Aria (Special Edition) DVD
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Produced in 1988
Main Language - English
This ambitious and enthralling film was the pet project of producer Don Boyd, a portmanteau collection of ten arias, directed by ten world cinema directors. Filmmakers as diverse as Jean Luc Godard, Robert Altman, Ken Russell and Derek Jarman re-imagine works by Verdi, Puccini and many others, often to entrancing effect.
Although none of the directors simply film the operas ‘straight’, some stick closer to the originals than others. Bruce Beresford’s adaptation of the love aria from Die Tote Stadt keeps to the setting of Bruges, as a young virgin (a beautiful Elizabeth Hurley in her film debut) is stripped and seduced by her lover. Sex and sexuality play a major part in many of the arias - Julien Temple transforms Verdi’s Rigoletto into a bawdy sex farce starring Buck Henry and Beverly D’Angelo, while in the most moving vignette two young lovers make passionate love before committing double suicide in Franc Roddam’s stunning take on Wagner’s Liebestod.
Yet it is the veteran directors who provide the most inspired contributions. Theresa Russell cross-dresses as a doomed King in a gender-bending dreamy visualisation of Un ballo in maschera, courtesy of Nicolas Roeg, while Robert Altman takes a brave (ands successful) risk by filming an audience at a Parisian opening night. Best of all is Godard’s erotic and fetishistic rendition of Lully’s Arminde, complete with naked, potentially murderous nymphs and oblivious bodybuilders, a postmodern delight. Derek Jarman’s intensely personal adaptation of Gustave Charpentier’s Louise uses Super 8 footage of Tilda Swinton to poignant effect as an ageing opera singer completes her swan song, while a typically extreme short from Ken Russell stars porn actress Linzi Drew in a bizarre and pervy take on Nessun Dorma, with a nasty twist in its tale.
This is creative filmmaking on a scale we are unlikely to witness again, as arts funding continues to be slashed. It’s our loss, as Aria marks the perfect fusion of two art forms without compromising either medium. Although knowledge of the arias is by no means essential to appreciating the ten visions, Don Boyd’s informative commentary offers invaluable insight, contextualising and critiquing the director’s choices.
Alex Davidson on 29th May 2009
Author of 232 reviews
An ambitious operatic portmanteau film, featuring ten classic arias imaginatively reinterpreted by ten very different directors. From a body-building Armide, to Tristian and Isolde in modern day Las Vegas and Verdi embroiled in a Californian sex farce, Aria transports the audience through the mediums of classical music and engaging short films.
Publisher: Second Sight
Length: 85 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1 widescreen
Format: DVD Colour
Released: 15th June 2009
Cat No: 2NDVD3163
- Composing Aria Documentary, featuring interviews with Don Boyd, Ken Russell, Nic Roeg, Franc Roddam, Julien Temple and Charles Sturridge
- Commentary by producer Don Boyd
- Stills Gallery
by Barry Forshaw on 15th July 2009
Is this a misconceived project? Perhaps - but there are some fascinating cinematic flourishes here. Don Boyd assembled 10 of the world's (then) hottest directors to cr... Read on
Is this a misconceived project? Perhaps - but there are some fascinating cinematic flourishes here. Don Boyd assembled 10 of the world's (then) hottest directors to create Aria, an intriguing attempt to present opera on film in a new form. Perhaps what is most interesting in the 21st century is that we may note which directors didn't hold the course - and which are still celebrated today. The directors (Robert Altman, Bruce Beresford, Jean-Luc Godard, Derek Jarman, Franc Roddam, Nic Roeg, Julien Temple, Ken Russell, Charles Sturridge and Bill Bryden) were each given the same brief: to choose a piece of Puccini, Wagner, Korngold et al and create a visual representation of it. The results are markedly varied in imagination and achievement, but it's a fascinating half-success/half-failure. Hide