Compiled by David Henderson (St. Lawrence University)
This special issue is the first of two focusing on feature films
and feature-length documentaries that revolve around musical
subjects or raise ethnomusicological questions. This issue includes
all regions except the Americas; issue 48/3 will be devoted to the
Individuals who contributed to this list are acknowledged below and
cited in parentheses following each entry; quotations included in
entries are from these individuals unless otherwise indicated.
Descriptions from Wilpers and myself are culled from publicity
statements, film catalogs, film encyclopedia entries, and web
Entries are organized alphabetically by region with the original
title of foreign-language films given first. An entry previously
included in the current film- and videography is indicated by the
issue number in which it appeared enclosed in brackets at the end
of an entry. "NLA" stands for "No Longer
Acknowledgements: Special thanks to Michael Wilpers, performing
arts programmer for the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M.
Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, for assembling and
sharing lists from the Freer and Sackler galleries. Thanks to David
Samuels for talk about films over the last dozen years and Anne
Rasmussen for encouragement and for getting me into this mess in
the first place. For their contributions, thanks also to Tildy
Bayar, Judah Cohen, Prachi Dalal, Tony Dumas, Ter Ellingson, Meg
Farrell, Jonathan Fohrman, Tim Fuson, Joseph Getter, Kraig Grady,
Victor Grauer, Nancy Guy, David Harnish, Juniper Hill, Janet Hilts,
Rob Hodges, Lynn Hooker, Kamran Hooshmand, David Hughes, Jay
Keister, Ellen Koskoff, Fred Lieberman, Tim Mangin, Michael Morse,
Goffredo Plastino, Andrea Plementos, Evan Rapport, Anne Rasmussen,
David Samuels, Karl Signell, Norman Stanfield, Julie Strand, Rose
Theresa, Ellen Weller, Richard Widdess, Sean Willams, and Liz
Editor's note: in order to aid searching, names and terms that
have been coded to display diacriticals have been appended to the
entry in brackets without diacriticals.
General | Africa | Asia and Oceania | Europe |
Baraka. 1992. Directed by Ron Fricke (USA). Distributed by
MPI Home Video. VHS and DVD, 104 mins. Predominantly wordless
meditation on human life, ritual, and nature, directed by the
cinematographer of Koyaanisqatsi (1983). "The whole
film has an incredible world music soundtrack accompanying images
from different regions of the world," including music by Dead
Can Dance, Somet Satoh, Kohachiro Miyata, L. Subramaniam, and Ciro
100% Arabica. 1997. Directed by Mahmoud Zemmouri
(France/Algeria). Distributed by ArtMattan Productions. VHS, 85
mins. Comedy set in a banlieu on the outskirts of Paris,
starring rai singers Rachid Khaled and Cheb Mami. In French
with English subtitles (Rasmussen) [48/1].
Afrita hanem/The Genie Lady. 1950. Directed by Henri Barakat
(Egypt). Distributed by Arab Film Distribution. VHS and DVD, 111
mins. Musical starring Farid El Atrache as a poor singer/actor and
Samia Gamal as the genie he finds in a magic lamp. In Arabic with
English and French subtitles (Henderson).
Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony. 2002.
Directed by Lee Hirsch (South Africa/USA). Distributed by Artisan
Entertainment. Available from Facets Multi-Media. DVD, 108 mins.
Details how protest songs were used in the struggle to end
apartheid in South Africa. Includes interviews with activists and
musicians who were exiled, archival footage of protests, and
descriptions of music as a vehicle for communication among
prisoners (Henderson) [46/2].
Arak el-balah/Date Wine. 1998. Directed by Radwan El-Kashef
(Egypt). Distributed by Arab Film Distribution. VHS, 110 mins.
"An Egyptian boy assumes new responsibilities when all of the
men in his remote village leave to work in a distant city."
Includes several extended dance sequences (Wilpers).
Bab al-sama' maftuh/A Door to the Sky. 1989. Directed by
Farida Ben Lyziad (Morocco). Distributed by Arab Film Distribution.
VHS, 107 mins. Nadia, a young Moroccan emigré, struggles
between her Sufi heritage and her adopted French culture when she
returns from Paris to Fez to visit her dying father. At his
funeral, she is overcome by the voice of Karina chanting the Koran.
A powerful friendship develops between the two women as they decide
to turn Nadia's father's palace into a shelter for Muslim
women. In Arabic and French with English subtitles (Rasmussen).
[ emigre ]
Bab el hadid/Cairo Station. 1958. Directed by Youssef
Chahine (Egypt). Distributed by Arab Film Distribution. VHS, 74
mins. "Youssef Chahine, who eventually received a lifetime
achievement Academy Award, directed and starred in this
psychological drama set entirely at the Cairo train station, about
a mentally unstable homeless man who falls in love with a beautiful
soft-drink sales girl. Music is depicted in only one scene, but
it's a rollicking rock 'n' roll number in a train car
when the soft-drink sellers inspire a party. The credits list Mike
and His Skyrockets, whom Chahine may have met during his year in
Malibu studying theater in the '50s. Fascinating for its
evidence of influence of early rock 'n' roll in
Egypt." In Arabic with English subtitles (Wilpers).
Ça twiste à poponguine. 1993. Directed by
Moussa Sene Absa (Senegal). Distributed by California Newsreel.
VHS, 90 mins. Comedy feature, set in the 1960s, in which two rival
groups of teens style themselves after French pop stars and
American rhythm and blues artists. In French with English subtitles
(Mangin) [47/3]. [ Ca a ]
Fatma. 1947. Directed by Ahmed Badrakhan (Egypt).
Distributed by Arab Film Distribution. VHS and DVD, 126 mins. Stars
Umm Kulthum as a poor nurse who falls in love with the son of one
of her wealthy patients, with songs by Mohamed Al Asabgui and Riad
Al Sunbati. In Arabic with English and French subtitles (Rasmussen,
Flame. 1996. Directed by Ingrid Sinclair
(Zimbabwe/Namibia/France). Distributed by California Newsreel. VHS
and 35mm, 85 mins. A controversial tribute to women involved in the
Zimbabwe liberation, with "intriguiging usage of background
music: mbira for peaceful, rural scenes and Mapfuma for
rousing fighting and liberation." The final scene, in which
the two main characters, Florence and Nyasha, are watching the
liberation ceremonies on television, uses documentary footage that
includes "the new ruling regime's adoptions of traditional
English military marching band music" (Weller).
