“The Song of Names,” based on Norman Lebrecht’s award-winning novel, is a story of two people sent off in different directions searching for lost family members.
The action begins in 1951. On the eve of his debut concert performance, for a packed house, including kings and queens, Polish musical prodigy Dovidl Rapoport (Jonah Hauer-King) disappears. His adopted English family, including brother Martin (Gerran Howell) is distraught. They first met Dovidl as a nine-year-old who, when he moved in with them to study violin, declared, “If I snore I snore in tune. I am a musician!” The family kept him safe from the Nazi threat and groomed him for greatness.
Cut to 1986. Martin, now played by Tim Roth, is adjudicating a music competition in Northern England when a contestant uses a technique that seems very familiar. Thoughts of his erstwhile brother have consumed Martin and this simple but unique method of rosining the bow sets Martin on a journey that will take him to Poland and finally New York City. His quest has one simple purpose, to find out why Dovidl (played as an adult by Clive Owen) left.
As a celebration of music “The Song of Names” is terrific. Legendary composer Howard Shore has written new music, including the “Song of Names,” a moving recitation of the names of all the Jewish people killed at Treblinka. It’s a powerful moment, solemn and heartrending, that is the film’s absolute high point. More playful is a violin duel in a London air raid shelter between the nine-year-old Dovidl and a teenage rival. Both scenes display the power of music to move us, whether it is to tears or to applause.
It’s the detective story that falls short. Clues that have eluded Martin for decades suddenly become obvious and the journey, such that it is, seems less like a mystery and more like a game of “Where’s Waldo.” More intrigue may have brought with it more emotional weight.
“The Song of Names” is a handsome, if somewhat dreary historical drama that does hit the emotional notes it needs to succeed.
This week on the Richard Crouse Show: Howard Shore has composed scores for over 80 films, including The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film trilogies. He has three Academy Awards, three Golden Globe Awards and four Grammy Awards on his shelves and was the original musical director for the American show Saturday Night Live from 1975 to 1980. He is also a consistent collaborator with director David Cronenberg, having scored all but one of his films since 1979. He has also composed a few concert works including one opera, The Fly, based on the plot of Cronenberg’s 1986 film.
Based on the award-winning novel by music scholar Norman Lebrecht, THE SONG OF NAMES is a bold journey through friendship, betrayal, and reconciliation.
SYNOPSIS: Martin Simmonds (Tim Roth) has been haunted throughout his life by the mysterious disappearance of his “brother” and extraordinary best friend, a Polish Jewish virtuoso violinist, Dovidl Rapaport, who vanished shortly before the 1951 London debut concert that would have launched his brilliant career. Thirty-five years later, Martin discovers that Dovidl (Clive Owen) may still be alive, and sets out on an obsessive intercontinental search to find him and learn why he left. An emotional story spread over two continents and half a century, the film shows that within the darkest of mysteries sometimes only music has the power to illuminate the truth, heal and redeem.
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RC: What you have here in this film, and this doesn’t give anything awa,y but there is Will Smith at his current age, 50, or 51, that’s the joke in the film, fighting against his 23 year old self. You’ve created a computer generated image. So that means I guess you had to shoot everything twice,
Ang Lee: There were endless measurements to put everything together and a lot of efforts in the post. 500 artists, working for a year.
RC: There are technical challenges in this film that, it occurs to me, just made it a harder film to make. Let’s talk about the frame rate, a little bit, this sounds kind of technical but really what it is, instead of shooting at 24 frames a second, you’re shooting 60 which makes everything look really realistic. But there’s no place to hide. Right. Is it a more complicated process for you as a director?
AL: Of course, because that’s something new to us. The equipment is doesn’t quite accommodate it. It’s not as not handy. It is very clumsy in operation. To raise the frame raise is just raise it to normal for 3D. I think 3d, because your perceptions is sharper, it is more like real life. It’s less tolerable to the strobe, which we actually learn to like in the past. So this is something else is uncomfortable zone but but it is exciting because it’s a new experience.
RC: There’s not so much CG in Brokeback Mountain, but you do use CGI in your other films. Do you just see it as another tool in your toolbox as a filmmaker?
AL: Yeah, ironically, I’m a really low tech I am like really down when it comes to that. Ask the experts. I ask the smart guys to figure out for me how I can see certain things and pursue images that do things to you.
