Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Gustav Mahler Detaching From the World|
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
The life and work of Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) in a film biography by Franz Winter, shot at the original locations ? with previously unpublished original material ? based on Uri Caine's engagement as a composer with the mu... more »
A real disappointment...
svf | 06/15/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
"What a dud. What a bore. What a shame.
Don't get me wrong... I love Uri Caine's stuff, especially his eclectic avant-jazz reimaginings of music by Gustav Mahler (and Wagner, Bach, Schumann, and Beethoven too.) And I also adore Winter and Winter, probably the classiest record label around these days.
So when I found out they were branching out into DVD releases, I naturally expected great things -- especially since one of their first "Film Edition" projects, which are tantalizingly described as "celluloid improvisations," was inspired by Uri Caine's Mahler explorations.
Gustav Mahler: detaching from the world certainly has the trademark Winter and Winter look and feel, from the corrugated bio-friendly packaging to the sparse, artsy booklet inside.
The actual content of the DVD, however, is unfortunately a lot like a Ken Burns documentary on quaaludes -- if such a dreadful thing can even be imagined.
The soundtrack is excerpted from Uri Caine's Primal Light and Dark Flame CDs (with one track from Wagner e Venezia) so there's no new music to be heard here if you are already familiar with those albums. But it's all good stuff, to be sure (even though the selections are often faded in and out and edited.)
Except you have to endure Uri Caine's narration as well, and believe me, he's no James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman. Caine's spoken delivery, completely unlike his music, is dry, monotone, and lethargic. He's also clearly reading from a scripted text that consists mainly of biographical anecdotes, excerpts from Mahler's letters, and so forth -- the usual PBS-style documentary fodder.
If you prefer, you can switch to the German narration read by Fritz Winter instead, who is also credited as the film's writer and director and is presumably related to Stefan Winter, the label's founder and executive producer. Maybe that's how he got the job.
The visuals consist of long, slow panning shots of still photographs, paintings, and the occasional "live" landscape, building, or cemetery scene. Many of these images are certainly lovely and interesting. Put them in a coffee table book, by all means... I just don't want to look at them on my television screen while being lulled to sleep by a guy reading to me.
Eventually, I just turned the narration off and listened to the music, which helped a little -- but in that case, who needs this DVD when you'd be better off just listening to the Uri Caine/Mahler CDs while reading the liner notes and looking at the pictures in the booklets?
Overall, Caine's fresh, quirky, engaging arrangements of Mahler's music stand in stark contrast to the bland, stolid, conventional tone of the visuals and narrative in this well-intentioned but unremarkable documentary. Regrettably, traditional orchestral versions of Mahler's music would have provided a far more appropriate soundtrack.
Factor in the super-premium price tag, the standard stereo sound, and a running time of under an hour, and this DVD becomes even less necessary and appealing.
By all means, check out Uri Caine's amazing Primal Light album. Then listen to the inferior but still worthwhile follow-ups, Mahler in Toblach and Dark Flame.
But if Gustav Mahler: detaching from the world is any indication, Winter and Winter should stick to films of the audio variety. And I sincerely hope they change my mind about this someday soon."
A Unique But Flawed Approach to Discovering Gustav Mahler
J P Falcon | Fords, New Jersey United States | 05/05/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"First off, this "cinematic biography" of the great Austrian composer Gustav Mahler, will not be to everyones taste. At less than an hour, you only get the barest sketch of the man, but thankfully it is peppered with many beautiful images and photographs to help make the journey palatable. What many may object to is the use of Uri Caine's "bastardization" of Mahler's music as the soundtrack. Caine reduces the scoring to the barest instrumental forces so that the music could pass as a Klezmer band, Salon orchestra, or Jazz combo. These reductions are not in the same spirit as Stein or Schoenberg's faithful transcriptions, since Caine will take Mahler's music and distort it in many directions. So if you find the Caine music intolerable, you may wish to skip this purchase unless you decide to use the mute button. I did not mind the Caine soundtrack because I always have original Mahler at the ready in my DVD player. One can worry that a newcomer to the music of Mahler might be put off by his music because of Caine's tampering. That would be a shame if such an incident occurred.
The program can be listened to in German, English, or Music only. The biggest production problem is that Caine's music is so damn loud on the audio track, that it competes with the narration. I had a difficult time hearing what was being said, by the rather monotonous droning english voiceover, that I soon disabled the monologue and listened just to the music. I enabled the subtitles and read the text rather than struggling to hear it! Caine does the voiceover work and he is annoying to listen to when he can be heard above his music.
So, this is a decent but flawed video presentation which provides a thumbnail to Gustav Mahler's life and work. Mahler afficianados will not find anything new here, and will be surprised by what is omitted. For example, Mahler's New York period only receives the barest of mentions and his work with the New York Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera are not even noted. A glaring ommission!
Cautiously recommended with reservations, though "Mahlerites" will probably want it despite the flaws!"