My last review focused on a cellist who was forced to abandon his chosen profession and resort to a more undesirable one. This got me thinking about musicians in films, and I am presenting below seven great films that focus on pianists, their lives and struggles. While some pianists below are completely fictional, such as Ada in The Piano or Tom in The Talented Mr. Ripley, others are based on real-life people, including David Helfgott in Shine and Mozart in Amadeus. In no particular order:
I. The Piano (1993)
“It is one of those rare movies that is not just about a story, or some characters“, said once film critic Roger Ebert, “but about a whole universe of feeling“. Set in the 19th century, Jane Campion’s very fine film tells the story of a psychologically-mute Scottish woman Ada who travels to New Zealand with her young daughter Flora after an arranged marriage. Ada’s passion for music and for hand-crafted piano is touching in the film as she has to face strict social conventions in a foreign land while also longing for the love that is genuine and freely-chosen. The film also has one of the most beautiful soundtracks ever, composed by Michael Nyman.
II. The Pianist (2002)
This film is based on the autobiographical book The Pianist (1946) that tells the story of a Holocaust survivor, pianist and composer Władysław Szpilman. Masterful and unforgettable in every way, the film by Polanski is all about one Jewish man hiding in apartments across Warsaw as the Nazis brutal, evil regime is set to hunt down and kill every remaining Jewish person in the city. The film emphasises the sheer beauty of the piano music, and how it has the power to transcend life, bring out the best in humanity and unite it.
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Being a cultural and historical centre for centuries, Rome has always attracted leading cinematographers. In the 1950s and 1960s, Rome was considered the European “Hollywood”, embodied in the famous Cinecittà film studio that produced such epic films as “Ben-Hur” (1959) and “Cleopatra” (1963). To this day, this historic city remains the one to which filmmakers flock to: (i) showcase its main beauties and cultural delights, as is the case with “Roman Holiday” (1953), ““Plein Soleil” (1961), “My Own Private Idaho” (1991) and “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (1999); (ii) to ridicule Rome’s high society and decadent lifestyle, as in “La Dolce Vita” (1960) and “The Great Beauty” (2013); or (iii) to provide a setting for a grim, chaotic, (post-)war, almost apocalyptic scenario, as embodied in such films as “Rome, Open City” (1945), “Bicycle Thieves” (1948), “L’Eclisse” (1962) and “Il Conformista” (1970).
I. Roman Holiday (1953)
Directed by William Wyler (“Ben-Hur“), this tale about a princess who escapes from her tiresomely busy daily duties while in Rome only to meet and have a romantic connection with a journalist is fascinating, recalling in plot “It Happened One Night” (1934). In Rome, Princess Ann and Joe Bradley (Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in their respective leading roles), go through the famous sights of Rome, including: meeting at the Roman Forum (more precisely at the Temple of Saturn and the Arch of Septimus Severus), where the Princess falls asleep; trying their luck at the Mouth of Truth (Bocca della Verita) at the Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin; going past on a scooter by the Colosseum; having breakfast near the Pantheon; taking in the sun on the Spanish Steps; and attending the interview at the Palazzo Colonna.
Continue reading “Rome: 10 “Must-See” Films set in the City”