21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
This is, with no doubt, on of the best DVDs of contemporary music you can buy nowadays, a work of a really art status, directed wonderfully by Judit Kele and joining together two of the most important composers from our time: György Kurtág and Peter Eötvös.
Kurtág's documentary is shot, some parts, in really film style, truly beautiful. Right the beginning, with the blue-filtered images of Budapest and the Donau river, introduces Kurtág and his wife Marta like if they were really characters of a film, with Kurtág's music as `soundscape' (Quasi una fantasia, Opus. 1), listening at the same time György Kurtág's own words talking about life; very deep thoughts expressed through a voice really impressive that remembers to me the one of the Russian film director Andrey Tarkovsky, because of his tone and the thing he's talking about.
Even the documentary is quite cinema several times (shooting the interviews with different cameras, frames and image style, like if the director wants to go inside Kurtág's mind, a kind of psychological approach), the most important thing is music and his words (images are really outstanding, of course). We can watch him playing and following rehearsals with his wife, in a connection between them really amazing.
Kurtág talks to us about what music means to him, the genesis of it, and we listen & watch those pieces performed by some of the greatest artists of contemporary music, those we knew from Kurtág's recordings: Keller, Kocsis, Eötvös, Ensemble Modern, Csengery, Ensemble InterContemporain, Boulez, Abbado, Berliner Philharmoniker, Orlando Quartet, Monyók, Gáti, Fabián, etc.
What is amazing on Kurtág's way of rehearsing with the artists is his enormous intensity, an d the clear fact of we are watching a man who is really on it, giving his best all the time, and going directly to the deepest regions of art. The image offers to us the possibility of watching his non verbal language, his body expression, when he is communicating to the artists, a channel very important and highly emotional on Kurtág's expression. His body really become music, as his arms, his head, his hands... take the forms of the music lines. He really feels the music inside of him and, like he says, we notice he's understanding it much more when he explain it; that's why teaching is so important for him and that's why teaching and rehearsing is so present in this DVD, because that's the moment when lot of things are learned and understood. In this sense he says: `I understand music only if I teach it', even more than if I play it, he continues.
Judit Kele shows to us wonderful reconstructions of Budapest and Hungary ambient and atmospheres, as of nature too, marvellous joined to Kurtág's music in a very poetical way. Different Hungarian composers speak about his music, about Transylvania, where Bartók, Eötvös, Ligeti and Kurtág were born, about the history of them country and about the music situation in communist Hungary.
The film goes back to Kurtág's childhood in order to follow his career as an artist, his decisions, those important moments, showing moving photographs; those dark days in Paris when he saw himself like an insect (in a very kafkian way), the solitude, himself lost, the role of psychoanalysis in helping him on finding his way and focusing his attention on essential things... Really deep, moving, touching experiences from which we can learn a lot about what is an artist an some life's lessons.
It was to me very impressive to listen and watching György Ligeti talk about Kurtág on this film, like always very clear and clever, and very sensitive too. Kurtág's words could be those of Ligeti too; very saviour words: `I'm always learning, and I continually feel I don't know a thing. But at times, someone inside of me who knows things burts out'.
Specially moving too is watching & listening Ildikó Monyók to talk about her career, about her car crash and about how she meet Kurtág in order to have a work from him, that is `Samuel Beckett: What is the word?', the piece she sing on this film under Kurtág artistic direction and piano playing, in which she comes to tears.
Well, this is just a brief description about this film, `The matchstick man'; writing about what it suggest could take hundred of pages... that the miracle of what a great artist means to us. A jewel in 56 minutes shot in 4:3, but upgraded to 14:9 or quite to 16:9 with the `subtitles zoom' option on 16:9 TVs. Very good sound too.
Superb film direction and edition, full of images, documents, nature, interviews, rehearsals... On of the best contemporary documentaries I know. There's a bonus too, called `Exercises', a 24 minutes film, directed by Kele, in which we can watch some artists playing parts of Kurtág's work, himself rehearsing, children `playing piano' with his works, some philosophers, conductors... talking and analysing his works... Very interesting too.
Peter Eötvös' documentary title, `The seventh door', is taken from Bartók's opera `Bluebeard's Castle', and it's referred to the last door that should not be opened in our personalities, souls and pat, that one that keep part of us. Like Kurtág's film, this wonderful work by Judit Kele tries to open that door a little more, in order to know about Peter Eötvös' life and work.
The film begins with images from the space, from the time Gagarin was the first human being to travel out of the Earth. That space trip and the knowledge about the Big-Ban, the cosmos, its rules... shocked Peter Eötvös, who explain in his home these reasons as a motive to write his early piano piece Kosmos, which he explains and play for us, while he draws the symbols represented in his Kosmos on the body of the piano, in a kind of Miro style, really very graphic, that helps very much to understand that piece I knew from the CDs.
