The stranger-than-fiction true story of the father of electronic music is captivatingly told in this highly acclaimed and endlessly surprising documentary (Leonard Maltin) that garnered the prestigious Filmmakers Trophy ... more »at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival. Set against the backdrop of the instrument's ethereal sound, Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey is nothing short of sensational! In the 1920s and 30s, Russian émigré Leonard Thereminthe inventor of the world's first electronic musical instrumenthad it all. His self-named theremins were in high demand from filmmakers and musicians around the globe; he was married to a beautiful American dancer; he lived among New York's socialelite. And then, in 1938, he mysteriously vanished, not to be seen again for over 50 years!« less
"If you have ever had any interest in the theremin, you need to get this film. There is extensive footage of Clara Rockmore playing the instrument, and her technique is amazing. She has developed a way to play scales by moving her fingers. You have to see it to believe it. I play the theremin and this film helped me out tremendously. If you never heard of a theremin, the film is worth watching anyway, because you don't see too many documentary films with this much intrigue and depth. Plus, you get to see Brian Wilson's whacked out explanation of the 60s. Really funny. Leon Theremin had every reason in the world to give up and die, and instead, he kept living. He is a true giant among human beings. The last 10 minutes of the film are sublime. This is not an action movie. It's a documentary. But it's one of the best documentary films I've ever seen. Good ending. Buy it."
A Loving Homage to the Art of Invention
Nicholas Croft | New York | 12/20/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Theremin" is a captivating, eighty-two minute portrait, of the late Russian musical inventor Leonard Theremin. The film describes the life of Professor Theremin's social circle, which was located in New York City during the 1920's and 30's. The instrument that bears his name, along with a range of other exotic musical instruments and inventions, were born during this unique period.A special attribute of the film is that Director Steve Martin has sought out, and then interviewed, a range of talented musicians, dancers and composers. These artists have made direct contributions toward bringing the sound of Professor Theremin's instrument, from the inventor's basement laboratory, into the consciousness of the American public.Robert Moog, whose modular synthesizers revolutionized musical production, spent his teenage years building Theremin's from the plans of a hobbyist magazine. Moog claims that Leon Theremin's work is the cornerstone of the use of electronics in musical instrument design.The film shows that concerts performed by Clara Rockmore to the accompaniment of major symphony orchestras, went a long way towards gaining the acceptance of the Theremin as a serious musical instrument. The Theremin was also popularized by Hollywood, with its use in films such as "The Day the Earth Stood Still". An interesting subplot of the film describes Professor Theremin's abduction from his 57th Street New York apartment, with his subsequent rediscovery, in Russia, some fifty years later. "Theremin, An Electronic Odyssey" is a documentary film that both informs and surprises. It is highly recommended viewing for all fans of electronic music."
Peter Shelley | Sydney, New South Wales Australia | 06/13/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Leon Theremin was the Russian-born inventor of the electronic musical instrument that sounds like a fly buzzing but has a touching, yearning vibrato. It was used memorably on the Beach Boys song "Good Vibrations", in the TV series Lost in Space, and in several films including Spellbound, Lost Weekend and The Day the Earth Stood Still. Mr Theremin's life is as bizarre as his creation. At the height of his fame and wealth in New York in the 1920's, he was kidnapped by the KGB, who used his genius for bugging devices and other "bad things". Meanwhile, his student Clara Rockmore thrived as the theremin virtuoso in symphony orchestras. There is poignance in seeing the old Mr Theremin wandering the streets of New York, while the theremin plays "Lover, Come Back to Me" on the soundtrack, and in seeing him reunited with Clara. Watch out for a dazed and confused Brian Wilson."
Beautiful FIlm On A Very Obscure Topic
Robert J. Nelson | The Woodlands, Tx United States | 01/06/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I rented this movie from my local video store, never having heard of the instrument or the inventor before. It just sounded like an interesting movie to me. I wasn't disappointed. After watching for a while, I was impressed by how famous the instrument and inventor actually are. The Theremin is a musical instrument you've probably heard countless of times before but never knew the name of. It was played in many sci-fi and horror films of the 40's and 50's when an eery, other-worldly sound was called for. Anyone who has seen one of these films will immediately recognize the sound. Now, through this film, the sound has been given a name and a face - that of the inventor. This is the primary significance of this film. Whatever its flaws (and many of them have already been mentioned in the other reviews), the film does succeed in helping to implant in the viewer's consciousness the fact that this instrument did not just simply materialize out of nowhere. It was invented by a man who while he might have been bizarre was certainly no more bizarre than many another genius of his kind. Inventive geniuses and tinkerers always seem odd to "normal" people. This film does a good job pointing out that Theremin, the inventor, was actually an ordinary man, thrust into the spotlight in America in the 20's and, just as suddenly, thrust into obscurity by his own government, seemingly as punishment for having attained such success in America. Taken exactly for what it is, no more and no less, the story is moving. When dealing with such an obscure historical topic, it is no wonder the level of detail given seems to be wanting. There probably just is not that much information available. All that we are left with is memories, both of the contemporaries of Theremin and of the films in which his impact was most felt. I think that this is the point this film tries to make."
A surprisingly delightful portrait of someone you should kno
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 08/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The is a fire-rate biographical documentary of one of the most interesting individuals of the past figure, someone whose work most people will know even if they have never heard of. Leon Theremin was a Russian who escaped to the United States where he live, worked, and married until he was abducted in the mid-1930s by the KGB and returned to the Soviet Union to work on electronic surveillance equipment. For decades his fate was unknown, but with the downfall of the Iron Curtain and reestablishment of unfettered contact between east and west, the filmmakers were able both to fill out the story of what had happened to Theremin, gather information for this documentary, and enable a reconnection between Theremin and his lost friends in New York.
Theremin's claim to fame rests upon the highly unusual electric instrument, referred usually only by the inventor's last name: the Theremin. The instrument is made of no moving parts, but only some coils and modulators that create an energy field that can be manipulated by objects (usually hands) moving through it, and altering the sound that is thereby produced. Although the instrument has a wide range and can be used with a variety of musical styles, it is most commonly associated with Sci-fi sound tracks from the 1950s and in the Beach Boys' great hit "Good Vibrations." The Theremin is what is used to produce that high-pitched and incredibly eerie drone. If this still doesn't ring any bells, just thing of the instrument that parallels the voices as the Beach Boys sing "I'm feeling good vibrations."
Brian Wilson is one of many individuals interviewed during the course of the film, and his appearance, like much of his recent career is one that generated great respect and a feeling of sadness. I have had friends struggle with mental illness, but none is such a public way as Brian Wilson, and I have just enormous respect for the courage he exhibits in continue with a public career despite some obvious psychological challenges. The rest of the people interviewed run the course of friends from his early days in New York to various musicians who either specialized on the instrument or who used it in movies or elsewhere.
By no conceivable means does THEREMIN - AN ELECTRONIC ODYSSEY deal with one of the great stories of the century, nor does it tie up with the stories of many other people. But it is documents the usual contribution that one man made to 20th century music, and he stands as an example of the tragedy that can take place when a totalitarian state places the needs of the corporate above the needs of the individual. Little is spent on his life in the Soviet Union in the documentary, but he was taken away from his wife, an African-American professional dancer, in the 1930s, and he never saw her again. Although that part is not dwelt upon, the sadness of breaking apart a family so that a man could be forced to design the Soviet bug just seems tragic.
I have to vote this one of the most unexpectedly delightful documentaries that I have ever seen. When I saw it, I had absolutely minimal expectations, but instead I responded to it with complete delight."