Leonard Bernstein – Little Drummer Boy: Essay on Mahler by Leonard Bernstein (1985)

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Wow!–I just finished watching “The Little Drummer Boy.”
Previously I had thought that I knew quite a bit about Gustav Mahler, but Leonard Bernstein showed me more.

What Bernstein does is show you–through biographical commentary and excerpts from Mahler’s music–just what it was that made this masterful composer and conductor so obsessed with Life and Death.

Yes, part of it was Mahler’s being born Jewish, and part was seeing so many of his brothers and sisters die so early in life. But Bernstein shows us how Mahler was, like most of us, striving to try to come to terms with life–to understand why death has to come and deprive us of the joys of life.

To give you an idea of how concrete, knowledgeable and specific this program is, Lenny takes a few minutes, using musical excerpts, to illustrate how there is a funeral march in each of Mahler’s nine symphonies. Continue reading

Lech Majewski – Prisoner of Rio (1988)

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“Prisoner of Rio is a 1988 drama film directed by Lech Majewski and starring Steven Berkoff, Paul Freeman and Peter Firth. It shows the flight of the Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs to Brazil and the attempts of Scotland Yard detectives to re-capture him.

In 1981, Ronald Biggs was kidnapped by agents from Scotland Yard from his Brazilian hideout for his participation in the 1964 British train robbery. This feature was written by Biggs and director Lech Majewski as a fictionalized account of the authorities trying to bring the colorful crook to justice. Paul Freeman plays Biggs, infamous for his participation in the $5 million heist dubbed “The Great Train Robbery”. Jack McFarland (Steven Berkoff) is the Scotland Yard agent obsessed with apprehending Biggs and placing him on board a British navy ship bound for England. Nudity abounds in the final carnival scene as Biggs stays one step ahead of his captors. Colorful scenes of Rio are the highlight of this feature hampered by a thin script. Continue reading

Akira Kurosawa – Something Like An Autobiography (1983)

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Something Like an Autobiography
by Akira Kurosawa

Published by Vintage | 1983 | 205 pages

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Among Japanese film makers, no one is perhaps as universally known as Akira Kurosawa.

“Something like an Autobiography” is an account of the legendary director’s early life. It is only a partial account, encompassing his childhood, adolescenct years, the early years of his film career, up to the point of Rashomon. Nonetheless, the book benefits anyone keen for understanding the man behind such remarkable films as Seven Samurai, Ikiru, Rashomon, and Dersu Uzala among others. Kurosawa’s films were – Stuart Galbraith IV writes in the introduction to his book “The Emperor and the Wolf” – first and foremost, deeply humanist pictures, films which effortlessly transcend cultures and centuries. Something like an Autobiography helps one understand the evolution of the artist Kurosawa, the influences that shaped his vision. Continue reading

Alain Cavalier – Un étrange voyage AKA On the Track (1981)

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Synopsis
A father-daughter relationship is melded, strained, and deepened by a shared angst: the grandmother in the family left her home by train and never arrived at her destination. The father Pierre (Jean Rochefort) is distraught that the police could basically dismiss the issue as inexplicable, and he decides to retrace on foot the voyage his mother should have made. His daughter Amelie (Camille de Casablanca) goes with him, and the story evolves as the two walk along the train tracks, searching in the nearby terrain and bushes for any evidence that might point to what happened. Along the way, their once antagonistic and distanced relationship (Amelie is a student, her father is a picture-restorer) begins to work itself out… Continue reading

Les Blank & Maureen Gosling – Yum, Yum, Yum! A Taste of Cajun and Creole Cooking (1990)

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Yum, Yum, Yum! is a glorius celebration of cooking and eating in Louisiana. It’s Les Blank and Maureen Gosling’s latest love song to the little-known Cajun and Creole cultures of the Gulf Coast and backwood bayous. It’s as seductive as a five-star dinner in one of New Orleans’ top-line restuarants, as simple (and unforgettable) as a home-cooked meal in Eunice.
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