Monday, August 24, 2015

Video splurge

Had a bit of a video splurge yesterday. Didn't start out that way, but circumstances just brought it about. I decided to see what Hitchcock films were available on You Tube, and found Notorious, with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. It's one of Hitchcock's less action-packed films, relying on the subtle interplay of character, and has only one really big scene: a party hosted by Claude Rains, a Nazi-sympathizer living in Brazil after the war. The characters are vividly drawn, and the dialogue full of sub-text: the love story that underpins the suspense is the main focus of the movie in many ways. I've seen it a couple of times before, but had forgotten some of the story. It stands up well after fifty-plus years.

After tea my wife and I carried on watching the Australian legal series, Janet King, which is apparently a spin-off from some other earlier series about a legal firm. We're up to about episode five or six, and I think I haven't seen a series that's so full of improbable legal stuff in a long time. Because the Attorney General seems to be able to command that people do what they're told, for her own political reasons, the Department of Public Prosecutions (where most of the story is focused) jump and go through ridiculous hoops trying to prove cases that are unprovable. Added to that is the detective and his boss who seem to think that building a murder case on the most flimsy of circumstantial evidence is good police work, and you have a series that while it's full of solid characters requires them to do absurd things. The police seem not too fazed about producing witnesses who tell lies; the legal team seem careless about ethics, and so on. If it wasn't actually interesting, it would have been dumped by now. The main character is a lesbian, living with another woman and their twin children, who are toddlers. The lesbian angle seems to be just that: another hook to throw odd bits of storyline onto.

In spite of all this we actually watched two episodes last night, which goes to show how something that's well done can get away with plot-hole murder.

Finally, after having written in one of my other blogs about a production of Puccini's opera, Gianni Schicchi, that I was involved in when I was at the Opera Centre in London in 1969, I decided to see if that was on You Tube too. It is, in at least three versions, and thankfully I picked the best-directed one to watch. The other two were okay (I checked out a minute or two of each) but the 2004 Paris version directed by Laurent Pelly, containing a very mixed European cast, was the one that I stuck with.

The opera, which runs for just on an hour, is a total ensemble piece, with a cast of fifteen or sixteen, nine of whom are on stage the entire time. There's no chorus, just larger and smaller roles (one lasting about two minutes). It's a piece of nonsense about a man, Buoso, who's died and left a very unsatisfactory will - that is, he hasn't left anything of substance to his relatives. They plot to bring in the cunning neighbour, Schicchi, and he, being even more cunning than they've thought, winds up replacing the original will with his own version, in which the bulk of the proceeds go to him.

The cast played the thing in a style verging on the comic grotesque, and there were even some surreal moments (a kind of ballet involving the moving around of the bed which features prominently). It's a lot of fun, and requires the main singers to do a huge amount of work. Those who are on stage all the time have to keep up particular characters constantly: there's no let up. Very enjoyable, even if it was sung in the original Italian with French subtitles....some of which I understood and some of which I probably misunderstood.

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