Habib al omr/Love of My Life. 1948. Directed by Henri
Barakat (Egypt). Distributed by Rashid Music Sales Co., Inc. VHS,
119 mins. "Starring Farid El Atrache and Samia
Gamal…[this musical is] a backstage story about young people
going to Cairo to make it big in the entertainment business and (of
course) getting corrupted by the evil influence of the West along
the way." In Arabic with English subtitles (Farrell).
Karmen Geï. 2001. Directed by Joseph Gaï Ramaka
(Senegal). Distributed by California Newsreel. VHS and 35mm, 82
mins. The 53rd film interpretation of Merimeé's novella,
Carmen, and first African film version. Like Carlos
Saura's version, drastically and interestingly recasts the
musical frame of Bizet's operatic version. With music by Doudou
N'Diaye, Julien Jouga, El Hadj Ndiaye, Yandé Coudou
Sène, and David Murray. In French and Wolof with English
subtitles (Mangin) [47/3]. [ Gei Gai Merimee
Yande Sene ]
Sallamah. 1946. Directed by Tuju Mizrahi (Egypt).
Distributed by Arabian Video Entertainment. VHS, 107 mins. NLA. A
classic dramatic work starring Umm Kulthum, set during the
Caliphate era and focusing on the life of a slave girl who likes to
sing. In Arabic with English subtitles (Rasmussen, Wilpers).
Samt al-qusur/Silences of the Palace. 1994. Directed by
Moufida Tlatli (Tunisia). Distributed by Capitol Entertainment and
Home Video. VHS, 127 mins. A reflection on the condition of women
in Tunisia in the 1950s; commenting on the film's subject, the
director noted, "The aspect that hits me the most powerfully
is the silence imposed on women in the Arab-Muslim world. They grow
up living in doubts as to their own existence and their own
past." With music by Anouar Brahem. In Arabic with English
subtitles (Fuson, Rasmussen).
Sarafina! 1992. Directed by Darrell James Roodt (South
Africa). Distributed by Buena Vista Home Entertainment. DVD and
VHS, 98 mins. Adapted from the anti-apartheid musical by Mbongeni
Ngema, centered on the life of a schoolgirl (Leleti Khumalo) in
Soweto. With Whoopi Goldberg and Miriam Makeba. In English and Zulu
Satin Rouge. 2002. Directed by Raja Amari (France/Tunisia).
Distributed by Zeitgeist Films. VHS and DVD, 91 mins. While
investigating a suspected liaison between her daughter and a
cabaret musician, a widowed Tunisian seamstress becomes drawn to a
world of cabaret belly dancers. The director trained for many years
as a belly dancer herself at the Conservatoire de Tunis, and also
notes a fondness for Egyptian musicals of the '40s and
'50s, particularly the work of Samia Gamal and Farid El
Atrache. In Arabic and French with English subtitles (Rasmussen).
La vie est belle/Life is Rosy. 1987. Directed by Ngangura
Mweze (Zaire/Belgium). Distributed by California Newsreel. VHS, 85
mins. Like The Harder They Come, a story of a poor country
musician seeking his fortune in the city—in this case in
Kinshasha, Zaire. Stars Papa Wemba. In French with English
subtitles (Strand) [47/3].
Asia and Oceania
Agir roman/Cholera Street. 1997. Directed by Mustafa
Altioklar (Turkey/Hungary/France). 35mm, 120 mins. NLA.
Altioklar's second film after Istanbul kanatlarimin
altinda/Istanbul Beneath My Wings (1996). "Quite a few
street music scenes in this violent love story of gangs and lovers
in the back streets of Istanbul." Turkish with English
Amrapali. 1966. Directed by Lekh Tandon (India). Distributed
by Shemaroo Video. DVD, 117 mins. Historic epic centered around a
court dancer during the reign of Ajatasatru (c490 B.C.). Earlier
film versions were made in 1945 and 1959; this version stars Sunil
Dutt, with dances performed by Vijayantimala. In Hindi with English
Ba wang bie ji/Farewell, My Concubine. 1993. Directed by
Chen Kaige (China/Hong Kong). Distributed by Buena Vista Home
Entertainment. VHS and DVD, 172 mins. "In this prize-winning
epic…two childhood apprentices in the Peking Opera become
close friends, but their loyalty is severely tested by the
oppressions of war, revolution, and their sexual
orientations." Particularly useful to compare to the
documentary, The Education of a Singer at the Beijing Opera
(1994). In Mandarin with English subtitles (Guy, Theresa, Wilpers).
Baiju Bawra/Baiju the Poet. 1952. Directed by Vijay Bhatt
(India). Distributed by Baba Digital Media. DVD, 168 mins.
"This megahit of its day imagines the Mughal court musician
Tansen challenged to a musical dual by an itinerant performer who
seeks to avenge the death of his father at the hands of
Tansen's guards. The film's music director, Naushad, used
leading classical singers D. V. Paluskar and Amir Khan as playback
voices for the contest that climaxes the film." In Hindi with
English subtitles (Dalal, Wilpers).
Banshun/Late Spring. 1949. Directed by Yasujiro Ozu (Japan).
Available from Facets Multi-Media. DVD, 108 mins. "One of
Yasujiro Ozu's classic films is the poignant and exquisite
story of a devoted family's struggle to accept their eventual
separation through marriage. It features an extended scene in which
daughter, father, and his presumed love interest attend a
noh theater together. Many critics see this film as one in
which Ozu depicts the preservation of Japanese traditions in the
face of increasing modernization and Westernization." In
Japanese with English subtitles (Wilpers).
Beijing za zhong/Beijing Bastards. 1993. Directed by Zhang
Yuan (China). Available from Blue Laser. VCD, 92 mins. "In a
film officially banned by the Chinese government, rock star Cui
Jian portrays himself in this look at Beijing's musical
Bian Lian/The King of Masks. 1996. Directed by Wu Tian-Ming
(China/Hong Kong). Distributed by Columbia Tristar Home Video. DVD,
101 mins. "An itinerant master of traditional street opera
seeks to pass on his art to an apprentice who challenges his
assumptions and awards his devotion in this touching and exquisite
tale set in 1930s Shanghai." With music by Zhao Jiping. In
Mandarin with English, Spanish, or French subtitles (Wilpers).
