Antonia Landi

Posts Tagged ‘review’

Bang on a Can All-Stars

In Edinburgh, Music, Performing Arts, Review on August 26, 2013 at 11:53 am

One thing is certain: After you’ve seen and heard Bang on a Can All-Stars, listening to the world will never be the same again. Taking music and its meaning to entirely new and exciting levels, the All Stars ensemble comprises six of the most talented and innovative musicians alive today. Combining unique compositions with both audio and video recordings, the group constantly pushes the boundaries of music, how we interpret it, and where it can be found.

Seeing the ensemble play live is much like what I imagine hearing music for the first time must be like. Even, or maybe especially, to practiced ears, Bang on a Can offers an entirely new musical experience. From cat-cameras to airport noise, no matter how absurd the pieces and settings seem at first, it is nearly impossible not to tap your foot to them. Bang on a Can successfully do what many musicians can’t: They make music entirely new, and completely exhilarating.

To say that these musicians are innovators would be a severe understatement. They take the concept of music and all its meanings up until the present, and turn them upside down and inside out. The word ‘avant garde’ barely scratches the surface of this ensemble. A truer and more encompassing performance of the world would be hard to find. And within this, lies the future of music.

 

★★★★★

 

Antonia Landi for Edfestmag

Dido and Aeneas & Bluebeard’s Castle

In Edinburgh, Festival Theatre, Music, Opera, Performing Arts, Review on August 25, 2013 at 7:40 pm

Making an opera feel relevant to the present day and captivating to the audience is always a difficult task. Making an opera that is over three hundred years old relevant and captivating is nothing short of a masterpiece. Unfortunately, Oper Frankfurt did not quite succeed in this. Accompanied by a small ensemble with authentic instrumentation, Barrie Kosky’s take on Purcell’s Baroque opera Dido & Aeneas simply felt a bit too ridiculous at times. Unnecessary nudity and costumes that gave the feel of a fancy dress party all too often distracted from the story. Vocally, Paula Murrihy’s interpretation of Dido was exceptional and gripping, especially during the third act. The three witches were just as enticing, although sometimes overshadowed by their own acting.

Second in this double bill was Bela Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle. Unlike the interpretation of Dido & Aeneas, Oper Frankfurt did a splendid job of creating the ideal setting for Bartók’s music to shine. Minimalist both in the mise-en-scène and costumes, Bartók’s opulent music took centre stage. By using very few props and an absolutely blank stage, Kosky deliberately relied on the audience’s imagination to fill in the gaps; a fitting decision considering Bluebeard’s Castle’s expressionist style.

Both Robert Hayward and Tanja Ariane Baumgartner, in the roles of Bluebeard and Judith respectively, impressed with their stellar vocal performances. Although some of the settings and acting needed further explanation, this was almost always done by dialogue, and is only a minor blemish in an otherwise captivating performance.

All in all, this unique double bill offered the audience to see opera in two completely different ways. Even though the interpretations were slightly disappointing at times, the evening nevertheless showcased some great operatic talent.

★★★★

Antonia Landi for Edfestmag

Two is the Beginning of the End

In Edinburgh Fringe 2013, Theatre on August 22, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Let me be frank: if you think you know what you’re about to see based on the play’s summary, you’d be wrong. Described as a “fast-paced, brutally poignant coming of age story” the play is actually a lot more entertaining than it sounds. Two is the Beginning of the End is quite possibly the closest fiction can get to reality. Often blurring the lines between characters, actors, spectators and directors, the play is much like adolescence: short, energetic, awkward and nostalgic.

Intensely fast and captivating, the play combines the stories of eight guys and girls, all between the ages of eighteen and twenty. If you have ever been a teenager, the chances of you relating to at least one of the eight characters are very high. In fact, it is precisely the raw, honest and most of all real emotions that take this play beyond your average Fringe performance. Almost painfully current, it plays on the fears everyone had to deal with while growing up: What is my next step, who am I really and will it ever be the same again?

Two is the Beginning of the End is definitely a worthwhile way to spend your evening. Prepare yourself to experience adolescence all over again, from the depths of insecurities to the highs of and lows of love and partying.

