FILM, MUSIC, ART REVIEWS (BELOW)
What a piece of work is man and what a load of crap is Troy — a two hundred million dollar gold brick of a movie is still a bloody brick of a movie! Sorry, some of what follows proceeds under the haze of the first bottle I could lay my hands upon fleeing the theatre — the Iceman sincerely wishes he had grabbed it before he went to the multiplex. Looking at the film in stark sobriety is a fate he wishes on no one. Had Schliemann seen the film he would have left the fabled city buried.
Had the film been cut of cleaner cloth it would have been an amusing enough diversion–there is Pitt for the lassies (and I imagine for a few of the lads) and Orlando Bloom to assure prepubescent admissions and the cagey Peter O’ Toole and Brian Cox to add a bit of class to an otherwise lackluster affair. But these pleasures aside, there is the prickly fact of an author named Homer and a marginally esteemed poem called the Iliad. If memory serves the Iceman well (an arguably dubious proposition) the Trojan War raged over a period of ten years. The whole of the Iliad transpires during a 47 day period at the end of that decade. As Peterson and company would have it, the war and Achilles battle with Hector occupied a few days after the Greek fleet landed on Ilium’s star-crossed shore.
Homer would have had no patience with Hollywood endings. He leaves the episode of the Trojan Horse out of the Iliad, altogether. And then there’s that little lapse concerning Agamemnon. The thirteen years olds cheered when the dastardly king was skewered at the film’s conclusion. We have, however, the little wrinkle of a piece by Aeschylus. Some of you might remember his Orestia. This was a trilogy that predated the recently celebrated adventures of Frodo and Aragorn. Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides have, as well, been well celebrated and one might suggest even a tad influential down the millennia. The heady concept of blood revenge, threading through generations, stems from double dealings, backstabbings and a pie that only Cox, the original Hannibal Lecter, might enjoy at the house of Atreus. The problem we have here folks is simply that if Agamemnon dies at Troy then he doesn’t get offed by the lovely Clytmenystra upon his return to Mycenae. If not killed by his wife, Orestes and Electra would have little taste or motivation for the crime of matricide and Orestes would have no cause to be pursued by the furies. But who reads an old fart like Homer in today’s demographics? He was blind, so he probably got the story wrong, anyway! Dear me, Messy Messy …
Enough, already! Troy is truly not worth the cyber space this rant is occupying. If you want a genuine Trojan hero drop a nickel on Jon Vickers’ performance of Aeneas from a work by a genuineHector — any five minutes of the score to Les Troyens puts the whole of Troy to laughable shame. When Achilles’ ass is more lovingly photographed than the face that launched a thousand ships you know you’re entitled to another drink — Go see Hellboy — at least Perlman ain’t no sissy.
LA PHIL: BRUCKNER’S 7TH
The Iceman is asked to review an evening with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the L.A. Phil. The last concert he assayed at the Dorothy Chandler was during the Reagan era. Carl Maria Giulini was the director of the philharmonic. Mahler’s 2nd Symphony was conducted by that reliable old Indian fart, Zubin Mehta. The Iceman muses that Maestro Salonen will surely be more spry of step than Maestro Mehta. Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and Bruckner’s 7th Symphony are the featured works of the proffered evening. He has long loved the Bruckner. He is enveloped in a wave of nostalgia, as if a forgotten adagio flooded his memory. He agrees to attend.
He is assured of press-comps to the affair. The night before the performance he contacts the ticket office. He discovers that no such provisions have been made. He insists they recheck their vouchers. Reluctantly, he plays the fame card – he identifies himself as the “Iceman.” He is offered a pair of seats in the nosebleed section of the third balcony. He reluctantly accepts.
On the evening of performance the battery in his Timex dies. The battery costs more than the watch it had empowered. He unceremoniously disposes of both. Free from the constraints of his chronometer he will later be hopelessly late for the concert. He phones the philharmonic. He requests a short delay in the performance. His request is greeted with risible incredulity. He and his date arrive unfashionably late to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
He pleads for late seating. Here he meets with a measure of success. He and his companion are seated in front of a 19” TV in a lounge area, adjacent to a bar. The 2nd movement Andante of the Mendelssohn meekly squeaks through a broken speaker of the television. The Iceman believes all of the above is an excellent excuse for a drink. He orders a double.
Half way through his libation, the violinist, Sayaka Shoji concludes the Mendelssohn. She plays an encore. As near as he could tell both performances were spirited and strong – which is more than he can say for his ten dollar scotch.
Somewhere during his third double he notices the intermission crowd has thinned as significantly as the ice in his overpriced drink. To his horror he hears the applause greeting the return of the celebrated conductor. The Iceman is about to be unfashionably late for the second half of the program.
