Motion Picture

Titus

Titus motion picture based on the Shakespeare play Titus Andronicus. Directed 1999 by Julie Taymor. Stars Anthony Hopkins (Titus Andronicus), Jessica Lange (Tamora), Alan Cumming (Saturninus), Colm Feore (Marcus Andronicus), James Frain (Bassianus), Laura Fraser (Lavinia), Harry Lennix (Aaron), Angus Macfadyen (Lucius), Osheen Jones (young Lucius), Matthew Rhys (Demetrius), Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Chiron), Kenny Doughty (Quintus), Colin Wells (Martius), Blake Ritson (Mutius), Raz Degan (Alarbus), and Geraldine McEwan (Nurse).

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Hamlet

Shakespeare Hamlet play. Kenneth Branagh directed this motion picture in 1996 in widescreen 70mm. It was released in Blu-ray in 2010, and it still looks wonderful in 2017. Stars Riz Abbasi (Attendant to Claudius), Richard Attenborough (English Ambassador), David Blair (Attendant to Claudius), Brian Blessed (Ghost of Hamlet's Father), Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet), Richard Briers (Polonius), Michael Bryant (Priest), Peter Bygott (Attendant to Claudius), Julie Christie (Gertrude), Billy Crystal (First Gravedigger), Charles Daish (Stage Manager), Judi Dench (Hecuba), Gérard Depardieu (Reynaldo), Reece Dinsdale (Guildenstern), Ken Dodd (Yorick), Angela Douglas (Attendant to Gertrude), Rob Edwards (Lucianus), Nicholas Farrell (Horatio), Ray Fearon (Fracisco), Yvonne Gidden (Doctor), John Gielgud (Priam), Rosemary Harris (Player Queen), Charlton Heston (Player King), Ravil Isyanov (Cornelius), Derek Jacobi (Claudius), Rowena King (Attendant to Gertrude), Jeffery Kissoon (Fortinbras's Captain), Sarah Lam (Attendant to Gertrude), Jack Lemmon (Marcellus), Ian McElhinney (Barnardo), Michael Maloney (Laertes), John Spencer-Churchill, The Duke of Malborough (Fortinbras's General), John Mills (Old Norway), Jimi Mistry (Sailor Two), Sian Radinger (Prologue), Simon Russell Beale (Second Gravedigger), Andrew Schofield (Young Lord), Rufus Sewell (Fortinbras), Timothy Spall (Rosencrantz), Tom Szekeres (Young Hamlet), Ben Thom (First Player), Don Warrington (Voltimand), Perdita Weeks (Second Player), Robin Williams (Osric), Kate Winslet (Ophelia), and David Yip (Sailor One).

There's a lot of information on this single disc. The movie lasts 242 minutes and there are several mildly interesting extra features. The default language setting is an English soundtrack in 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio surround. There is a French soundtrack in 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound. In addition, there are German, Castilian, and Spanish sound tracks in Dolby Digital stereo. So take your pick of sound tracks and then you can also have subtitles in English, French, German, Castilian, Spanish, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, or Finnish! Finally, you can watch the whole show with a running commentary from Branagh and expert Russell Jackson, a feature that is popular with motion pictures but unusual for fine-art HDVDs.

While neither the packaging nor the disc has a statement made about region restrictions, the American release seems region-free and should play just fine on any player. But Warner Bros. has released separate German, French, and Spanish language versions for those markets and maybe other versions we don't know about. These other versions might not be region-free. So buyer beware. Grade: A+

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The Tempest

Shakespeare The Tempest motion picture. Juli Taymor wrote the screen play, produced, and directed this film seen in theaters in 2010. Stars Helen Mirren (Prospera), Russell Brand (Trinculo), Reeve Carney (Ferdinand), Tom Conti (Gonzalo), Chris Cooper (Antonio), Alan Cumming (Sebastian), Djimon Hounsou (Caliban), Felicity Jones (Miranda), Alfred Molina (Stephano), David Strathairn (Alonso), and Ben Whishaw (Ariel). Music by Elliot Goldenthal; costumes by Sandy Powell; cinematography by Stuart Dryburgh; editing by Françoise Bonnot. As is often the case with movie discs, this title includes interesting extras about the making of the film. Released 2011, disc has 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.  Grade: B+

