Aug 17

Slaughterhouse Five, based on the novel by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. ?????

Most Amazon.com readers give this film a five star rating, which I agree. I’ve not read the book, so, I can’t compare the film with the faithfulness to the book. It is a superb anti-war film, with a mixture of extreme pathos and comedy. Though now a film that has long achieved cult status, it is odd that it took until now for me to watch this film. Vonnegut makes a cogent argument for some of the most pointless points of WWII, such as the firm-bombing of Dresden. This, mixed with the piano playing of Glenn Gould and Bach in the background, one gets a surrealistic feel of the absolute vapidness of WWII, and most other wars, for that matter. Some parts of the film were a touch too bizarre, such as the journeys to a distant planet Tralfamadore where the lead character is being observed by other creatures as he lives out a quasi-sanity, and his constant relapses from his now comfortable life as a prominent optometrist in New England and his bare-survival as a prisoner of war when captured in the battle of the bulge. He was never sure whether his real enemies were the Americans, the Germans, or the Russians. The entire sense of reality is questioned, en par with other great films such as In Westen Nichts Neues (All is quiet on the western front), Catch-22, or The King of Hearts. This film is more effective than the others listed in making out the pointless-ness of (most) wars,  and one worth putting on the must-see list.

 

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Aug 17

Parsifal, Dir. Horst Stein, Bayreuther Festspiele ????

This is actually an excellent production of Parsifal, with both an excellent recording and excellent video, as well as excellent acting and singing. It is staged in a traditional style, with conformity with probable original staging instructions. Why only four stars? This is probably one of my preferred video versions of Parsifal? Well, Parsifal has a rather stupid plot (sorry, Richard W.). The music is awesome. It is one of those few operas that is best heard and not seen. Perhaps this is an opera where bizarre staging might make for better visualization. It’s one that Peter Sellars or Doris Dorrie should attack. Other versions of Parsifal that I own include the Levine/Met Opera version, that has better staging and also using the absolutely superb Wagnerian signer Siegfried Jersusalem for Parsifal, a film with opera dubbing by Syberberg, nice and effective, but with odd staging, and a CD version with Karajan, which is indisputably the best conducted recording of this opera.

 

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