Bian zou bian chang/Life on a String. 1991. Directed by Chen
Kaige (China/Germany/UK). Distributed by Kino International. VHS
and DVD, 105 mins. "A master of the Chinese folk lute seeks to
cure his blindness through an ancient musical remedy, while his
young apprentice pursues more immediate pleasures with a village
girl, in Chen Kaige's sumptuously photographed story depicting
the conflicts between young and old, spiritual and physical."
In Mandarin with English subtitles (Wilpers).
Bombay Talkie. 1970. Directed by James Ivory (USA).
Distributed by Home Vision Entertainment. VHS and DVD, 110 mins.
Lucia Lane, an English writer by way of the US, arrives in Bombay
to watch the filming of one of her novels, and "attempts to
escape a complicated romance with an Indian movie star."
Starring Shashi Kapoor, with music by Shankar-Jaikishan (Wilpers).
Bulan tertusuk ilalang/…And the Moon Dances. 1995.
Directed by Garin Nugroho (Indonesia). 125 mins. NLA.
"Director Garin Nugroho, called by some a 'one-man new
wave' in Indonesian film, made this film about two young people
with troubled backgrounds who come to Surakarta to become students
of Waluyo, a master of traditional Javanese music and dance. The
boy wants to write music but seems trapped in memories of childhood
traumas. The girl is simply trying to find herself. The suppressed
violence which haunts their lives—and which, the film
implies, is endemic in Indonesian culture and society—finally
surfaces when their master dies in an accidental fire. Opens with a
traditional Javanese court dance in which the dancers carry
pistols." In Indonesian with English subtitles (Wilpers).
Chikuzan hitori-tabi/The life of Chikuzan. 1977. Directed by
Kaneto Shindô (Japan). 35mm, 119 mins. NLA. A feature-length
documentary and biography of Tsugaru shamisen player and
composer Chikuzan Takahashi (b.1910). In Japanese (Hughes). [ Shindo ]
Ch`unhyangdyon/Chunhyang. 2000. Directed by Im Kwon-Taek
(South Korea). Distributed by New Yorker Films. DVD and VHS, 199
mins. Traditional Korean tale dramatized on film, simultaneously
narrated as pansori and intercut with pansori
performance footage. "The movie begins with a pansori
singer on stage, relating the story in traditional fashion. But
within minutes the point of view of the audience switches to scenes
of the actual events of the story. The movie moves back and forth
from the story-teller to the story, and then, in one amazing
moment, we are shown the audience that is being addressed." In
Korean with English subtitles (Howard, Stanfield) [45/1].
Company. 2002. Directed by Ram Gopal Varma (India).
Distributed by Eros International. DVD, 155 mins. Saga of the rise
and fall of a criminal empire and the lives of the men and women
who ran it, starring Vivek Oberoi. Music by Sandeep
Chowta—who also did the music for Deepa Mehta's
Bollywood/Hollywood (2002)—with excerpts from
Holst's The Planets and Mission Impossible. Hindi
with English subtitles (Wilpers).
Devi/The Goddess. 1960. Directed by Satyajit Ray (India).
Distributed by Columbia Tristar Home Video. Available from Facets
Multi-Media. VHS, 93 mins. "Set in nineteenth-century Bengal,
where a wealthy farmer [Chhabi Biswas] imagines that his
daughter-in-law [Sharmila Tagore] is an incarnation of the goddess
Kali, with tragic consequences. There are scenes with a
British-style marching band, but the most compelling musical scenes
are those in which the village priests perform puja in front
of the girl-god at the lavish home shrine." Music by Ali Akbar
Khan. In Bengali with English subtitles (Wilpers).
Dil pe mat le yaar/Don't Take It to Heart. 2000.
Directed by Hansal Mehta (India). Distributed by Eros
International. DVD, 151 mins. Another variation on the tale of a
country bumpkin—in this case, a garage mechanic—coming
to Mumbai. Starring Tabu and Manoj Bajpai. Hindi with English
Do ma daan/Peking Opera Blues. 1986. Directed by Tsui Hark
(Hong Kong). Available from Liberty House Company. DVD, 104 mins.
"This classic Hong Kong film directed by Tsui Hark is a
fast-paced comic blend of farce, stunt work, drama, and pageantry
about a frustrated Peking Opera actress and an amateur singer
caught up in a revolutionary plot in 1913 Beijing." In
Cantonese with English and Chinese subtitles (Wilpers).
Donzoko/The Lower Depths. 1957. Directed by Akira Kurosawa
(Japan). Distributed by Home Vision Entertainment. VHS, 125 mins.
"Based on the Maxim Gorky play but re-set in a pre-modern
Tokyo slum flophouse which brings together the
down-and-out—thieves, beggars, etc. There is one great
musical scene [replacing a scene in Gorky's play that uses a
diaphonic Russian folk song]: in the flophouse, while an old man is
dying of consumption or something in the corner, the others sit on
the floor around a table, depressed. One man swears,
Then his eyes light up as he notices the similarity of this phrase
to the oral mnemonics (chonchikichi, etc.) for the hand-gong
(kane) of Tokyo-area festival music (matsuribayashi).
It is impossible to be sad when this music is playing nearby. So he
continues: kon kon chikisho kon chikisho (like the
gong's chon chon chikichi chon chikichi). Later someone
else adds the flute mnemonics (hyaitoro hyaitoro hya riyari,
or something), and someone else adds the two taiko
(ten…teke ten tororo,etc.). Someone throws in a
recited phrase: 'Jigoku mo xx mo
kane-shidai'—something like 'Whether you go to
hell or heaven depends on money.' Someone starts beating out a
rhythm on an ashtray with a dried squid, but otherwise there are no
instruments—they couldn't have afforded them anyhow. They
are vaguely singing the mnemonics for the lively dance piece
'Nimba.' Even without the instruments, they can
generate the festival atmosphere and temporarily forget their
rotten living conditions." In Japanese with English subtitles
Eijanaika. 1981. Directed by Shohei Imamura (Japan).
Distributed by Panorama Entertainment. DVD and VCD, 151 mins.