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Tosca

Puccini Tosca opera to libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica. Directed 2001 as a 35mm celluloid film opera movie by Benoît Jacquot at a movie studio in Germany. Stars Angela Gheorghiu [when she was young] (Floria Tosca), Roberto Alagna [then he was hot] (Mario Cavaradossi), Ruggero Raimondi [when he still looked scary] (Baron Scarpia), Maurizio Muraro (Cesare Angelotti), Enrico Fissore (Sacristan), David Cangelosi (Spoletta), and Sorin Coliban (Sciarrone). Antonio Pappano [when he was just getting started with the Royal Opera] conducts the Royal Opera House Orchestra, the Royal Opera Chorus (Chorus Director Terry Edwards), and The Tiffin Boys Choir (Chorus Master Simon Toyne). Set designs by Sylvain Chauvelot; costume designs by Christian Gasc. Released 2017, package includes 2 discs: a 2K (old fashioned) Blu-ray and a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. It's important to note, however, that this title does not have the High Dynamic Range (HDR) feature or any of the advanced sound technology available with the new 4K films. As  best I can tell, the only difference between the two discs in the package is the higher 4K resolution. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: B+

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Much Ado About Nothing

Shakespeare Much Ado About Nothing film. Adapted for the screen and directed by Joss Whedon. Stars Amy Acker (Beatrice), Alexis Denisof (Benedick), Jillian Morgese (Hero), Fran Kranz (Claudio), Reed Diamond (Don Pedro), Clark Gregg (Leonato),  Sean Maher (Don John), Spencer Treat Clark (Borachio), Riki Lindhome (Conrade), Nathan Fillion (Dogberry), Ashley Johnson (Margaret), Emma Bates (Ursula), Tom Lenk (Verges), Nick Kocher (First Watchman), Brian McElhaney (Second Watchman), Joshua Zar (Leonato’s Aide), Paul M. Meston (Friar Francis), Romy Rosemont (The Sexton), and Elsa Guillet-Chapuis (mute role as Court Photographer). Music by Joss Whedon; cinematography by Jay Hunter; edited by Daniel Kaminsky and Joss Whedon; produced by Joss Whedon and Kai Cole. Released 2013, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A

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Hunter's Bride

Hunter's Bride motion picture version of the Carl Maria von Weber opera Der Freischütz to a libretto by Johann Friedrich Kind. The Weber score is adapted by director Jens Neubert and shot with 35mm film on location in Germany. Stars Franz Grundheber (Prince Ottokar), Benno Schollum (Kuno), Juliane Banse (Agathe), Regula Mühlemann (Ännchen), Michael Volle (Kaspar), Michael König (Max), René Pape (Hermit), Olaf Bär (Kilian), and Thilo Schiemenz (Saxonian Puppetplayer). Also features Anett Löschigk, Pauline Weiss, Johanna Will, Daniela Saegeling, Katrin Adam, Marlene Maucher, Rahel Storch, and Mona Zelt as bridemaids. Daniel Harding conducts the London Symphony Orchestra and Simon Halsey conducts the Berlin Radio Choir (Rundfunkchor Berlin). Photography directed by Harald Gunnar Paalgard; audio produced by Torsten Rasch; sound recorded and mixed by Joel Iwatakia; line production by Kaare Storemyr; film edited by Martin Hoffmann; production designed by Per Hjorth; scientific consulting by Matthias Hermann. Produced by Peter Stüber and Jens Neubert. Recorded in German with subtitles in German, English, French, Spanish, Italian, and Korean. Has several bonus features including a audio commentary by the director. Even though this was made with 35 mm film, it runs at 30fps. Released 2013, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound output. Grade: A

