nature of this short, though it is by no means gratuitous. (Bridget Fonda, in an early role.) There is a sensational cut from the Arizona landscape to the Las Vegas skyline, which is most arresting. And the end! Don't want to give it away. You'll all just have to trust me. This one is worth it. Leontyne Price graces us again with her vocal talents.
8. "Turandot" (4 & 1/2 stars) - I got to give Dir. Ken Russell props for taking on only one of the most familiar and beloved tenor arias in all of opera, "Nessun dorma" by Giacomo Puccini. The surreal images in the beginning will leave wondering where this film is going, but once the great Jussi Bjoerling starts singing the aria in earnest all will be explained.
9. "Louise" (5 stars) - This one is my personal favorite. The late Derek Jarman gives the viewer only the "impression" of a story and allows his audience to fill in the blanks to everyone's own taste. Who is the old woman bowing on stage and being showered with flower petals? Are she and the young woman the same person at different times? (Tilda Swinton, in an early role. As an actress, she has taken roles that have downplayed her looks. I didn't realize just how beautiful a young women she was.) The aria "Depuis le jour" (the incomparable Leontyne Price doing the honors, once again) sets the mood perfectly and whisks us along until the film ends long before we want it to.
10. "I Pagliacci" (2 & 1/2 stars) - As stated above, this film is shown in tiny little snipets thoughout the whole compilation (a ritornello, of sorts, for all of you musicians out there), and its use does create interest. The part when the great character actor John Hurt goes into the church to pray before an icon of the Virgin Mary leads us smoothly and logically to "La Virgine degli Angeli" in the second film. As each vignette is presented, it becomes clear (to us opera buffs, at least) that our actor is preparing himself for the role of Canio in Ruggiero Leoncavallo tragic one act opera and its seminal aria "Vesti la giubba", heard in an old phonograph recording by Enrico Caruso. So why the 2 & 1/2 stars? The final culmination left me disappointed and unsatisfied. The lead up was better than the finale. You'll have to see it to understand why.
To sum it all up, this DVD was an instant keeper for me. The good films were great. If you are new to opera and want to learn more, you might find it rewarding to make cursory study of each musical piece you find enjoyable. Knowing what I knew already about the music certainly added to my own enjoyment of this DVD. As for the ones I didn't enjoy, I will defer to those other reviewers who might do a better job than I at explaining and defending their worth."