"[E]pic drama retelling the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate,
bringing to life the myriad factions, allegiances, corruptions, and
deceipts of the waning samurai rule and its violent demise at the
hands of village peasants. Of musical interest is that much of the
subversive plot is hatched and refined in a particular theater in
the entertainment district, and the revolutionary villagers march
to the sound of their own music." In Japanese with Chinese and
English subtitles (Wilpers).
Forever Fever/That's the Way I Like It. 1998. Directed
by Glen Goei (Singapore). Distributed by Buena Vista Home
Entertainment. VHS and DVD, 92 mins. Hock (Adrian Pang) is an
ordinary underachiever who discovers disco when his favorite kung
fu movie is replaced by Forever Fever, a low-budget
Saturday Night Fever knockoff. The main character of the
film within the film comes to life and becomes Hock's guardian
angel, teaching him about life, love, and disco. This is a film
that plays with covers, copies, fakes, and ripoffs and their
relationship to originals in its plot, characters, acting, and
Genghis Blues. 1999. Directed by Roko Belic (USA).
Distributed by New Video. DVD, 88 mins. Follows bluesman Paul Pena,
who taught himself throat-singing, on a visit to Tuva. "[T]he
film's makeshift qualities echo the off-the-wall spirit of the
trip itself," wrote Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles
Times. "A more improbable and endearing yarn can't be
imagined." English and Tuvinian with English subtitles (Bayar,
Geron Busabos, ang batang Quiapo/Geron Busabos: The Kid from
Quiapo. 1964. Directed by Cesar Gallardo (Philippines). 35mm,
100 mins. NLA. "Former President Joseph Estrada's early
work as an actor is presented in director Cesar Gallardo's tale
of an illiterate stevedore who champions the masses and fights for
the dignity of his elders. A number of street musicians perform
(dubbed) in the streets and at the hero's birthday party."
In Tagalog (Wilpers).
Hanre Goze Orin/Melody in Gray. 1977. Directed by Masahiro
Shinoda (Japan). 35mm, 109 mins. NLA. Orin, a blind travelling
musician who is expected to remain celibate, is sexually violated
and is expelled from her group. Music by Tôru Takemitsu. In
Japanese (Hughes). [ Toru ]
Huang tu di/Yellow Earth. 1984. Directed by Chen Kaige
(China). Distributed by Fox Lorber. Available from Facets
Multi-Media. VHS, 89 mins. A communist soldier is sent to Northern
Shaanxi province in 1939 to collect folk songs for the use of the
revolutionary armies. He stays with a poor farmer whose daughter is
reputed to be a fine singer; the transformations wrought upon her
by his presence are the main focus of the film. With cinematography
by another of the members of the Fifth Generation of Chinese
filmmakers, Zhang Yimou, and interesting juxtapositions of folk
songs and orchestrations of them by Zhao Jiping. "[S]ort of an
Asian version of Songcatcher (2000)." In Mandarin with
English subtitles (Farrell, Henderson).
Hu-du-men/Stage Door. 1996. Directed by Shu Kei (Hong Kong).
Distributed by Mei Ah Entertainment. Available from Blue Laser.
DVD, 87 mins. "[T]ells the story of a famous Cantonese opera
singer whose professional life is complicated by her and her
daughter's personal lives." In Cantonese with Chinese and
English subtitles (Wilpers).
Huozhe/To Live. 1994. Directed by Zhang Yimou (China/Hong
Kong). Distributed by MGM Home Entertainment. DVD, 125 mins. Epic
portrayal of one family as they struggle with the demands and
stresses of first the husband's gambling losses in the 1940s,
then the Great Leap Forward, and finally the Cultural Revolution.
The husband gambles away his house playing dice, but the man who
wins it from him gives him a set of shadow puppets, and he travels
and entertains with them. In Mandarin with English, French, or
Spanish subtitles (Getter).
Immaculate Conception. 1992. Directed by Jamil Dehlavi (UK).
Distributed by 20/20 Vision. VHS, 118 mins. NLA. "Expatriate
Pakistani director Jamil Dehlavi directed this suspense thriller
about a mixed British and American diplomatic couple whose efforts
to have children lead them to eunuch communities whose ceremonies
are reputed to overcome infertility. Filmed on location in Karachi,
the scenes at the eunuch rites contain some interesting
music." English and Urdu with English subtitles (Wilpers).
Jalsaghar/The Music Room. 1958. Directed by Satyajit Ray
(India). Distributed by Columbia Tristar Home Video. Available from
Facets Multi-Media. VHS, 100 mins. "Some of India's
greatest musicians and dancers perform in this story of a proud
landowner who pawns his family riches to support lavish concerts
while competing with his neighbor, a successful but uncultured
merchant, in this compelling character study often compared with
King Lear." Music by Vilayat Khan. In Bengali with
English subtitles (Henderson, Widdess, Wilpers).
Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje. 1955. Directed by Rajaram Vankudre
Shantaram (India). Distributed by Baba Digital Media. DVD, 143
mins. Musical in which a great dancer, Mangal Maharaj, wants his
son, Girdhar, to follow in his footsteps and win the title of
Bharat Natraj. First, they must find a dance partner for
him, and a woman named Neela agrees to study under Mangal.
Unfortunately, Girdhar and Neela begin to fall in love, and Girdhar
becomes less focused on his studies. With music by Vasant Desai,
dance performances by Gopi Krishna, and some vocal performances by
Amir Khan. In Hindi with English subtitles (Dalal, Henderson).
Kaidan/Kwaidan. 1964. Directed by Masaki Kobayashi (Japan).
Distributed by Home Vision Entertainment. VHS and DVD, 164 mins.
Four stories of the supernatural based on Japanese folk material:
"The Black Hair," "The Woman of the Snow,"
"Hoichi, the Earless," and "In a Cup of Tea."
In the third story, a blind biwa player is commanded by a
gathering of ghosts to sing the saga of their ancient deeds, while
the head monk paints his body with prayer verses to protect him.
Music by Tôru Takemitsu. In Japanese with English subtitles
(Keister, Rapport). [ Toru ]
Kannathil Muthamittal/A Peck on the Cheek. 2002. Directed by
Mani Rathnam (India). Distributed by Ayngaran International. DVD,
130 mins. Like the director's earlier film, Anjali
(1990)—influential in its use of MTV-style editing—this
film revolves around a young adopted girl. Music by A. R. Rahman.
