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donaloc "donaloc" (Ireland)

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Lady Macbeth Of Mtsensk [DVD] [2005] [NTSC]
Lady Macbeth Of Mtsensk [DVD] [2005] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Various Artists

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good version of Shostakovich's Classic, 14 Sept. 2010
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Shostakovich's opera was greeted by a Pravda review on January 29th 1936 entitled 'Chaos instead of Music'. The critic stated that the opera attempted to tickle the "perverted taste of the bourgeois with its fidgety, neurotic music" and to arouse 'sympathy of the spectators for the coarse and vulgar inclinations and behavior of the merchant woman Katerina Ismailova".

Some say that this anonymous review was written by Stalin himself, no-one will be sure. Irregardless, the consequences were severe with Shostakovich denounced for formalism (i.e. an attachment to developing the form rather than innovating around the content of music).

In many regards the criticism is well-placed. This opera is vulgar in so many regards (to the point of comedy), the ending is depressing and the music is difficult to imagine singing along to but it conveys a sense of ethereal doom. Nothing could be further from the demands of socialist-realism which demanded imaginative, popular and uplifting music full of hope and bereft of the filth of the past.

But that was the point. Shostakovich was close to the 'leftist' musical branch associated with Trotsky (and Lunacharsky) which put an emphasis on artistic freedom and development of form and which found its zenith in surrealism. The Stalinist branch of Soviet music wanted to keep things in the 19th Century of Tchaikovsky and the art of Romantics like Glazunov. Such a division in art was a good thing and resulted in a flurry of competing art-forms across all media in the Soviet Union in the 1920s.

The problem was that in the 1930s, one tendency assumed the mantle of the state and used it to dominate the other. Zhdanov and Kalinnikov over Myaskovsky and Shostakovich. Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk can only be read as an artistic thumb in the eye for the traditionalists but one that resulted in a wholesale assault on avant garde musicians in the Soviet Union. The era of Mossolov and Rosclavets was over, Shostakovich and Prokofiev beware!

Enough of the history of the piece to this production. The singing in the staging of this opera is very good. The sets are very rudimentary but the transitions are sufficiently quick and in keeping with the music that this hardly matters. It conveys a sense of claustrophobia and despair excellently. The cage rape scene seems to go quite a bit further than Shostakovich dared but I considered it to be in the bounds of the Opera itself.

Overall, this would be an excellent production if it were not for two reasons -the first is that (like so many other remakes of Soviet-era opera), it has been staged in a more modern setting. This opera was set under the Tsarist era but the clothing and set might suggest it was contemporaneous to the period when it was written. In particular, the guards appear to be wearing Red 'Soviet?' epaulettes and the soldiers the attire of the Red Army. No doubt this is to emphasis a reading suggesting that the opera was about that period - but it doesn't work.

The Opera was written about the horror of living under the quasi-feudal system of the Tsars and it makes little sense outside this paradigm (indeed, perhaps this is why it is hard for modern audiences to understand it). Katarina represents the repression of bourgeois women under this system - which restricted their freedom to a massive degree. It also is necessary to understand the class relations between Katarina and her lover to see just how radical his actions were. In some sense, he represents the Russian worker. Confusing the period in the attempt to align the production to audiences prejudices against 'red terror' does little justice to the artistic conception of the piece, I'm afraid.

The second flaw is the ending. Shostakovich wrote the death of Katarina. It is both necessary as a device within the opera and is symbolic. The exclusion of this element is hard to understand - perhaps it reflects imaginative limitations in terms of the set. This change, however, requires other changes in the libretto and for those who love this Opera it brings the work down somewhat especially as this is the end.

In the absence of a Russian version from (let's hope the Bolshoi produce one and set it in the Tsarist era), this remains the best version of this Opera available on DVD and it is very good value at current prices.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 7, 2011 8:56 PM BST

Allen Carr's Easy Way to Control Alcohol
Allen Carr's Easy Way to Control Alcohol
by Allen Carr
Edition: Paperback

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worked for me, 3 Mar. 2009
I used to drink pretty much every day. Not much, a little. I liked the taste of alcohol or so I thought. I realised that it was degrading my health and I also knew that some mornings I would turn into work tired out not so much from the quantity of drink but the lateness of the hour. By the standards of my friends I was not drinking too much - in fact far less - but it was sufficient to start a descent that I knew I had to control. So one day I picked this book up from the library. I didn't really want to give up but read it to find out how to control. It ended up steeling me to give it up. I used to love alcohol and everything about it. I couldn't believe life could be filled without it. Now I haven't drunk in almost two years and the thought of alcohol makes me feel sorry for those still trapped. For those who have not read this may not make sense but believe me this book changed my life. I have mental and physical energy I could not hope to have. I do not want alcohol. It is exactly like he said in the book. I want to thank him for giving me the power to change my life and the life of my family for the better. I have my four aces.

Le Mepris [DVD] [1963]
Le Mepris [DVD] [1963]
Dvd ~ Brigitte Bardot

7 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A film about Politics, 24 Oct. 2006
This review is from: Le Mepris [DVD] [1963] (DVD)
The other reviews appear blind to the fact that this is one of Godard's first forays into political metaphor.

The film sets a playwright with an interest in art for art's sake against an American 'movie' maker who ends up stealing his wife. Effectively, the woman caught between them represents European society - I believe. She is shamed by the behaviour of her husband who she feels allowed the US movie-maker to have an opportunity to take advantage of her for personal gain. In the end she leaves him for the American who she otherwise dispises because of that shame and in spite of it.

The movie which is set in Italy, I believe, is a metaphor for Godard's disgust at what some would call the 'revisionism' of mainstream communism. (To give us a clue the playwright discloses that he has joined the communist party). The metaphor demonstrates the outworkings of a European (eurocommunist) left which accommodates to US imperialism (as represented by a foul-minded and base US movie-maker). European society loses faith in the non-idealist European left and turns to the US in disgust - to its inevitable doom.
There are obvious parallels between this movie and the Odyssey itself - which I guess can be made to parallel the political metaphor. Important is the theme throughout that the playwright believes that Homer left to fight at Troy because of existing problems.
Overall a very complex movie operating at several different levels of metaphor.
The shooting is exquisite. The acting by all is very good - although I though Bardot was not as good as some of the other commentators suggest. Jack Palance was the perfect cad.

Weekend [1967] [DVD]
Weekend [1967] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Mireille Darc
Price: £24.98

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Movie of Revolution, 24 Oct. 2006
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Weekend [1967] [DVD] (DVD)
I think that the other commentators have failed to fully understand the movie. I believe that it is a metaphor for the collapse of bourgeois (capitalist) society and works by explaining what will come of that society under standard marxist analysis.

They begin their journey, self-absorbed, greedy, murderous, horrid. They go through the rat-race of traffic along the way. They end up getting robbed, losing their car crashing it and wandering lost. All hope of returning is gone. They end up arrested by the revolutionaries (the dictatorship of the proletariat), suffer cultural re-education (to the extent that the female character eats the male one). The role of the Algerian and African characters are important in that they represent the positivity of the third-world leadership which Jean Luc Godard revered so much. The movie is a very hard Maoist metaphor.

The movie itself is well shot, thought-provoking and harsh. It is meant to reflect the harshness of this world and the director's belief in how that system will be overthrown.

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