Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Three Music Films by Mathieu Amalric at the New York Film Festival 2017

Barbara Hannigan subject of two of Mathieu Amalric's films
The New York Film Festival screened three short documentaries by Mathieu Amalric who is best known as being an actor. Amalric started behind the camera and made the switch when director Arnaud Desplechin began to cast him in roles.

Amalric has directed more films than the 17 listed at IMDB. I say that with certainty since the films that played the New York Film Festival are not listed in his credits. While he is a very good director of fiction films, it is in his documentaries that he truly shines to the point it could, and should be argued that he is one of the finest documentary filmmakers working today

C’est presque au bout du monde (France, 2015, 16m)
Short film made at the request of the Paris Opera is a portrait of Barbara Hannigan warming up her voice and rehearsing for a performance. Stunningly shot the film is an almost too intimate portrait of an artist getting ready to give her best. It is a sensual experience as the marriage of word and music come together to create something tactile.

Zorn (2010-2017) (France, 2017, 54m)
Let me cut to the chase- this is one of the best films of the New York Film Festival and of 2017. It also may very well be one of the best music documentaries ever made - I'm talking top three or five.

Started as a project for TV this film spun out of control and has been, and still is, a work in progress. This is a portrait of musician John Zorn as shot by a close friend. There are no voice overs, no explanations, there is simply Zorn over the years performing, joking, laughing and watching with his friends and other musicians. Clearly shot on the fly by someone with whom Zorn trusts completely this is a documentary that is unlike any other. There is a level of ease and openness no other music documentary has ever had because no other music doc was shot like this, piece meal here and there when friends were just hanging out.

It will amaze and delight you even if you don't know Zorn's music simply because this is so inside  as to make you feel like  you were there.

I need to mention Amalric's use of editing. Watching the film you will quickly realize that his use of sound and image is unlike most things being done today. Working with editor Caroline Detournay he has made a film that stays in your eyes and ears long after the film has finished.

A masterpiece and one of the truly best music docs you will ever see.

(Now if he would only finish it)

Music Is Music (France, 2017, 21m)
Again working with Barbra Hannigan and editor Caroline Detournay, Amalric gives us a portrait of Hannigan as she is putting together her latest album, and the Girl Cray suite in particular.We watch as Hannigan conducts the orchestra and is prodded into singing along with her.

A more fully formed portrait of Hannigan, this is delightful piece that really takes us into the soul of the performer. It is a wonderful little film that makes you wish that this was longer and covered the making of the whole album.

And this is also a fantastic showing of Amalric as a manipulator of sound and image as he sucks us into becoming intimate with the woman at it's center.

Worth tracking down.

(This film is available on Hannigan's latest CD which comes with a DVD full of extras)

Below is the Q&A that followed the NYFF screening where Amararic, Hannigan and Detournay discuss the making of the films

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