★★★★★

 
Two is the Beginning of the End
Sweet Grassmarket
19.40
Until 25 Aug

Antonia Landi for Edfestmag

Film Review – The Iron Lady

In Entertainment, Film on February 8, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Picture: The Guardian

Writing this film review is a minefield for so many reasons. The most obvious of all being the subject matter, Margaret Thatcher. Hated by so many people, it has always been a kind of mystery to a foreigner like me why and how exactly Britain’s first ever female Prime Minister gained this larger than life reputation. I know that this is a difficult topic to write about, not only because of the politics involved. Granted, I might not be the most informed person to have seen this movie, but I think this has been quite an advantage. Instead of being tainted of my parents’ opinion of what was undoubtedly a very difficult time to be alive in Britain I can watch the movie with an open mind.

Cinematographically, The Iron Lady is an excellent movie. Margaret Thatcher’s life holds all the key ingredients to make up an interesting and gripping story. With the aid of regular flashbacks, the viewer follows Thatcher’s life and career in politics from the very beginning to the bitter end. A grocer’s daughter that first gets elected leader of the Conservative party and then Prime Minister of Britain against all odds – Hollywood couldn’t have written it any better. After all, it’s the controversial characters that make the best entertainment.

Thatcher’s life is being shown to us by several flashbacks. The framing device is that of a tragic old lady suffering from dementia – Thatcher at her lowest point in life. Although this kind of framing does make sense, I would have liked to see bigger chunks of the film devoted to her life in parliament. Due to the nature of the flashbacks the film sometimes comes off as bitty, and lacks the complete immersion of the viewer into this beautifully crafted story. Instead, we are constantly taken back to present-day Thatcher, merely a shadow of herself and being treated like a child by those around her.

Meryl Streep’s performance of Margaret Thatcher is indeed what makes this film so unique. Her acting is absolutely impeccable; from her mannerisms and looks down to the utmost detail like the position of her feet when sitting, or the ever-present slight pout. Streep’s co-actors are just as talented, although none of them are terribly central to the story. Even Thatcher’s husband Dennis (Jim Broadbent), who has from the very beginning of her career stood beside her, plays only a secondary role compared to the icon herself. The actors’ costumes and makeup are almost scarily accurate – again, it is obvious that a lot of thought went into the crafting of Streep as Thatcher. It is these little details that make the film so compelling to watch. From the very beginning it is clear just how much work has gone into making this movie so aesthetically accurate, and the level of attention to detail is simply admirable.

For being about one of the most polarised political figures in Britain, The Iron Lady has little to do with politics. I have seen a lot of people claim that it somehow glorifies Thatcher’s persona, and while I do not deem myself an expert in these matters, I am bound to disagree. Far from being a feel-good movie, The Iron Lady is a gripping and often tragic tale. Thatcher’s own politics and decisions are merely depicted as factual and stand on their own for the viewer to decide what to make of them. Streep’s role certainly isn’t that of a jolly happy-go-lucky feminist who defeated the men at their own game. It is simply that of a power-driven woman who strongly believed that she did what she thought best.

The Iron Lady is an immensely rewarding film to watch – compelling, genuinely interesting and thought provoking it stands above all that Hollywood has recently churned out in a desperate attempt at making millions.

Antonia Landi for Trisickle.

Film review – The Light Bulb Conspiracy

In Entertainment, Film on October 4, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Picture: trisickle.co.uk

The Light Bulb Conspiracy can be described as many things. It’s a documentary, first and foremost, and therefore pretty informative. But it is also shocking.

If you, like me, have never heard of something called ‘planned obsolescence’ be ready for a biggie. Now, on a day-to-day basis, I am quite happy to assume that the big driving forces of our society genuinely aim to improve our lives. Not because of naivety, but more because I feel this mindset could actually bring us closest to something we call peaceful existence. Help and be helped, right? Well, no. Actually, there are worldwide conspiracies whose only aim it is to make us use more, and therefore buy more. But surely, it can’t all be that bad? Well, in this film it is.

Like any other documentary, The Light Bulb Conspiracy is here to make the viewer think. The film consists of experts from all over the world talking about this economic phenomenon and its consequences and it takes us from to America’s Great Depression right down to present day Ghana. The themes range from consumerism to global environmental issues and the pictures quite often leave you speechless. Even though we start out in the 1920s all of the topics addressed are absolutely relevant to today’s society, let alone economy. What the film most effectively does is make you wonder. How much do we not know? What is really going on? Will we ever be able to fight back?