Going from the cosmos to his life, he talks about how is he regarding back to his life, to his inner cosmos, his evolution and hidden world, which he tries to explore in his large orchestral piece Psychokosmos, which he conducts on this film, like many other we can watch & listen to play and to rehearse. In his searching, he goes back to the place where he is from, to Transylvania and its people and folk, also to his personal history, to those places where he spent his life, that he confess now is constant travelling. We watch his family, even his mother playing the piano and talk about him, his walks in Budapest, photos of his student days in Budapest, those periods of solitude and composing training... He talks too about the time when he moved to Germany, where he discovered a completely new world in all the senses; his great affinity to Stockhausen, who he considered the `ideal composer', etc. The links shown in the documentary are about music too, and we watch how Peter Eötvös goes back to medieval music, to Liszt, Bartók... to the time of Stockhausen, whose Gruppen we watch Eötvös rehearse, with Boulez and David Robertson; very interesting. Boulez talks about him too, and Peter Eötvös talks about Zappa and the time they worked together in Varèse pieces, and how Psalm 151 is dedicated to him, as a reflection and rejection of death. In that sense, there're some deeply moving shots of Peter Eötvös and his daughter watching a domestic video of the Eötvös' children, while we listen `Shadows', the piece dedicated to the memory of his son, the one we watch on that video.
We are talking about a very interesting film too, another jewel wonderfully shot, directed and edited. It's a documentary of 51:36 minutes, framed on 16:9, with better image quality and sound than Kurtág's one.
Interesting libretto on this DVD, with photos, texts and recommended discography.
One more step on this wonderful path that Juxtapositions offers to us through contemporary music. Thanks to them for this 10 stars jewel.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
This DVD, the seventh in the "Juxtapositions" series of films on contemporary music, pairs the Hungarian composers, Gyorgy Kurtag and Peter Eotvos in two documentaries directed by Judit Kele.
The 1996 documentary "The Matchstick Man" covers the life and work of Gyorgy Kurtag. The composer had a reputation as being somewhat shy and private, but opens his heart here. This is a highly psychological portrayal of Kurtag as creative figure, and dry biographical facts don't abound. The viewer seems expected to already know something about Kurtag's early career, how he once wrote according to the party line, spend an important period in Paris, and so forth.
We learn Kurtag's feelings about the music of his predecessors that inspired him, the authors whose writings have spoken deeply to him, and how he approaches teaching performers. There are brief interviews with Gyorgy Ligeti, Zoltan Jeney, Frank Sulyok, and other Hungarian music figures. There's lots of scenes of performances, with Kurtag and his wife playing the piano, Peter Eotvos leading the Ensemble Modern, and Claudio Abbado conducting the Berliner Philharmoniker, and so forth. Adrienne Csengery, the soprano who debuted "Messages of the late R.V. Toussova" op 17, is briefly interviewed and we see footage of the 1981 Paris concert conducted by Pierre Boulez that launched Kurtag's career abroad. Especially poignant is a scene where Ildiko Monyok explains how Kurtag wrote "Samuel Beckett: What is the Word" op 30A for her after she had lost her ability to speak in a car accident and was only slowly getting it back.
The DVD extra, "Exercises", consists of several scenes which seem to be outtakes from the Kurtag documentary. I-Ming Huang introduces several children to the "Perpetuum mobile" piece from "Games". The philosopher Klaus Stichweh speaks the construction of "Stele" op 33. Then there's a discussion between Stichwech , the composer Henry Foures, and the conductor Dominique Rouits on Kurtag's general aesthetic. In the fourth scene, Kurtag coaches a violinist sitting offscreen. Finally, the fifth scene is a performance of first four movements of the "Officium breve in memoriam Andreae Szervanszky" op. 28 by the Orlando Quartet supervised by Kurtag. There's also a brief cello performance, and the extra ends with Marta Kurtag playing the a few of the pieces from "Games".
In 1998 Kele produced her second documentary, THE SEVENTH DOOR, about the composer Peter Eotvos. Its approach to its subject is quite different. Where Kurtag was passive and had to be piqued into speaking about his work, here Eotvos actively narrates much of the footage and openly talks about his youth and his ideas. There is much discussion of Eotvos' collaboration with Stockhausen in the late '60s, and Stockhausen himself is interviewed. The viewer gets to hear several of Eotvos' little-known early works, which were either electronic or at least inspired by the sounds of Stockhausen's studio. Pierre Boulez speaks a little about Eotvos' time leading the Ensemble Intercontemporain, and in one of the most interesting scenes of the documentary we set Eotvos, Boulez, and David Robertson rehearsing to conduct Stockhausen's "Gruppen". I was fascinated by the composer's explanation of the cosmological theories behind his early piece "Cosmos", which he plays in the arrangement for solo piano.
Again, there are few instances of straightforward biography here, one is expected to know a little of Eotvos' admiration of Frank Zappa, and the death of Eotvos' son is mentioned only in the composer and his daugther watching home video of the boy while "Shadows" plays in the background. Indeed, the title of the documentary refers to Bartok's highly psychological opera "Bluebeard's Castle", where the innermost door of the self is meant to stay tightly closed. Kele displays a man of great charm and ingenuity who still conserves great mystery under a genial surface.
The DVD comes with a booklet that contains Kele's comments on the making of the documentaries (with tantalizing mention of a Ligeti one), as well as brief biographies of the composers and a list of recommended recordings.
With this installment Juxtapositions series continues to provide highly entertaining viewing for fans of contemporary music. If you enjoy the work of Kurtag and Eotvos, this is a DVD which is very much worth getting. Even if one or both of the composers is unfamiliar to you, it's still a good purchase. While I was a Kurtag fan before watching, I had never paid much attention to Eotvos' music before. After watching the documentary however I went back to pieces like "Atlantis" and "Psychokosmos" and discovered great beauty within.