In Tamil with English subtitles (Wilpers).
Kill Bill: Vol. 1. 2003. Directed by Quentin Tarantino
(USA). Distributed by Buena Vista Home Entertainment. VHS and DVD,
111 mins. Tarantino's fourth film, laden with references to
Hong Kong and Japanese martial-arts flicks. Described by Peter
Bradshaw of The Guardian as "a martial-arts movie
universe where the normal laws of economics, police work,
physiology and gravity do not apply: a world composed of a
brilliantly allusive tissue of spaghetti western and Asian
martial-arts genres, on which the director's own, instantly
identifiable presence is mounted as a superstructure."
Musically, the film is "interesting, not because of the score
(which does not include any 'traditional' Japanese
music—though [it does include] nice use of Western themes and
Andean panpipe samples, often in a gapped scale) but because of the
[Japanese surf rock] group, the 5, 6, 7, 8s, that plays while Uma
is cutting off peoples' heads, arms, and feet." In English
with Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish subtitles (Harnish).
Kôkaku kidôtai/Ghost in the Shell. 1995.
Directed by Mamoru Oshii (Japan/UK). Distributed by Manga
Entertainment. Available from Facets Multi-Media. VHS and DVD, 82
mins. "Though not depicting music-making per se, this classic
of Japanese anime is well known for some of the most
gorgeous techno soundtrack music in all of Japanese
animation." Music by Kenji Kawai. In Japanese or English
(Wilpers). [ Kokaku kidotai ]
Kundun. 1997. Directed by Martin Scorsese (USA). Distributed
by Buena Vista Home Entertainment. VHS and DVD, 128 mins. A
dramatization of the life and work of the current Dalai Lama and
his ongoing struggle to regain independence for Tibet. Ron Wells on
FilmThreat.com notes that it is "mercifully free of white
teachers or saviors, such as, oh, say, Brad Pitt?" With music
by Philip Glass (Wilpers).
Lagaan. 2001. Directed by Ashutosh Gowariker (India).
Distributed by Sony Pictures. DVD, 224 mins. The people of a small
village in Victorian India stake their future on a game of cricket
against their ruthless British rulers. This film, nominated for an
Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film, "has a great
scene which deliberately contrasts 'Indian'-style music
with 'European'-style music…helpful in illustrating
how sonic ideals are culturally constructed." With music by A.
R. Rahman. In Hindi and English with English, French, Spanish,
Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai subtitles (Farrell, Hooker).
The Last Emperor. 1987. Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
(France/Italy/UK). Distributed by Artisan Entertainment. Available
from Facets Multi-Media. VHS and DVD, 160 mins. History of Henry Pu
Yi, last ruling member of the Qing dynasty (1906-1967), based on
his autobiography, Wo di qian ban sheng/From Emperor to
Citizen (1964). Music by David Byrne, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and
Cong Su (Williams).
The Last Samurai. 2003. Directed by Edward Zwick (USA/New
Zealand/Japan). Distributed by Warner Home Video. VHS and DVD, 154
mins. Epic set in Japan during the 1870s, starring Tom Cruise as an
American military officer hired to train Japan's first army. J.
Hoberman in The Village Voice refers to it as
"Dances With Wolves…in Kimono," and writes,
"As in Dances With Wolves, the big moment comes when
the hero goes native—donning kimono and practicing his
martial moves, while trying to grasp the mystery of 'no
mind' (not a Hollywood problem)." Original music by Hans
Lord Jim. 1965. Directed by Richard Brooks (UK/USA).
Distributed by Columbia Tristar Home Video. VHS, 154 mins. NLA.
Peter O'Toole stars in this adaptation of Joseph Conrad's
novel. Music by Bronislau Kaper, but "it includes some
Balinese gamelan and gagaku" (Harnish).
Mughal-e-Azam. 1961. Directed by K. Asif (India).
Distributed by Shemaroo Video. DVD, 173 mins. Set in the sixteenth
century, this is "a story about a prince that falls in love
with a dancing girl. The score is by Naushad, the Max Steiner of
Bollywood." In production for fifteen years, this was the most
expensive film ever produced in India before the release of Sanjay
Leela Bhansali's Devdas in 2002. In Urdu with English
subtitles (Farrell, Henderson).
Mukundo/Mask of Desire. 2000. Directed by Tsering Rhitar
Sherpa (Nepal/Japan). 35mm, 105 mins. NLA. The first feature film
by this Indian-trained Nepali director, this film builds on the
theme of the collision of traditional and modern values explored in
his 1997 documentary, The Spirit Doesn't Come Anymore.
In Nepali with English subtitles (Wilpers).
Naam hoi sap saam long/The Mad Phoenix. 1997. Directed by
Clifton Ho (Hong Kong). Distributed by Tai Seng Entertainment. VHS,
110 mins. "[T]his adaptation of a play by Raymond To relates
the tragic true-life story of a brilliant but disturbed
twentieth-century Cantonese opera dramatist and composer." In
Mandarin with Chinese and English subtitles (Wilpers).
Nagasaki burabura bushi/Strolling Through Nagasaki: A
Ballad. 2000. Directed by Yukio Fukamachi (Japan). Distributed
by Toei Company, Ltd. Available from Neo Wing Co. DVD, 115 mins. An
aging scholar (Watari Tetsuya) and a legendary geisha
(Yoshinaga Sayuri) travel through the country collecting old songs.
Based on the Naoki Prize-winning novel of the same name by Rei
Nakanishi. In Japanese (Hughes).
Once Were Warriors. 1995. Directed by Lee Tamahori (New
Zealand). Distributed by New Line Cinema. VHS and DVD, 103 mins.
"A powerful drama about urban Maori, domestic violence, etc.
There are many significant musical features, and they give some
good indications of contemporary and recent Maori musical culture
and contexts. The soundtrack was the first readily available
recording released in the US featuring contemporary Maori bands
from the '80s and '90s. Original styles have developed
further since then…but, as in the film, reggae, hip hop and
r & b are very widespread and popular, and the film provides
these in various contexts: barrooms, parties, karaoke….There
is also a party scene that gives a good demonstration of the Maori
love of group singing, and has examples of neo-traditional and
popular songs. The use of taonga puoro (traditional Maori
instruments—primarily winds) [is also interesting]: for
example, a bullroarer (purerehua) is used during violent
scenes. [While] it provides a great effect, some Maori objected to
this as an inappropriate context for this instrument, as it was
associated in some areas with spiritual/religious practices"
Onmyoji. 2001. Directed by Yojiro Takita (Japan).