Stylistically, The Light Bulb Conspiracy is just your average documentary. Narrated by a female voice and interjected with suggestive music here and there, it recounts the history of economic conspiracies such as the one of the light bulb, by mixing old footage and present day interviews. There is nothing that hadn’t been done before, but this is not necessarily negative. Because the viewer is likely to be familiar with this sort of documentary, the topic in itself can shine. At times it feels like the pace and choice of the music and images is set in such a way to trigger automatic emotive responses to what is being said or shown. One of the setbacks of this is the constant need to re-asses your own impressions and opinions. The Light Bulb Conspiracy is a well-made documentary that can leave the viewer feeling very strongly about its subjects if one gave in to its persuasiveness. It’s easy to get carried away by this film, and this only proves how well it has been put together. Especially if you consider the length, which, at just under an hour, isn’t very much at all. The Light Bulb Conspiracy has the ability to tell just what is necessary, therefore making it a fast-paced and interesting film from start to finish. While this is a desirable trait in a documentary, some themes could have easily been fleshed out a little. Throughout the whole documentary, the viewer is constantly introduced to a new speaker with a theory of his own, and quite often it feels like you’ve barely seen the tip of the iceberg and you’re already being hurried along to the next conspiracy. But what really makes this film stand out is the variety of voices being heard. From Ghana to Germany to the United States to Russia, the speakers are all integral parts to the story and offer a wide variety of theories and ideas.

All in all, The Light Bulb Conspiracy is definitely worth a watch. From start to finish, it is interesting, revealing and entertaining. Just make sure you don’t get sucked in too much.

Antonia Landi for Trisickle.

Film review – Gianni e le donne

In Entertainment, Film on September 3, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Picture: comingsoon.it

Do you know those days that are just a bit ‘meh’? Nothing really happens but you’re still not bored enough to do something about it. Uneventful, I guess, is the right word to describe it. Well, that’s what ‘Gianni e le donne’ is like. Armed with a potentially entertaining story to tell, this film is a bit of a let down. The cast is good, the setting is pleasant, the soundtrack is very good – so what is the problem?

Gianni Di Gregorio, director, writer and main character of the film, sets the viewer up for an interesting story. We meet Gianni, a fifty-something stay at home husband who is less than happy with the way things are going. He lives in a virtually love-less marriage, prepares breakfast for everyone while his wife and daughter are too busy to spend any time with him, and all he is left with is a long list of errands to run. Any favour a woman asks him to do he will do, and it is soon clear that Gianni, as lovely as he is, is sick of it. Cue the main theme of the film: Gianni decides to get back into the game. But what does that actually mean? Clearly, he does not get what he wants from his marriage, but are we really watching a movie about an oldish man desperately trying to have an affair with younger women? It is needless to say that the film does not lack cringeworthy moments.

For a comedy ‘Gianni e le donne’ is almost tragic at times. The humour is scarce, and very rarely laugh out loud funny. But it is so well done that you can almost forget about the lack of character development. Instead of obvious puns and bad jokes, this film relies entirely on situation comedy. Sometimes it’s cringy, sometimes it’s just unfortunate, but it is entirely funny and always works.

The biggest surprise is in the soundtrack. It is very well written and has the potential to lead a whole scene. Ratchev & Carratello have truly hit the nail on the head here – the music is entertaining, well written, and just leaves you wanting more.

It is a shame that a film that has the potential to be very good ended up to be, well, not so good. The main problem with ‘Gianni e le donne’ is that character development is unheard of. All the characters – whether it is Gianni’s mum that relies on her son whenever her housemaid is not around, or his daughter, who gets back together with her old boyfriend just to realise that she isn’t happy – stay absolutely the same throughout the entire film. Not even Gianni, who is clearly like a block of clay just begging to be shaped and moulded, shows the slightest sign of change or realisation. This is absolutely fine for the first half hour, as the viewer eagerly awaits the main plot point where everything will change, and things will go wrong but they will also be funny and eventually lead to a happy end, but as the film goes on it dawns on you that this film simply does not go anywhere. The ending is simply baffling and feels a bit like a cop-out. And so we leave Gianni as desperate as he was before and neither he, nor the viewer, is any wiser.