RC: I would think at some point it becomes less about the storytelling. At a certain point and then more about what we have to make sure that the eyeline is right and we have to make sure that when you’re dealing with such technology, how do you as a director as a storyteller as someone who says you’re, you’re not so technologically minded. Keep your enthusiasm up for a project like that,
AL: If it doesn’t look right get scared. You’re making a mess and people are spending a lot of money on it. Also you just want to see that image, how it plays. So naturally, is painstaking, and hopefully we’ll go through there so the audience don’t go through the same thing. They’re just enjoy the picture, and don’t think about that. The visual effects people will tell you that. Ironically, it’s the best compliment they can get is that people don’t know is they had a hard time.
A weekly feature from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest and most interesting movies! This week Richard looks at “Gemini Man,” “Lucky Day” and “Lucy in the Sky.”
Richard has a look at the new movies coming to theatres, including the high frame rate of “Gemini Man,” the high violence of “Lucky Day” and the high flying theatrics of “Lucy in the Sky” with CFRA morning show host Bill Carroll.
“Gemini Man,” a glossy new action-thriller starring Will Smith, feels like a cinematic stew of ideas lifted from other movies. Mix and match “Looper” and “Replicant” with a dash of “Deadpool” and “Unforgiven” and you have a film with that feels like a mild case of déjà vu.
Smith plays highly trained government sniper Henry Brogan. When we first meet him he’s on mission to assassinate a bio-terrorist from a perch two kilometers away. He aims, blasts his target, who happens to be travelling on a train at over 200 KPH, through the neck, completing the job as assigned. It’s a spectacular shot but Brogan doesn’t feel great about it. “There was a girl,” he says, “a beautiful little girl next to him. If I was six inches off…” After 72 confirmed kills he feels it’s time to hang up his guns. “Deep down my soul is hurt,” he says. “I need peace.”
Trouble is, he knows too much. Retiring means he is a loose end and his Defense Intelligence Agency bosses, Clay Verris (Clive Owen) and Janet Lassiter (Linda Emond), don’t like loose ends. He must be controlled or killed. “Mutts like Henry were born to be collateral damage,” Verris sneers. First they send newbie Agent Zakarweski (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to keep an eye on him. When that doesn’t work a hit-squad is dispatched. When Brogan dispatches the squad the international adventure begins.
With Zakarweski and ace pilot Baron (Benedict Wong) in tow, Brogan blows through his air mile points, travelling to Cartagena, Colombia, Budapest, Hungary and Savannah, Georgia. They’re on the run from a new breed of soldier sent by Verris, a weaponized human who makes the mission personal for Brogan.
(ABANDON HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE, THERE BE UNAVOIDBALE SPOILERS AHEAD) There is no way to discuss the plot of “Gemini Man” without giving away a major plotline. It’s a not a secret but let’s just pretend you didn’t hear it from me: the weaponized human is Brogan’s clone, complete with the skill set but without most of the annoying human traits like fear and pain. Playing the clone is a de-aged Smith and while it is fun to see a cocky, spry version of him on the big screen, the young Smith often looks like a digital echo of the real thing. It’s all fun and games when the two are doing battle in any number of director Ang Lee’s frenetically staged action scenes but when their relationship becomes an emotional mano a mano the limitations of the digital imitation become obvious and distracting.
Shooting in 60 frames per second and in 3D, Lee fills the screen with hyper-realistic images that seem to pop off the screen. Shrapnel cascades into the audience and a gravity defying ninja hop scotches across the screen to great effect but, for my money, the digital imagery treatment doesn’t have the warmth of film. It feels hard-edged and stark, like old-school video tape, which works well in the action scenes—e motorcycle chase in Columbia is breathtaking—but less so in the more intimate moments.
“Gemini Man” will likely garner more attention for its startling look than for its content. An olio of clone and one-last-job movies it feels out of date, like a slick looking relic from the age of direct to DVD action movies.
Richard and Academy Award winning director Ang Lee presented a sneak peak of his new film “Gemini Man” at the Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto on Wednesday night. They talked about why Lee chose to shoot in 4K digital 3D at 120 frames per second and how Will Smith has changed as an actor in the last thrity years.