During his bolt to the top balcony, the cellos of the Bruckner’s stately 7th symphony begin their somber Wagnerian travail. The Iceman presents his tickets to the unsmiling usher barring his entrance. Tickets have been purchased so seats shall surely be provided. The Iceman and date are, once again, escorted to the lounge and seated in front of the 19″ TV. He resolves to be philosophical. He orders another drink.
Bruckner’s symphonic works each extend past the better part of an hour. This fact gives the Iceman ample time to plot. The Bastille will not long remain secure. Fortified by his single malt he drags his companion to the Founders Circle in the first balcony. Surely some socialites will have departed for livelier entertainment. With a little verve and pluck the Iceman may yet prevail. He steels himself in the spiritual belief that he, more than any other deserves to hear his beloved Bruckner from inside the auditorium. He believes his aesthetic fortitude is beyond mortal resistance. He will not be turned aside. He bribes the usher.
As the 1st movement concludes he is lead to two seats worth five times the ones from which he was initially turned away. The Iceman and companion are seated. They note that the audience has diligently saved their coughs and wheezes for the present interval. They resign themselves to unprotected pestilence. The Iceman is pleased. He settles-in for the final three movements of the mighty 7th .
The Adagio is a tragic anticipation Wagner’s demise. Musicologists have suggested that Bruckner knew Wagner to be ill and believed him to be dying as he put pen to staff and outlined the second movement, a year before the death of his beloved master. He recalls this touching bit of balderdash as the violins begin the 2nd movement. The adagio is one of the loveliest evocations of the late 19th century. It alone proves to be well worth the price of admission. The balderdash becomes almost believable.
The Scherzo is wildly energetic. Esa-Pekka is justly famed for the power behind his baton. Bruckners’ circular structure turns again and again upon itself until each theme has been wholly developed and magnificently concluded. The finale of the piece develops its major themes and sustains its heroic and elegiac tone. It concludes crisply, an hour and fifteen minutes from the 1st downbeat of the maestro’s baton.
The Iceman and audience rise rapturously to their feet. He is gratified that, in the least, he has at last been inaugurated into the musical reign of Mr. Salonen. As the conductor turns to receive the adoration of the crowd he appears more aged and ponderous than the Iceman imagined the youthful director to be. The Iceman himself is, of course, more aged and ponderous than he would care to remember, but something in the conductor’s carriage is oddly familiar.
Alas, the conductor turns out to be that reliable old Indian fart, Zubin Mehta.He notes the performance was Mr. Mehta’s final foray in the hall he inaugurated as director in 1967.
The Iceman is touched. He commendeths Mr. Mehta and the L.A. Philharmonic for a memorable evening.
Los Angeles Times
Letter to the Editor
Re: Theater Etiquette
I am a senior citizen volunteer at the Los Angeles Dorothy Chandler Music Center. I was helping out in the ticket office at noon yesterday. A man who called himself the “Iceman” demanded press-comps for the “Salonen” Bruckner. Iceman? Salonen? I was ready to disconnect—he persisted in his demand for free tickets and finally purchased a pair of cheap seats in the rear of the third balcony.
That evening the disheveled “Iceman” arrived at the pavilion. I first caught sight of him and his surprisingly normal consort from my station at the closed doors at the third balcony. The performance had already begun. He bounded from the orchestra to the balcony oblivious to the opening salvos of Mendelssohn’s violin concerto—his companion was more slowly resigned as she progressed from stair to ascending stair.
I could not allow a disruption once the performance had commenced. He identified himself imperiously as “The Iceman” and demanded egress—I escorted his companion to the lounge as he brushed past us both to the bar. He began to swill down one double scotch after another. He complained bitterly of the closed circuit TV and the inadequacy of the speakers. He decried the ostentation of Zubin Mehta’s former tenure as head of the L.A. Phil. Salonen was at least an artist of the first rank. He barely noticed that Sayaka Shoji had concluded the Mendelssohn and began her spirited encore.
The more he complained the more he drank and the more he drank the more he complained, he was raving and each downed single malt raised the decibel level to a harrowing new intensity. Only the crowd at intermission dampened his incessant caterwauling. The crowd slowly ebbed to the bar and as slowly flowed back to the auditorium as the orchestra reassembled—the Iceman merely ebbed. As the Bruckner began its opening allegro he once again had failed to successfully negotiate his return—halfway through the first movement I could hear his raving at the door— and his renewed demands of access—the Iceman was again denied—he begged, he burned, he cajoled and even offered petty bribes—at each juncture he was spurned—a discernible weeping companioned the pathos of the first violins. We allowed him entrance during the lull between the 1st and 2nd movements—his lovely companion preferred the anonymity of the lounge. By concert’s end he was obviously much moved by Salonen’s Bruckner—at least until I informed him that Zubin Mehta had, once again, been at the baton.
BRUNO MASCOLO: AN APPRECIATION (LINK)