All in all this film has all the right ingredients to make things work, but the storyline is bland and gets repetitive after a while. Fifty-something stay at home dad, looking for action.

Antonia Landi for Trisickle.

Film review – Le quattro volte

In Entertainment, Film on June 28, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Picture: Trisickle

The critically acclaimed film ‘Le quattro volte’ is simply a masterpiece. This film shows what no other form of storytelling could, and it does so in a simple, yet compelling manner.

‘Le quattro volte’ is a film by Michelangelo Frammantino that has won its share of awards. And rightfully so. The film itself briefly follows the story of an old shepherd, played by Giuseppe Fuda, who dies alone after having lost his ‘medicine’. From here on, there is no going back – goats, trees, villagers, they all take the centre stage at one point or another, guiding us through this experience. And that’s what this film really is – an experience, more than anything else.

Fuda is the only actor mentioned in the credits, along with mentions of the village and Vuk, the shepherd’s dog, who has even received his own award. Blurring the lines between reality and cinema, one can never be sure if the things that are happening have been scripted or not. Being a film with no dialogue at all and seemingly no storyline either, ‘Le quattro volte’ is incredibly immersive. At first one might not be convinced of the film’s storytelling techniques, as they require a completely different approach to what we are normally used to. The film is a series of images, where emotions conveyed through movements tell the story. Not everything is explained, and some things are never resolved. You as the viewer are left quite alone as the observer of this small Italian village, and this can take some adjusting to. Some things might seem quite peculiar, but it is the frank authenticity that makes this film so engaging. ‘Le quattro volte’ leaves you wanting more, even if it is just to watch what the goats are up to. From the processions to the professions, through to the odd superstitions of the villagers; the audience gets to know the village just as if it was another actor.

The images are what make this film, and the scenery as well as the pacing is both beautiful and heart wrenching. Moving through the seasons we encounter both sadness as well as humour, and this shows that film does not need to rely on conventional methods to bring a message across. In fact, ‘Le quattro volte’ does something that only a film could do – it offers you a chance to observe something without disrupting what is going on – a bit like a bird on a rooftop. And it is this fact, along with the unique scenery of this tiny village, that makes this film so extraordinary.

Another big theme in this film is continuity. One life ends while another begins, and the ending could easily be the beginning. The ‘circle of life’ is really apparent in this story, and if nothing else, it offers hope in the harsh light of reality. Humour is as much a part of village life as sadness, and the goats are just a delight to observe. There is virtually no music in the entire film – instead, we listen to birds tweet, villagers talk, and many, many goats. The ringing of the goats’ bells is as memorable as the old man’s gait as he struggles with his illness. The sadness in this film real, just like the goats and dogs and trees and birds. ‘Le quattro volte’ is as real as cinema can be. It will take you onto a path you might never have walked on, had it not been for this film, and it will make you re-learn how to watch closely. This film is simple, yet extraordinary, and it just so happens to be that the path it leads you to is one of the most magnificent of its kind.

Antonia Landi for Trisickle.

Gig review: My Passion supported by LostAlone, Never Means Maybe and Fatherson

In Entertainment, Music on May 29, 2011 at 2:25 pm

The evening began very early with the arrival of the support band Fatherson on stage. Their fashion sense is about as telling as their music: Fatherson are a mix of hipster pop punk with heavy riffs. Their songs sound a bit like they have come straight from California, which can’t be a bad thing. Fatherson’s sound is quite generic, but whether that is to do with their lack of inspiration or to appeal to a wider audience is unclear. Nevertheless, Fatherson succeed in writing catchy melodies, and in the end, that is what they were remembered for.

After their relatively short set, Fatherson made way for Never Means Maybe. A band with a very strong singer, Never Means Maybe look a bit like a bunch of guys who get together after college to practise in one of their parents’ garages. Even though their get up doesn’t scream professionalism, the band makes up for it by simply having fun on stage. It was a pleasure watching them rock out and the spark quickly jumped over to the audience. The songs offered a good mix between heavy vocals and melodies, and Never Means Maybe did a good job of getting the crowd in the mood.