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The Hollow Crown

The Hollow Crown television film series. Each film is an adaptation of one of the works of Shakespeare's Henriad: Richard II; Henry IV, Part I; Henry IV, Part II; and Henry V. Directed by Rupert Goold (Richard II), Richard Eyre (Henry IV, Parts I & II), and Thea Sharrock (Henry V). Stars Ben Whishaw (King Richard II of England), Rory Kinnear (Henry Bolingbroke), Clémence Poésy (the Queen), David Suchet (the Duke of York), Patrick Stewart (John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster), David Morrissey (Earl of Northumberland), Tom Hughes (the Duke of Aumerle), James Purefoy (Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk), Lindsay Duncan (the Duchess of York), Ferdinand Kingsley (Bushy), Samuel Roukin (Bagot), Harry Hadden-Paton (Green), Tom Goodman-Hill (Sir Stephen Scroop), Adrian Schiller (Lord Willoughby), Peter de Jersey (Lord Ross), Finbar Lynch (Lord Marshall), Lucian Msamati (the Bishop of Carlisle), Richard Bremmer (the Abbot of Westminster), Rhodri Miles (the Welsh Captain), David Bradley (the Gardener), Simon Trinder (the Gardener's Assistant), Isabella Laughland (the Queen's Lady), Daniel Boyd (the Groom), Jeremy Irons (Henry IV), Simon Russell Beale (Falstaff), Tom Hiddleston (Prince Hal/King Henry V), Julie Walters (Mistress Quickly), Alun Armstrong (Earl of Northumberland), Joe Armstrong (Hotspur), David Bamber (Robert Shallow), Niamh Cusack (Lady Northumberland), David Dawson (Poins), Michelle Dockery (Lady Percy), Tom Georgeson (Bardolph), Iain Glen (Earl of Warwick), Nicholas Jones (Archbishop of York), David Hayman (Earl of Worcester), James Laurenson (Earl of Westmoreland), Geoffrey Palmer (Lord Chief Justice), Harry Lloyd (Edmund Mortimer), Maxine Peake (Doll Tearsheet), Paul Ritter (Ancient Pistol), Robert Pugh (Owen Glendower), Alex Clatworthy (Lady Mortimer), Ian Conningham (Peto), Stephen McCole (Douglas), Adam Kotz (Hastings), Henry Faber (Prince John of Lancaster), Mark Tandy (Sir Richard Vernon), Pip Torrens (Mowbray), Tim McMullan (Silence), Michael Keane (Thomas Wart), Dominic Rowan (Coleville of the Dale), Jolyon Coy (Sir Walter Blun), John Hurt (the Chorus/Falstaff's boy as a man), Geraldine Chaplin (Alice), Paul Freeman (Thomas Erpingham), Tom Georgeson (Bardolph), Richard Griffiths (Duke of Burgundy), Paterson Joseph (Duke of York), Anton Lesser (Exeter), Paul Ritter (Ancient Pistol), Malcolm Sinclair (Archbishop of Canterbury), Owen Teale (Captain Fluellen), Mélanie Thierry (Princess Katherine), Lambert Wilson (Charles, King of France), Edward Akrout (Louis, the Dauphin), Tom Brooke (Corporal Nym), Jeremie Covillaut (Montjoy), Maxime Lefrançois (The Constable of France), Stanley Weber (Duke of Orleans), Gwilym Lee (Williams), Richard Clothier (Earl of Salisbury), Nigel Cooke (Bishop of Ely), John Dagleish (Peto), George Sargeant (Falstaff’s boy). Cinematography by Danny Cohen (Richard II) and Ben Smithard (Henry IV, Parts I & II); produced by Pippa Harris, Sam Mendes, Gareth Neame, and Rupert Ryle-Hodges. Released 2015, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. From the picture of the back of the package above, you can see that this is marked for Region B only, and this is also pointed out in the Amazon for sale posting. It would appear no Region A or C version of this has been released. Grade: NA

