Saturday, November 27, 2010

Film Review: Vision (2009)

Happily, rushing to a last-day screening of "Vision" (2009, German, ca 110 mins) at Laemmle's Royal, proved overall worthy of the trouble.

The film, directed by Margarethe von Trotta, and featuring a serene Barbara Sukowa in the title role, is a respectful, if a slow-motion take on the life of the Mediaeval nun and composer, Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179). I had heard some of her chants in the late 1990's, and I had found them rather soothing. But this film has focused less on her music, and more on Hildegard's visions, writings, message of love, and her quest to reclaim the dignity of women in a male-dominated society. In some ways, this Vision's Hildegard comes across almost as a proto-feminist within a patriarchal world.

The glossy lighting and cinematography of Axel Block has done ample justice to the film's beautiful scenic design, locations, and costumes, as well as to the often attractive features of the leading cast. However, given that Hildegard was one of the earliest (female) composers with a recorded legacy, one would have naturally expected more of the score, composed by Christian Heyne. In general,  however, the image and the soundtrack do succeed in conveying a tangible sense of the period, and an understanding of its culturally and temporally distant characters.

Marginally, it might be a fact of particular interest to Persian movie-lovers, that Ms. Hengameh Panahi, clearly of Iranian origin, is credited in the coveted role of the "executive producer" of the film.

November 25, 2010, Los Angeles
© 2010, Payman Akhlaghi. All rights reserved.

(*) Payman Akhlaghi is an Iranian American composer, pianist and piano teacher, covering the greater los angeles area. He's currently working on his dissertation toward the degree of PhD in Composition (Music). For appointments and further information, please call (310) 208-2927. (ALT: Peyman Akhlaghi, پیمان اخلاقی)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Moonlight" In Beethoven's Own Hand

Ever wondered how Beethoven's handwriting looked like, as he scribbled, page after page, documenting his genius for the posterity?

Here's a sample of his manuscripts, a page from the first movement of Piano Sonata No. 14, in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 27/2, widely known as "The Moonlight Sonata" -- Yes, that most serene Adagio Sostenuto...

For more, please click on the following link:

Films: "Up Close & Personal" (1996)

Revisiting "Up Close & Personal" (1996)

I Liked it then; I Loved it now.

It must have been for the perfect chemistry of the two leads (Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Redford) and their likeable, loving, yet independent and ambitious characters; the tightly written script; director Jon Avnet's chic mis-en-scène; the incessant momentum of the edit (Debra Neil-Fisher); not to mention the lovely, beautifully orchestrated, well-nuanced score by Thomas Newman. But I have a feeling that none of these would have cut it for me were it not for the emotional self-restraint exercised in telling this sweet story of love, growth, and self-discovery, with a tragic ending well fitted to our modern sensitivities.

Some films just get better as they age; this one's done it so gracefully. By all means, catch it on a DVD, or find it somewhere on the Web.

(© 2010, Review by Payman Akhlaghi. All rights reserved.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

For a Sanctuary Called University

Some things cannot or ought not be forgotten.

It was four years ago, almost to the date. Here's a link to the video that captured the utterly shocking events of the night of November 14th, 2006, at my beloved university campus, when a student was subjected to what seemed to be some severe, unproportionately overt security measures. Back then, upon its release, I watched the video two times in horror. Today, I could not even bring myself to watch it. The horror of the first night, when I innocently clicked on a link in an email, has not yet subsided.

From the outset, I thought that it was never my place to run any judgment publicly on an issue so complicated and so sensitive, although as an independent observer, I did arrive at some personal opinions on the matter, and specially the larger context in which it occurred. In this brief personal note, however, I'd rather resort to the following formulation: This should not have happened. This ought not to happen ever again.

Further information is provided in the official Final Report by PARC (August 2007), available in PDF.

(*) I pondered long and hard whether I should dedicate a post on this issue. At the end, I thought that a reminder as mild as this would serve us better, than trying to sweep its account down the dungeons of our collective memory. To avoid unnecessary appearances on search engine results, I did not include any references to specific names, titles, or other parties or locations, who or which were directly invovled in the incident, other than the dates and documents provided as links. As needless as it might seem, I do emphasize that by all accounts, nothing should obscure the fact that the goodness in that particular campus, and the number of good men in those institutions involved in the incident, far outweigh such regrettable mistakes. I wrote this post to contribute as small a share as I could afford to making sure that such goodness shall be multiplied and preserved. Thank you.

Discussing Mahler's "Abschied" from "Das Lied" (2001)

A Brief Discussion of Der Abschied, from Das Lied von der Erde"

Author: Payman Akhlaghi
2001, UCLA, A Graduate Studies Academic Paper
English, 41 Pages

Published on Scribd, Free to Read.
All rights reserved for the author.
Click Here to read for free.

Excerpt from the Preface:
"[...] For many decades, the widely adopted narrative of the history of music in the twentieth century seemed to have left Mahler behind, buried with reverence, in the remnants of the Late Romanticism. Yet, neither his progressive aesthetics were fully compatible with the sensitivities of Romanticism [for example, his adventures in time and tonality and the treatment of dissonances were atypical to a Romantic ear], nor his music was containable within the then predominant definitions of twentieth-century Modernism [‘too’ tonal; ‘too’ lyrical]. Thus, he was forced to live in a limbo, shortly existing in a few last pages on the Late Romantics, a few first pages on the early Modernists, and the dark shadow in between. His ‘Yiddish Accent’ and background had only added to the extra- musical impediments and had cost him almost a perfect silence in the wartime Nazi societies. [...]"

© Copyright: 2001, Payman Akhlaghi. All rights reserved. / © Copyright: 2010, Payman Akhlaghi. All rights reserved.
[Payman Akhlaghi (Peyman Akhlaghi, پیمان اخلاقی)]

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Film Review: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

Finally, a modern thriller with substance!

By all accounts, "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" (2010, Swedish, 150') is an absorbing film. It's finely directed (Daniel Alfredson), superbly acted (no exceptions), darkly cinematographed, and effectively edited. The music score (Jacob Groth) is acceptable, and at times gripping. The script is an adaptation of novelist Stieg Larsson's novel, which was not published until after the author's death in 2004, at the age of 50. (He's now an international best-seller.)

The plot invovles the story of a girl, abused by relatives, and violated by some corrupt elements of the system, yet helped by the good members of the society. What ultimately propels the story is the well-maintained suspense of the fight between good men vs. evil men, and the eternal wish to see innocence finally redeemed. Watch it by all means, but beware of some shocking violence. In other words, watch it at your own risk!

(© 2010, Payman Akhalghi. All rights reserved.)