Up next were Derby trio LostAlone, who were easily the best band of the night. Packed with a set full of new songs and old favourites, LostAlone convinced with strong vocals and something that can only be described as guitar wizardry. It was easy to see that they were the most experienced group out of the support bands, as their presentation was pretty immaculate. While watching them on stage, it was obvious that many hours were spent fine-tuning their act, and this really paid off. LostAlone provided the crowd with perfect harmonies and plenty of reasons to cheer.

As the stage was prepared for the main act of the night, more and more people started to arrive. I must admit that I only heard of My Passion by their reputation, which wasn’t very forgiving, but nevertheless I was excited to see the band’s capabilities as a live act. To tie in with the concept of their new album, My Passion arrived on stage covered head to toe in gold paint. A nice touch, hadn’t it been for the fact that the band felt the need to play the whole set half naked. My Passion unfortunately turned what could have been a solid performance into a beauty pageant, which was not unwelcome to many of their female fans. While the singer was busy making sure everybody had noticed his biceps, half the crowd was dazzled by the young men’s painted upper bodies, while the other half was left to cringe. The music was an interesting mix of electro and screamo, however it was difficult making anything out in particular, as the band was so ridiculously loud. Nevertheless My Passion was a guaranteed crowd pleaser and certainly knew how to entertain. The band spent the final minutes of the gig in the crowd, dancing to their own tunes, which not only made sure everybody was covered in gold paint, but marked the perfect send-off for a night as shining as that one.

Film review – Confessions

In Entertainment, Film, Japan on April 22, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Confessions: A film with high aspirations. Picture: Trisickle.com

Tetsuya Nakashima’s new film Confessions is Japan’s latest horror export ready to shock us senseless with its cruel and emotionless twists and turns. Or at least that’s what the trailer would have you believe. Unlike the trailer, which is in itself a micro-masterpiece, the film lacks urgency and never really succeeds in capturing the audience’s full attention.

Confessions starts in a classroom, with Miss Moriguchi, the teacher, announcing her retirement from teaching due to her four year old daughter’s death. She tells the class of unruly teenagers that her daughter has been murdered by two of her students, and that she has tainted the murderers’ milk with the AIDS-infected blood of her dying husband. The class, after hearing this ghastly confession, turns to screaming and crying and running around in a panic. The first and probably biggest mistake of Nakashima’s Confessions is the initial plotline, which simply does not make any sense. After unknowingly drinking the ‘infected’ milk, the two children start panicking, just as their friends do, who are terrified of coming in contact with the ‘infected’ pair. Despite being set in the real world in the 21st century, none of these things make sense. Everybody perfectly knows that the chances of being infected in this scenario are virtually zero – a flaw that later in the film is even addressed by the main character. Already, after the first few minutes, Confessions stands on wobbly feet.

On paper, Confessions has everything that a good Japanese horror film must have. It has a storyline muddled in revenge and loss, it has murdering teenagers, it has blood, it even has a love story in between. But the raw ingredients don’t make up a meal. The film follows each character individually as they recount their confessions, hence the title. The main problem with this feature is the pace. A potentially good story is ruined by the long and awkward silences in between. The story unfolds almost infuriatingly slowly and instead of following a straight line, more and more characters are added until the whole film feels like one big red herring. The young age of the characters and their teacher’s bad acting doesn’t help in making this film credible. Takako Matsu, who plays the main character Moriguchi, is far too quiet for her role, and her bouts of psychotic laughter seem so out of character that they almost become a parody of what a good Japanese horror is supposed to be.

But the film does have its upsides as well. When credible, most of the story’s twists are surprising and well executed and this film does manage to capture the brutality of murder in a way only Japanese cinema is able to. The scenes, if sometimes needlessly elongated, are beautifully shot and there is a recurring sense of aesthetics throughout the whole film, which adds to the visual experience of the viewer. One of the many side stories is the ‘love’ story between two integral characters, which is probably the best part of the whole film. The chemistry between the two young actors is just right, and in this case the teen angst actually works in their favour. The fact that their characters are both equally disturbed makes it so much more enjoyable to see how they interact with each other.

All in all Confessions is a mediocre film with great aspirations. Unfortunately, it was those aspirations that have made it fall. Do watch it if you are short of things to entertain yourself with, but don’t be disappointed when you can’t find either the brilliance or the gripping story of the likes of Battle Royale. After all, not all Japanese cinema can be exceptional.

Antonia Landi for Trisickle.

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