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The Merchant of Venice

Shakespeare The Merchant of Venice motion picture. Michael Radford directed and wrote this film in 2004. Stars Al Pacino (Shylock), Jeremy Irons (Antonio), Joseph Fiennes (Bassanio), Lynn Collins (Portia), Zuleikha Robinson (Jessica), Kris Marshall (Gratiano), Charlie Cox (Lorenzo), Heather Goldenhersh (Nerissa), Mackenzie Crook (Launcelot Gobbo), John Sessions (Salerio), Gregor Fisher,(Solanio), Ron Cook (Old Gobbo), Allan Corduner (Tubal), Anton Rodgers (The Duke), David Harewood (Prince of Morocco), and Jules Werner (Franciscan Friar). Music by Jocelyn Pook; cinematography by Benoît Delhomme; editing by Lucia Zucchetti; produced by Cary Brokaw, Michael Cowan, Jason Piette, Barry Navidi, and Luciano Martino. Released 2014, disc has 5.1 surround sound. Grade: NA

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Coriolanus

Shakespeare Coriolanus motion picture. Ralph Fiennes directed this film in 2011. Stars Ralph Fiennes (Caius Martius Coriolanus), Gerard Butler (Tullus Aufidius), Vanessa Redgrave (Volumnia), Brian Cox (Menenius), Jessica Chastain (Virgilia), John Kani (General Cominius), James Nesbitt (Sicinius), Paul Jesson (Brutus), Lubna Azabal (Tamora), Ashraf Barhom (Cassius), Slavko Štimac (Volsce lieutenant), Dragan Mićanović (Titus), Radoslav Milenković (Volsce politician), Harry Fenn (Young Martius), and Jon Snow (TV Anchorman). Screenplay by John Logan; music by Ilan Eshkeri; cinematography by Barry Ackroyd; editing by Nicolas Gaster; produced by Ralph Fiennes, John Logan, Gabrielle Tana, Julia Taylor-Stanley, and Colin Vaines. Released 2012, disc has 5.1 surround sound. Grade: A+

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King Lear

Shakespeare King Lear motion picture. Trevor Nunn directed this television film in 2008. Stars Ian McKellen (King Lear), Romola Garai (Cordelia), William Gaunt (Earl of Gloucester),  Jonathan Hyde (Earl of Kent), Philip Winchester (Edmund), Sylvester McCoy (The Fool), Frances Barber (Goneril),  Monica Dolan (Regan), David Weston (A Gentleman), Guy Williams (Duke of Cornwall), Seymour Matthews (Curan), John Heffernan (Oswald) Ben Meyjes (Edgar), Julian Harries (Duke of Albany), Naomi Capron (Maid), Kieran Bew (Soldier), Peter Hinton (Duke of Burgundy), and Ben Addis (King of France). Music by Steve Edis; cinematography by Paul Wheeler; editing by Dave Thrasher; art direction by Emma Davis; produced by Andy Picheta and Richard Price. Released 2008, disc has 5.1 surround sound. Grade: NA

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Belkis, Queen of Sheba

Ottorino Respighi Belkis, Queen of Sheba concert film.  Directed 2012 by Martin Andersson in Stuttgart. Gabriel Feltz conducts the Stuttgarter Philharmoniker and the Czech Philharmonic Choir, Brno (Choir Master Petr Fiala). Features narratress Julia Jentsch, mezzo soprano Stella Doufexis, and tenor Metodi Morartzaliev. Produced by Martin Andersson, eyecatchproductions, and the Stuttgarter Philhamoniker; published by the Breyer Gaido Music Production Company in Germany. This is a German language product with subtitles in English. Released 2014, disc has 5.1 surround sound (no further details on sound available). The picture format is Cinemascope 1:2.35 to be shown in HD TV in letterbox. Grade: NA

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Steve Reich Electric Counterpoint

Steve Reich Electric Counterpoint. Mats Bergström & Friends perform various pieces from Steve Reich, as well as remixes and tributes to Reich. This is a studio recording, but you don't get to see any video of the process of recording the music. The video was created independently. I've indicated below the general nature of the video themes that accompany each musical work. The videos are mostly in black and white. The package contains two discs: a CD of just music, and a Blu-ray which has the video art. The full program is:

