The re-release of The Magic Flute, part of the BFI’s Ingmar Bergman centenary celebrations, is a joy and a delight. Filmed for Swedish television in 1975, the film soon gained international critical acclaim. Since then, it has become regular festive television fare. It is wonderful to see it again on the big screen.
Mozart’s opera is probably best remembered for its duets, repeated motif of a chirrupping flute, and cascading peals of glockenspiel. There’s love, in its many guises: romantic, lustful, embittered and disenchanted. In counterpoint, high drama, darkness and treachery wreak havoc. Steadfast love eventually triumphs. It’s a gorgeous story. The music is ineffably delightful.
Walk With Me carries within its heart a quiet note of brotherly love. When filmmaker Max Pugh’s brother became a Buddhist monk, over ten years ago, Pugh attended the ordination. It left a profound impression on him. Years later, Pugh and fellow filmmaker Marc J. Francis were invited to make a documentary about the community his brother had joined, Plum Village. The village is a Zen Buddhist community and meditation centre, founded by the Vietnamese poet and spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh, and his monastic disciple Sister Chan Khong.
There is a particular glamour to party nights in cities like Beirut or Tel Aviv – the proximity of the sea, the dark starry nights, suntanned boys and girls dancing the night away at impromptu gatherings, smoking on balconies and rooftop terraces, sometimes encountering that unexpected spark of attraction.
Mayhem reigns wherever Moonee (Brooklyn Prince), an irrepressible six year old, leads her friends. She is a little tornado of mischief, and has an answer for everything. Whatever trouble she concocts, her mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) stands up for her.
Pull back, and the reality of their home is revealed. Moonee and Halley live in poverty in a cheap motel in Florida, just off a busy highway. The motel is called the Magic Castle. A lure for unsuspecting tourists, and a long-term dormitory for the dispossessed. In the distance, Disney World – the Florida Project.
In a series of elaborate set-pieces, Cate Blanchett speaks glorious, declamatory words, fragments of manifestos.
It starts with a spark, in darkness. A fuse burns elegantly out of focus to the words of Marx, Tzara and Soupault. Who is Soupault, one might ask. Well – a Dadaist turned Surrealist; 1920s. And so starts a daisy chain of intellectual and artistic movements, in no particular date order.
What better way to start the New Year than with a bracing dose of existential fear and trembling?
The BFI kicks off its Ingmar Bergman centenary celebrations with the revival of Bergman’s 1966 film, Persona. Deeply absorbing, it is another of the director’s lavishly symbolic films, playing with the ideas of artifice, the self, and imbalances of power.
A treasure chest of fun, originality and brilliant music – so much directing talent too: get to see early work by Lynne Ramsay, Jonathan Glazer, Sam Taylor-Wood. See my review for Cinemazine: British Music Videos 1966-2016