Just wanted to recommend a trio of movies connected by gorgeous music to enjoy on a trio of nights, preferably one after the other. These are not movie reviews, merely recommendations: three nights three movies excellent music …
First night: Mao’s Last Dancer is an Australian film directed by Bruce Beresford (2009) and based on dancer Li Cunxin’s autobiography of the same title. In 1972, the 11-year old Cunxin was selected for ballet training and eventually ends up as an exchange student and a star with the Houston Ballet.
The adult Cinxin is played by Chi Cao, principal dancer with the Birmingham Royal Ballet. It also stars Bruce Greenwood, Kyle MacLachlan, Joan Chen, and Amanda Schull. A ballet movie for people who don’t wanna watch no ballet movie …
Second night: A Late Quartet is an American film produced and directed by Yaron Zilberman, who also co-wrote the script with Seth Grossman (2012). The film concerns a well-established string quartet The Fugue and stars Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Katherine Keener, and Mark Ivanir as the musicians, and Imogen Poots as an aspiring violinist.
The cast is excellent, as is their performance in depicting four people whose love for music has turned them into a family, with the expected internecine interplay and drama.
Excellent drama with bloody marvelous music and your choice for best performance—as much as I love Hoffman and Walker, my nod goes to Ivanir here (but whose name does not grace the front cover of the DVD box as one of the four stars).
The marvelous music—especially Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 in C♯ Minor, Op. 131—was played by the Brentano String Quartet. The Brentano’s cellist Nina Lee also has small role in the movie.
Third night: Four Last Songs is a British movie written and directed by Francesca Joseph (2007). The title is taken from Richard Strauss’ composition Four Last Songs, dealing with the acceptance of death. It stars Stanley Tucci, Rhys Ifans, Hugh Bonneville, Jessica Stevenson, and Jena Malone.
The movie deals with a middling pianist (Tucci) living on a small island in the Mediterranean who decides to give a tribute concert to a deceased composer, one of the island’s real celebrities. Every member of the cast is fine but Rhys Ifans steals the movie for my sensibilities. The movie’s title refers a manuscript of the supposed four final pieces by the composer that no one knows exists, including his widow.
As I said, there are no reviews above, no ratings, simply three movies that I really like and assume that many readers would also. Anyone want to suggest a fourth movie for a fourth night?