1-3. Steve Reich Electric Counterpoint (video mostly of waves, clouds, and raindrops on water)

4. Reich remixed by Magnus Frykberg & Jay-Jay Johanson Under the Weather MIX (Remix of Electric Counterpoint) (video mostly of eyes, faces, pulsing lights, and subway scenes)

5. Steve Reich Nagoya Guitars (video of forest scenes presented in a way perhaps partly inspired by fractal mathematics)

6. Reich remixed by Cornelia Godspeed Remix (Remix of Nagoya Guitars) (video featuring a mysterious masked figure with a torch)

7-9. Steve Reich 2x5 (night and dawn skyline scenes with extensive views of dense urban built environment)

10. Edda Magnason So Many Layers of Colour Become a Deep Purple Heart (To Steve Reich) (forest scene with brief clip of girl singing)

Features musicians Mats Bergström, Johan Liljedahl, Svante Henryson, Magnus Persson, Jonas Östholm, and Edda Magnason. Video art by Simon Larsson. Sound recorded by Lars Nilsson. I think all the music on the video disc was recorded and processed faithfully using 96 kHz/24 bit technology. Released in 2012, the video disc has stereo LPCM and 5.1 dts-Master Audio sound. In addition, there is also a CD (recorded at 44.1 kHz/16 bit) included for those wanting to listen to the music outside of a home theater setting.  Grade: X-B

This is basically an audiophile sound recording with video added to create an enriched experience. There are a lot of Blu-ray audiophile music recordings that have no video or maybe a slide show of still photography. We exclude these titles here because our emphasis is on high-def videos. This title, on the other hand, has extensive video material created by Simon Larsson. 

Another modern music video we covered was Tribues - Pulse  (which includes a salute to Steve Reich). We include these titles despite the fact that they do not neatly fall into any of the other categories of fine arts we cover.  They are not played live in front of an audience, there are no extravagent costumes or staging, and they certainly stick out when placed next to Don Giovanni and Mahler symphonies. But they qualify as fine arts for our website: they have contemporary classcal musical played with surround sound and presented with original high-definition video compositions. If we get enough of these, maybe we will create a new catagory called "classical music videos."

Electric Counterpoint, performed here by Mats Bergström & Friends, includes several pieces by Reich, as well as several remixes of his work. The last song is actually by Edda Magnason, but is very much in Reich's minimal style.  The recording is excellentthe instruments are clear and realistic, and the surround sound is well balanced. The intricacies of Reich's musical shifts are played well.

As might be expected on a Steve Reich recording, the visuals are methodical and deliberate.  For some it might be seen as slow, but anyone who is interested in Steve Reich will be able to appreciate the visuals, which mesh well with the music and are worth watching.

The majority of the visual work here consists of muted black-and-white (or near black-and-white) video clips. A sampling:

For the last section of the piece (Edda Magnason's original tribute), the video suddenly brings in full color. The muted aesthetic continues from the black-and-white visuals.

Tributes - Pulse

Tributes - Pulse motion picture, a "requiem for the 20th century."  Bill Morrison, New York based, made the video. He uses  black and white images of decomposing nitrate film which he alters as original art and a sobering segment he photographed himself with crude SD gear (from a helicopter) of a Staten Island salvage yard for decommissioned tugboats and ferries.  Simon Christensen wrote the music. It's performed by a group called Kundi Bombo. This band has three members:  Christina Åstrand playing violin; Peter Navarro-Alonso playing soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones; and Christensen himself on percussion, zither, and electronics.  There is no text for this movie. There is a dense, abstruse keepcase booklet in English only.  Released  2011, disc has 7.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: B

I had a hard time deciding whether to cover this title on hdvdarts. The music is cutting-edge contemporary classical art. But we don't cover Blu-ray audio discs on our website when there is no substantial HD video as well. Now this entire disc has original video, but it's all based on old photos or SD video and it's not even in widescreen format. So this didn't seem to fit in with the opera, ballet, and symphony concerts we usually cover. Then it finally dawned on me. Most of the titles on hdvdarts are just (vastly) better versions of what we had before. But Tributes - Pulse is an avant-garde work that would probably be unwatchable for home theater use but for Blu-ray presentation quality. In that sense, Tributes - Pulse is a new kind of art form and is ---whether it's good or bad--- more original and creative than anything else we cover.