Distributed by Geneon/Pioneer. Available from Facets Multi-Media.
DVD, 116 mins. "Japan is currently in the midst of a revival
of the tenth-century yin-yang master Abe no Seimei," writes
Mary Jacobi of the Village Voice, "with serial novels,
manga and even a Brin Eno CD paying tribute to his legend. Yojiro
Takita's Onmyoji, number one at the Japanese box office
in 2001, succeeds in visual splendor (it was shot on location in
Kyoto) but falls flat on characterization." Music by Shigeru
Pather Panchali/ Song of the Road. 1955. Directed by
Satyajit Ray (India). Distributed by Columbia Tristar Home Video.
DVD, 126 mins. Story of a poor rural Brahmin family cursed with bad
luck. Father Hari is a dreamer and a poet, while his hard-working
wife struggles to feed the family. Music by Ravi Shankar. In
Bengali with English subtitles (Willams).
Qateh-ye natamam/The Unfinished Song. 2001. Directed by
Maziar Miri (Iran). 35mm, 94 mins. NLA. "In this film…a
young researcher attempts to document the disappearing folk music
of remote Khorasan while coping with the barriers of Islamic and
local culture." With music by Mohammad Reza Darvishi. In Farsi
with English subtitles (Hooshmand, Wilpers).
Qin song/The Emperor's Shadow. 1996. Directed by Zhou
Xiaowen (Hong Kong/China). Distributed by Fox Lorber. Available
from Facets Multi-Media. VHS and DVD, 116 mins. "This lavish
saga…is set in the third century BC, when a master of the
ancient guqin zither is taken prisoner by his childhood
friend, who seeks to become China's first emperor."
Mandarin with English subtitles (Wilpers).
Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam/Master, Mistress and Servant. 1962.
Directed by Abrar Alvi (India). Distributed by Sky Entertainment.
Available from Nehaflix.com. DVD, 152 mins. "The voices of
playback singers Geeta Dutt and Asha Bhosle resonate throughout
this tragic tale of the decline of feudalism as told through
contrasting female characters. The doomed zamindar's
affection for 'dancing girls' and all-night parties
provides plenty of opportunities for spectacular dance and music
scenes." Hindi and Urdu with English subtitles (Wilpers).
Sardari Begum. 1996. Directed by Shyam Benegal (India).
35mm. NLA. "[A]bout a thumri singer who had been disowned by
her family for learning music from a courtesan and became employed
by a wealthy landlord. The singer's accidental death during a
religious festival leads a journalist to investigate the
singer's life, forcing her to confront conflicts in her own
relationships." In Hindi (Wilpers).
Seopyeonje/Sopyonje. 1993. Directed by Im Kwon-Taek (South
Korea). Distributed by Tae Hung Films. VHS and VCD, 112 mins. NLA.
"One of the most popular Korean films ever made, Sopyonje is
[a] compelling story of a former orphan in search of the woman with
whom he grew up and with whom he shared the rigors of training in
[pansori]." In Korean with English subtitles (Hilts,
Shall we dansu?/Shall We Dance? 1996. Directed by Masayuki
Suo (Japan). Distributed by Buena Vista Home Entertainment. VHS,
119 mins. Comedy in which a middle-aged accountant signs up for a
ballroom dance class in hopes of meeting the dance instructor, with
whom he is obsessed. Of particular interest in this film is how
Japanese subjects view "'Latinness' as a symbol of
sexiness and freer personal expression." In Japanese with
English subtitles (Hooker).
Shankarabharanam. 1979. Directed by Kashinadhuri Viswanath
(India). Distributed by EVP. Available from Nehaflix.com. DVD, 143
mins. A prostitute runs away from home and becomes the student of a
renowned musician, but her guru must then face ostracization by
society. Later remade by the director into the Hindi-language film,
Sur Sangam (1985). In Telugu with English subtitles
Shichinin no samurai/Seven Samurai. 1954. Directed by Akira
Kurosawa (Japan). Distributed by Home Vision Entertainment. VHS and
DVD, 207 mins. Classic samurai film starring Toshiro Mifune,
which director John Sturges later turned into a Western in The
Magnificent Seven (1960). Includes "brief yet satisfying
glimpses of biwa and dengaku performance." In
Japanese with English subtitles (Stanfield).
Shunjû: Ten no amijima/Double Suicide. 1969. Directed
by Masahiro Shinoda (Japan). Distributed by Home Vision
Entertainment. VHS and DVD, 104 mins. In this adaptation of a
bunraku play (with music by Tôru Takemitsu), a paper
merchant sacrifices family, fortune, and ultimately life for his
erotic obsession with a prostitute. In Japanese with English
subtitles (Stanfield). [ Shunju Toru ]
Sokout/The Silence. 1998. Directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf
(Iran/Tajikistan/France). Distributed by New Yorker Films. VHS, 77
mins. Film "about a blind boy whose susceptibility to
distraction by music disrupts his regimented life. His relationship
with a musical instrument-maker leads him to imagine whole new (and
old) worlds of sound. The film is thought to be
semi-autobiographical, as the director's own grandmother
insisted he cover his ears when walking past the classical Western
music shops in Tehran to avoid the corrupting influence." In
Farsi with English subtitles (Wilpers).
Tansen. 1943. Directed by Jayant Desai (India). 122 mins.
NLA. "[S]tars the famous singer K. L. Saigal as the historical
figure of Tansen, the Mughal court composer and performer for the
emperor Akbar. Desai presents the story as a love fantasy beween
Tansen and a shepherdess, in which is displayed Indian music's
legendary ability to calm animals, cause trees to flower, and cure
the gravely ill. In the court, Tansen is required to cure
Akbar's daughter with rag dipak, whose ability to
cause fires almost consumes the singer until his beloved
shepherdess, played by the singer Kurshid, sings the rain-making
rag megh malhar to save him." In Hindi (Dalal,
Umrao Jaan. 1981. Directed by Muzaffar Ali (India/Pakistan).
Distributed by DEI. Available from Nehaflix.com. DVD, 145 mins.
