Posts tagged ‘documentary’

November 22, 2014

Mini-Reviews #2

In Search of the Trojan WarMichael Wood: In Search of the Trojan War

Documentary Series
First Released: 1985
Run Time: Six 60-minute episodes.

My Thoughts: In In Search of the Trojan War, historian Michael Wood travels through Europe and Asia in an attempt to answer the question of whether or not the Trojan War really happened. I really have nothing to say about this documentary except that it is absolutely the best documentary I have seen on the subject of the Trojan War and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in anything related to Greek mythology or archaeology. I’ve seen it enough times that I’m sure I could sing you the synthariffic theme song and I still find it a great watch. The series is almost thirty years old and its age does show (I especially love the parts where Wood has to push several buttons AND A LEVER in order to change the picture on a computer screen), but it still has a ton of great information presented in an interesting and enthusiastic way. In an interview filmed for the DVD, Wood talks about how he didn’t want to just tell viewers his conclusions – the series really is set up like a search, and one of my favourite things about it is how Wood shows how details that seem not to be related at all can sometimes turn out to be a major source of information.

Of course I also enjoy all the shots of the archaeological sites, and I especially love the parts where Wood isn’t afraid to use his basic Greek on camera!

Also, at one point there’s a shot of our young host lying shirtless in bed, and it makes me laugh every single time I see it because yes, this is a documentary with fanservice.

Watch it on: YouTube

Buy it at: Amazon.com, Amazon.ca

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Mourning Becomes ElectraDudley Nichols: Mourning Becomes Electra

Movie
First Released: 1947
Run Time: The full cut seems to have been 175 minutes; I watched the 159-minute version released on DVD.
Starring: Rosalind Russell (Lavinia), Michael Redgrave (Orin), Katina Paxinou (Christine), Kirk Douglas (Peter)

My Thoughts: I loved Rosalind Russell in The Women and His Girl Friday and I loved Michael Redgrave in Dead of Night, so when I learned that they had starred together in the film version of the Eugene O’Neill play based on Aeschylus’ Oresteia I immediately had huge expectations. The first time I watched the movie, it didn’t live up to those expectations at all. The main thing that bothered me is that there is so much talking. I’d probably have an easier time accepting this from a stage production, but in a movie I guess I expect more showing and less telling, and it certainly didn’t help that a lot of this dialogue is delivered in the most overdramatic fashion possible. Luckily, I rewatched the movie about a month later, and enjoyed it rather more than I had the first time. The overdramatic dialogue was much easier to accept when I knew it was coming, although I still wish the movie had taken better advantage of being a movie. To me, one of the most effective sequences is the nearly silent stretch at the beginning when Lavinia is spying on Christine.

Like the Oresteia, Mourning Becomes Electra is made up of three parts, in this case titled “Homecoming,” “The Hunted” and “The Haunted.” Easily my favourite of the three is “The Haunted,” in which Lavinia and Orin attempt to move on from all that has happened. Although there are no Furies to torment this version of Orestes, it’s hinted quite strongly that Orin, who has just returned home from fighting in the Civil War, is suffering from PTSD; I really like the early scene in which he talks about his belief that war involves killing the same man over and over again. Later in the movie, the portraits of Orin and Lavinia’s ancestors take on the role of the Furies, and even the house itself seems to become a source of danger and evil. I loved all of this; it allows the events of the movie to remain realistic while preserving the supernatural spirit of the story it’s based on.

In the end, I like this movie all right, and it was interesting to see how O’Neill played with the story, but I remain hopeful that one day a really great movie version of the Oresteia will be released. I would also like to gain access to the parallel universe where I can watch the version of Mourning Becomes Electra that stars Olivia de Havilland as Lavinia. I wonder which of these wishes is the more realistic.

Watch: the first forty minutes, two minutes from “The Haunted”

April 29, 2014

Mike Jonathan: “Road to the Globe: ‘Troilus & Cressida'”

The Hunt for Troy

Documentary
First Released: 2012
Run Time: 52 minutes

Synopsis: The Road to the Globe is an “all access” documentary which charts the historic performance of Shakespeare’s “Troilus & Cressida” in Te Reo Māori by Rawiri Paratene’s theatre company at the Globe in 2012.

In 2010, with the coming of the 2012 Olympic Games, the home of Shakespeare – The Globe issued a proclamation outlining the world’s biggest Shakespearean festival: 37 countries, 37 Shakespearean plays, 37 languages.

Rawiri Paratene answered the call and was duly given Shakespeare’s little known “Troilus & Cressida.” To raise the stakes, Rawiri and his theatre company were also charged with opening the festival.

The Road to the Globe follows Rawiri and theatre director Rachel House throughout the rehearsal period, where we meet key cast members and watch them confront their fears, struggle with lines and moves and ultimately lift each other up to face their opening curtain.

Review: This is a short documentary whose quick pace makes it feel even shorter, but, as predicted, I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. The Trojan War, Shakespeare, behind-the-scenes footage, and discussions of language and culture – this is a whole bunch of things I love all in one movie, and it pains me that I don’t actually have a lot to say about it.

· As someone who knows essentially nothing about Māori culture, I would have loved more information about the costumes, the dances, and the make-up used in the play. I also would have appreciated subtitles for the interviewees who code-switched (for example, by starting a sentence in English and finishing it in Māori). At the same time, however, I accept that monolingual white Canadians are probably not this movie’s target audience, and the filmmakers’ decision to not include subtitles or cultural explanations is a fair one.

· I loved Paratene’s story about celebrating Shakespeare’s birthday every year.

· From what I’ve been able to see of this production of “Troilus and Cressida,” both in this movie and in the videos linked below, it looks like it was AMAZING. Creative staging, the addition of nonverbal humour, actors who fit their roles perfectly, and a firm setting in Māori culture. I also love how the female characters seem to have been given more to do than usual – I am completely in favour of bringing Andromache onstage for more than her ONE scene!

While I would have loved it if this documentary were longer, even at less than an hour it’s a really valuable look at what must have been a fantastic production, and it does a good job of showing the myriad emotions experienced by those involved. If you think you’d find it interesting, I highly recommend checking it out.

Watch: the trailer, a clip from the movie, a news clip, the first three minutes of the play, a thirty-minute video about adapting the play: part one and part two

Buy it at: Amazon.com, Amazon.ca