Tributes - Pulse is dedicated as a tribute to four 20th century composers: Charles Ives, Conlon Nancarrow, Steve Reich, and Trent Reznor. The film is divided into four segments. This suggests that maybe each segment is associated with a particular composer. Well, after some effort I conclude that's not the case, and nothing in the keepcase booklet discusses this.

The key to understanding this video is it's subtitle: a "requiem for the 20th century." A better title might have been "a requiem for our time." The video starts out with a lot of images of buffalos. Dealing with the buffalos was a 19th century topic. In any event, it's not too hard to see the main themes of the video: frontier, industry, war, and decay. The 20th century (or "our time") is over, and we need now to move onto something new and better.

All aspects of disc authorship and production are excellent. The original music is challenging, but basically quite pleasant. Earlier my son and I listened to this on decent but basic loudspeakers.  We recently reviewed this again with better speakers in the home theater, and the difference was startlingly large. So to hear the music well, you need good gear. Most of the video involves altering photos. This is a fairly popular contemporary art technique; see, for example, our recent review of Gerhard Richter Painting.

Now that we are using screenshots, we can give you a much better idea what this title is like. The film opens with about 6 minutes of a great many altered black and white photos which turn out looking something like this:

By the way, the black borders on the sides, the top, and the bottom actually show on the widescreen, so we have not tried to crop the images.

Most of the film continues with black and white "sepia" photos that are then altered in a less radical fashion than the pure black and white photos above. Let's start with buffalos:

The final section of the film suddenly shifts to aerial SD video of a boat graveyard. The images  make a big impact as supported by grim music. I think Morrison deliberately used primitive equipment to photograph this; the roughness of the images heightens the viewer's feeling of desolation:

Now for our summary: I acknowledge the hard work and artistry that went into making this movie. I understand that Bill Morrison is trying to urge us to do better in the 21st century. I originally gave this a lower grade; but I now up the grade to B. If you like Tributes - Pulse and are familiar with  contemporary experimental visual arts and music, please help us by writing a comment that explains Tributes - Pulse better than I can.

Gerhard Richter Painting

Gerhard Richter Painting documentary film. Written and directed by Corinna Belz; edited by Stephan Krumbiegel. The main film lasts 97 minutes. It was shot while Richter was preparing for an exhibition (shown late in 2009 and early 2010) at the Marian Goodman Gallery in New York.  Title also includes as extras (1) a 23 minute interview with art historian Benjamin HD Buchloh, (2) 10 minutes of "fragments of a conversation" with Hans-Ulrich Obrist, and (3) a 9 minute clip showing Richter getting ready for an exhibiton in Munich. Released 2012, there is a soundtrack presented in 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: D+

HDVD allows plastic artists and art museums to publicise their goods more effectively than was ever possible before. But in the first 5 years of the existence of Blu-ray discs, only 3 titles about paintings have been released. When I learned there would be an HDVD about Gerhard Richter, I was intrigued; alas, what we have in Gerhard Richter Painting is a sad disappointment.

At this writing Richer is widely considered to be the most successful living painter. He was born in Germany and was 13 at the end of WW II. He started his career in Communist East Germany. Although Richter was never actively political, he was always interested in experimental ways of creating new images and has treated political subjects. This wasn't a good long-range fit with Communism, so he defected to the West in 1961 (at age 29) just before the Berlin Wall was built.

Richter quietly thrived in the West. Unlike a lot of artists, he appears to be an excellent craftsman and businessman. You sense this from his astonishing official website which has an exhaustive catalogue of every artwork he has ever made and did not destroy. Warning: there are something like 7300 thumbnail pictures on the website of Richer works (and his "Atlas" of subjects used for the basis of some of the works). If you start looking at all this, you may find it hard to stop.