"Based on an Urdu book thought to be the autobiography of a
nineteenth-century courtesan, [this] film tells the story of a
small girl who is sold in Lucknow, trained in music and dance,
becomes wildly popular, falls in love with an aristocrat, but [then
must] escape his clautrophobic companionship with the help of a
bandit. The many popular ghazals in the film are sung by Asha
Bhosle." Starring Rekha as Umrao Jaan. In Urdu with English
subtitles (Dalal, Widdess, Wilpers).
Whale Rider/Te kaieke tohora. 2003. Directed by Niki Caro
(New Zealand). Distributed by Columbia Tristar Home Video. VHS and
DVD, 102 mins. A small Maori village faces a crisis when the heir
to the leadership of the Ngati Konohi dies at birth and is survived
only by his twin sister, Paikea (played by Keisha Castle-Hughes,
who also appears in Star Wars: Episode III  as Queen
of Naboo). Includes "a number of good examples of haka
and various traditional music and dance styles, and these
performances were set in a very important performance context: the
marae (Maori meeting grounds). It also includes some good
footage of teaching traditional performance styles" (Fohrman,
Windhorse. 1998. Directed by Paul Wagner (USA). Distributed
by New Yorker Films. VHS, 97 mins. Uses a documentary style and
amateur actors to create a picture of contemporary Tibetan life,
with some scenes shot in Lhasa. Described by Peter Stack in the
San Francisco Chronicle as "a searing political
drama…that rips the veils off Western idealism about
Tibet." In English, Chinese, and Tibetan with English
Wrong Side of the Road. 1983. Directed by Ned Lander
(Australia). Distributed by Ronin Films. VHS, 79 mins. Port
Adelaide to Point Pearce. Cars, cops, cattle stations and driving
rock and reggae. Two days in the lives of Aboriginal bands, Us Mob
and No Fixed Address (Henderson) [41/1].
The Year of Living Dangerously. 1982. Directed by Peter Weir
(Australia). Distributed by Warner Home Video. DVD, 117 mins. An
Australian reporter (Mel Gibson) covering political events in
Indonesia becomes involved with a British attaché (Sigourney
Weaver) in this film by the director of the cult classic, The
Cars That Ate Paris (1974). "The film opens with Javanese
wayang kulit, accompanied by full Javanese gamelan
(although the story takes place in Jakarta, nominally Sunda).
Wayang excerpts are brief but the central character, named
Billy (played by Linda Hunt), manipulates the other characters as
would a dalang and puppets are from time to time seen and
played to maintain the wayang theme" (Getter, Signell).
[ attache ]
Amadeus. 1984. Directed by Milos Forman (USA). Distributed
by Warner Home Video. VHS and DVD, 160 mins. Forman's
adaptation of Peter Shaffer's play, shot primarily in Prague,
with photography directed by Miroslav Ondricek, choreography
directed by Twyla Tharp, and music conducted and supervised by
Neville Marriner. Winner of eight Academy Awards (Morse).
Bodas de sangre/Blood Wedding. 1981. Directed by Carlos
Saura (Spain). Distributed by Movies Distribución S.L. DVD,
68 mins. Flamenco interpretation of Federico García
Lorca's play, with choreography by Antonio Gades and music by
Emilio de Diego. In Spanish with English subtitles (Dumas). [ Distribucion Garcia ]
The Commitments. 1991. Directed by Alan Parker
(Ireland/UK/USA). Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox. DVD, 118
mins. Based on Roddy Doyle's 1987 book about a poor Dublin rock
band that decides to bring soul music to Ireland (Lieberman).
Il Decamerone/The Decameron. 1971. Directed by Pier Paolo
Pasolini (Italy/France/West Germany). Distributed by MGM Home
Entertainment. DVD, 111 mins. An adaptation of eight stories by
Boccaccio. One of a number of Pasolini films that includes
recordings of world music—in this film, for example, he
"used many recordings made by Alan Lomax in Campania (Italy)
in 1954/55, and a few seconds of a recording made by Lomax and
Diego Carpitella in Calabria (1954)." In Italian with English,
French, and Spanish subtitles (Grady, Plastino).
Flamenco. 1995. Directed by Carlos Saura (Spain).
Distributed by New Yorker Films. VHS and DVD, 100 mins. A series of
flamenco dances performed by three hundred dancers and
photographed by the master cinematographer, Vittorio Storaro. In
Spanish with English subtitles (Dumas) [48/1].
Heftig og begeistret/Cool and Crazy. 2001. Directed by Knut
Erik Jensen (Sweden/Norway). Distributed by First Run Features. VHS
and DVD, 89 mins. Described by The Guardian as "the
best movie about music since Buena Vista Social Club,"
this film depicts the activities of a male choir at home in the
tiny village of Berlevåg, Norway, and on their Russian tour.
In Norwegian with English subtitles (Rasmussen) [47/1]. [ Berlevag ]
Höstsonaten/Autumn Sonata. 1978. Directed by Ingmar
Bergman (France/West Germany/Sweden). Distributed by Home Vision
Entertainment. VHS and DVD, 92 mins. A stunning union of two of
Sweden's national treasures, Autumn Sonata pairs Ingmar
Bergman with Ingrid Bergman for their only joint effort. Ingrid
plays a mother who, after forsaking her family for a music career,
attempts a reconciliation with her oldest daughter (Liv Ullmann)
through a night of painful revelation. In Swedish with English
subtitles (Lieberman). [ Hostsonaten ]
Latcho drom. 1993. Directed by Tony Gatlif (Algeria/France).
Distributed by New Yorker Films. VHS, 103 mins. "[D]ocumentary
on migrant gypsy music. Truly stunning cinematography and
soundtrack. Starts in India, and moves westward to Europe." In
French and Romani with English subtitles (Plementos, Samuels)
The Man Who Cried. 2001. Directed by Sally Potter (USA).
Distributed by Universal Studios. VHS and DVD, 100 mins.
"[S]tars Johnny Depp, Cate Blanchett, Christina Ricci, John
Turturro and others. Musical 'stars' include the Kronos
Quartet and Taraf de Haidouks, as well as opera stars Salvatore
Licitra and Iva Bittova. The film explores issues related to
hegemony, the ethnic cleansing of European 'gypsies' during
World War II, music and (as) national/ethnic identity, elitist vs.
folk traditions, and a number of other issues" (Hodges).
