RIDM, Montreal’s documentary film festival, takes place in November. But, to keep memories of the festival alive, and to give film fans a treat, RIDM+ presents a film on the last Thursday of the month.
January’s selection is Around the World in 50 Concerts. Filmmaker Heddy Honigmann accompanies the musicians of Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra on a world tour to celebrate the orchestra’s 125th anniversary. Despite the name, the film does not include excerpts from 50 concerts; most of the scenes were shot in Buenos Aires, Johannesburg and St. Petersburg.
There’s lots of praise for Around the World in 50 Concerts on the Internet. The Hollywood Reporter says it is “accessibly entertaining and suitable for audiences old and young, including those previously immune to classical music’s charms,” and the New York Times takes note of its “ecstatic impressionism, shot through with melancholy.”
On the web site of the New Zealand Film Festival: “It’s impossible to imagine a more appreciative observer of the venture than Honigmann. Her alertness to what drives musicians to dedicate their lives to performing is matched by a subtle understanding of the consolations that music can offer to any of us. And both are rendered all the more potent by her abiding sensitivity to exile, whether it be felt by a young flautist in his hotel room missing a son’s birthday halfway across the world; or by an elderly Russian who finds in Mahler’s Symphony No 8 a conduit to the vanished world of his mother who once heard it conducted by the composer himself.”
In POV Magazine, Marc Glassman says: “Honigmann is a true artist and arguably, the finest Dutch documentary director living today. (Like Canada, Holland has a fine documentary tradition, so that’s quite a statement).”
“Honigmann makes films that honour their subjects but go farther than most docs take us. In Around the World, she starts the film with the orchestra’s percussionist. What’s it like to play for only a minute in a symphony? The musician lights up and launches into a detailed explanation of how one should play the cymbals quite spectacularly—-but briefly—in the second movement of Bruckner’s 7th. The anticipation of the moment and the delight when he rises and adds his spectacular KLANG to the symphony is blissfully human.”
Ronnie Scheib of Variety writes: “Honigmann focuses on individual orchestra and audience members without fanfare, allowing them virtuoso riffs but never losing sight of the ensemble. . . Orchestra members, accustomed to her company, seem to spontaneously confide in her, telling her stories. Audience members, interviewed one-on-one in moving vehicles or in their homes, enter more fully into a dialogue with Honigmann, their exchanges very casual and conversational.” Reader Kazuhiro Soda added this enthusiastic comment to the Variety article: “I saw this film at MoMA. It was a masterpiece. It is definitely one of the best movies ever made about music but it’s much more. As always, Heddy showed us the best part of our humanity. She reminds us that there’s something beautiful in this world despite all the violence and miseries. One of the musicians in the film said that art is larger than politics. By watching the film, I truly believed it. Heddy’s approach to documentary is so classical but at the same time very modern and new.”
On his web site The Whole Note, Paul Ennis says: “The power of music to elevate, soothe and communicate is at the core of this moving documentary.” Ennis also gives a rundown of some of the music in the film: “Bruckner’s Seventh, Rachmaninov’s Paganini Variations, Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony and Violin Concerto, Verdi’s Requiem, Mahler’s First, Second and Eighth among others.”
Check out the trailer for Around the World in 50 Concerts below. I noticed that here are lots of smiles in it.
A 15-minute short film, Le Son Du Silence, directed by Maxim Rheault, will be shown before Around the World in 50 Concerts. Laetitia Grou, the producer of Le Son Du Silence, will be there.
Le Son Du Silence and Around the World in 50 Concerts, 8 p.m., Thursday, January 28, 2016, at Cinéma du parc, 3575 Ave du Parc.