Richer's works tend to fall into two categories: altered photographs and pieces created partly or largely through the application of mathematical or physical chance. Examples of "chance" works would be his huge stain glass window in the Cologne Cathedral made of squares of color samples or his large abstract canvases made mostly by smearing paint on the canvas with giant squeegees (they resemble windshield wipers) and then scraping away to see comes through. (His works include many other different but somewhat similar techniques for making images.)

Richter's output is therefore substantially derivative and often features variations on a theme in a manner that reminds me of Andy Warhol. But Richter is on the opposite end of the philosophical spectrum from the celebrity hound Warhol. Mild-mannered and self-effacing, Richter is an counter-celebrity, anti-hero type who shuns ostentatiousness. 

But his work ethic is fierce. He is a one-man Volkswagen factory for turning out artworks for sale (with the help of a few assistants). Richer scheduled a show for 2009-2010 in New York at the Marian Goodman Gallery. You might think when show time comes he would rummage around in his attic and come up with some things to send on to N.Y. Well, it's not that way at all. He had in his workshops a scale model of all the huge rooms in the Gallery he had to fill. Each work he was to consign was created, photographed, reduced to 2% of real size, and carefully placed on the model in the exact spot where it would be installed in the flesh. In this manner Richter put himself in charge of every detail of the show with the hundreds of works small and large that would be released for sale. (Marian was in charge of sending out invitations and pouring the wine.) So when subject documentary was shot, Richter was under huge pressure to come up with product to put on the walls in New York.

According to Wikipedia, Richter has been in recent times capable of selling $100,000,000 of artworks in a year to museums and high-roller art speculators. So if Richter felt there should be a film about his works for the general public, he easily would have the practical and financial resources to make any such film a spectacular success. But Richter apparently never felt that a film aimed at the public would be advantageous.

Richter did, however, grant Corinna Belz the rights to make a low-cost documentary about his techniques for making paintings and other art works. The idea, I think, was for Belz to hang around the workshops and shoot at random what she saw and to also film how Richter creates one of his typical large oil-on-canvas abstract expressionist paintings. (This is similar to the "direct cinema" style of making documentaries. Direct cinema was used, for example, by Frederick Wiseman in making La Danse - Le Ballet de l'Opéra de Paris, which is reviewed on this website.)

Belz went to work. But the project stalled when Richter hit a mental snag (like writer's block) in the middle of cranking out two big abstracts. He complained that the filming by the camera crew was interfering with his work process. This was serious because the paintings Richter was working on had to be finished (I think) for the N.Y. show with Marian Goodman. After this confrontation, the documentary all but completely falls apart. You can't tell if the paintings Richter started on are in fact the among the paintings that get hung at the Goodman Gallery. I get the impression that Richter wanted to abandon the documentary but was unable or unwilling to buy Belz completely out.

In addition to the uncertainty about what the heck you are seeing, the documentary suffers from the typical woes of all direct cinema: poor picture and sound quality from light-weight recording gear used on the fly, poor visual resolution, and weak framing of shots that have to be set up in a hurry. Betz also several times commits the terrible error of panning across long rows of artwork hung on walls, which results in obvious blur and motion artefacts. (Many of the images on the walls have blur built into them by Richter already as part of his style, so the viewer gets blurred images of blurred images). The voices you hear on the film tend to be poorly recorded. But some nice music added later helps the film considerably.

Well, at this point you might think this title is headed for a "F" grade---a complete disaster. But as bad as it is, Gerhard Richter Painting does have its charms and you can learn something from it about Richter and his work. So let's see what we can salvage.

Betty

One of Richter's main techniques is to take photos he makes himself or gets from others and turn them into hand-painted oils, usually with alterations ranging from subtle to savage. I've now seen hundreds of these paintings from subject film and the official website. I would say there is exactly one of these images I find memorable, but it is a real zinger---a picture, Caravaggio style, of the Richter's own daughter, Betty, when she was about 10 years old:

 

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