Les parapluies de Cherbourg/The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.
1964. Directed by Jacques Demy (France/Germany). Distributed by
Zeitgeist Films. VHS and DVD, 90 mins. "[A] charming French
musical with music by Michel LeGrand" and lyrics by the
director. Catherine Deneuve stars as a woman who is separated from
the father of her unborn child by the Algerian war. In French with
English subtitles (Farrell).
Pink Floyd: The Wall. 1982. Directed by Alan Parker (UK).
Distributed by Sony Music Entertainment/Columbia Music Video. DVD,
95 mins. Based on the 1979 double album of the same name, the film
focuses on a burnt-out rock star sitting in a hotel room in Los
Angeles. With animation by the British caricaturist Gerald Scarfe.
The director's later credits include Mississippi Burning
(1988), The Commitments (1991), Evita (1996), and
Angela's Ashes (1999). The DVD re-release includes
unreleased film footage, audio commentary, and two documentaries
The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash. 1978. Directed by Eric
Idle and Gary Weis (UK/USA). Distributed by Rhino Home Video. VHS
and DVD, 76 mins. Beatles parody by Monty Python's Eric Idle,
narrated by Eric Idle, and starring Eric Idle as Dirk McQuickly and
Stanley J. Krammerhead III, Jr., Occasional Visiting Professor of
Applied Narcotics at the University of Please Yourself Ca. With
appearances by John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Bill
Murray, George Harrison, and others (Lieberman).
Sayat Nova/The Color of Pomegranates. 1968. Directed by
Sergei Parajanov (USSR). Distributed by Kino International. VHS and
DVD, 79 mins. A tribute to the life of Armenian poet Sayat Nova by
one of Russia's premier filmmakers—told through allegory
and metaphor with almost no dialogue and evoking the poet's
life from childhood to death through tapestry-like paintings on
screen. In Armenian with English subtitles (Henderson).
Snatch. 2000. Directed by Guy Ritchie (UK/USA). Distributed
by Columbia Tristar Home Video. VHS and DVD, 104 mins. When jewel
thief, Franky Four Fingers (Benicio Del Toro), takes a slight
detour to London en route to delivering a huge stolen diamond to
his boss in New York, he unwittingly sets off an avalanche of
sinister and comic events. With music by 10cc, The Specials,
Massive Attack, Bobby Byrd, and others (Samuels).
Some Mother's Son. 1996. Directed by Terry George
(USA/Ireland). Distributed by Warner Home Video. VHS, 112 mins.
NLA. Based on the true story of the 1981 hunger strike in a British
prison, in which IRA prisoner Bobby Sands led a protest against the
treatment of IRA prisoners as criminals rather than as prisoners of
war. Music by Bill Whelan, the composer of the music for
Riverdance: The Show (1995) (Williams).
Taking Sides. 2001. Directed by István Szabó
(Germany). Distributed by New Yorker Films. VHS and DVD, 105 mins.
Based on events in the life of conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler,
this film is "about the different ways one can look at the
political uses and abuses of music. It's set in Germany just
following World War II and raises really interesting issues about
(western classical) music, its codes, and uses" (Koskoff).
[ Istvan Szabo Furtwangler ]
Train de vie/Trenul vietii/The Train of Life. 1999. Directed
by Radu Mihaileanu (France/Romania). Distributed by Paramount
Pictures. VHS, 103 mins. "Movie about a Jewish village in
Romania fleeing from the Nazis, [with] an absolutely incredible
scene where Romanian Jewish musicians and Romani musicians meet and
have a musical duel." Winner of twelve international film
awards. In French with English subtitles (Hill).
Die Trapp-Familie and Die Trapp-Familie in Amerika/The
Trapp Family and The Trapp Family in America. 1956/1958.
Directed by Wolfgang Liebeneiner (West Germany). Distributed by
Kinowelt GmbH. DVD, 98 mins. The original film was, like The
Sound of Music (1959, film version 1965), loosely based on
Maria Augusta Trapp's book, The Story of the Trapp Family
Singers (1949); following its premiere, Baroness Von Trapp is
said to have remarked, "Nothing is true, but it is
wonderful." The less successful and less interesting sequel
used much of the same cast and crew. Music by the prolific Franz
Grothe. In German (Cohen).
Tsirk/Circus. 1936. Directed by Grigori Alexandrov (USSR).
Distributed by Facets Multi-Media. VHS, 89 mins. Musical comedy
revolving around a white American circus artist (Lyubov Orlova) who
has a black child. "The lure of Western decadence overcome by
the ponderous Soviet chorus." In Russian with English
subtitles (Farrell, Henderson).
Urs al-jalil/Noce en Galilée/Wedding in Galilee.
1987. Directed by Michel Khleifi (France/Belgium/Palestine).
Distributed by Kino International. VHS and DVD, 113 mins. The elder
of a Palestinian village under Israeli military rule wants
permission to hold a traditional wedding for his son that will go
past the imposed curfeew. The army commander agrees on the
condition that he and his officers be invited as guests of honor at
the ceremony. In Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles
(Rasmussen, Williams). [ Galilee ]
The Who: The Kids Are Alright. 1979. Directed by Jeff Stein
(USA). Distributed by Geneon/Pioneer. Available from Facets
Multi-Media. VHS and DVD, 109 mins. Documentary of the group filmed
by an American fan; premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1979.
Available in special and deluxe editions (Wollman).
Yidl mitn Fidl/Yidl with a Fiddle. 1936. Directed by Joseph
Green (Poland/USA). Distributed by Ergo Home Video. VHS and DVD, 92
mins. Classic musical comedy in which a shtetl girl poses as
a man in order to join a band of klezmer musicians.
"Molly Picon is delightful; I don't care if she was
40" (Cohen, Farrell).
Zorba the Greek. 1964. Directed by Michael Cacoyannis
(Greece/UK/USA). Distributed by Fox Home Entertainment. VHS, 142
mins. NLA. Set on the island of Crete, this is the story of Basil,
an inhibited English writer (Alan Bates), who is befriended by
Alexis Zorba, a boisterous peasant (Anthony Quinn). "Great
statement on gender roles in this film….Lament scene, Zorba
on the beach dancing scene, dancing to the old
victrola—there's a lot there." With music by Mikis
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