Blu-rays of the Week
Jack Goes Boating (Anchor Bay) – For his directorial debut, Philip Seymour Hoffman helmed this adaptation of Bob Glaudini’s play (which Hoffman starred in off-Broadway) about a loner who finds a soul mate amid the noisy clutter of New York. Hoffman directs sensitively, and his and Amy Ryan’s portrayals are first-rate; John Ortiz and Daphne Rubin-Vega (who both acted with Hoffmann in the play) are less impressive in the showier roles of Jack‘s closest friends. The low-key romantic character study gets a good-looking, clean Blu-ray transfer; extras include deleted scenes and two on-set featurettes.
The Passenger (Neos) – Polish-Russian composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s shattering 1968 opera about the Holocaust’s devastating emotional fallout on survivors receives its first recording, of this excellent 2010 production from Austria’s Bregenz Festival. Weinberg’s music rawly exposes the post-war wounds of characters precisely rendered from Zofia Posmysz’s original novella (basis of Andrzej Munk’s last film before his premature death in 1961). David Poutney’s stealthy staging intercuts the present with camp flashbacks; video director Felix Breisach superbly renders the visuals on Blu-ray; the playing and singing are equally top-notch. Included is a half-hour documentary about Weinberg, In der Fremde. To further explore Weinberg’s charged music, a two-disc set of his solo Viola Sonatas featuring Julia Rebekka Adler is available, also from Neos.
DVDs of the Week
Framed (PBS) – Based on Frank Cottrell Boyce’s young adult book, this engrossing tale shows how a London National Gallery curator’s life is turned upside down while accompanying paintings to a Welsh mining town for safekeeping. He meets many eccentric characters—one of whom, a young boy, he mistakes for an art-history prodigy—and falls for a warm-hearted schoolteacher. Much of Framed is based on the clichéd notion of an elitist’s comeuppance at the hands of commoners, but it’s played to such perfection by Trevor Eve and Eve Myers in the leads (with colorful support from Welsh landscapes and denizens) that it ends up being 90 minutes of blissful entertainment.
Neshoba: The Price of Freedom (First Run) – Forty-five years after the brutal murders of three civil rights workers in Mississippi, this documentary returns to the crime scene to explore the fallout from a form of American racism that continues today. Interviews with members of the families of the murdered workers, locals sympathetic to the white supremacists who committed the crimes, and even Edgar Ray Killen, a Baptist pastor who was finally convicted (but only of manslaughter) keep alive a compelling, historic case that still defines our world today. Extras include a short film, Get on Board, and courtroom footage from Killen’s trial.
CDs of the Week
Hindemith: Music for Viola and Orchestra (Hyperion) – German composer Paul Hindemith (1895-1963), an expert on the viola, wrote much solo, chamber and orchestral music for an instrument that often falls in a no-man’s-land between the higher violin and lower cello. For this third volume of recordings of Hindemith’s viola music, Lawrence Power is soloist in four of Hindemith’s most characteristic works: the one-movement Konzertmusik and Trauermusik, Kammermusik No. 5, a concertino of sorts, and three-movement Der Schwanendreher (Concerto After Old Folksongs). Accompanied by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under conductor David Atherton, violist Power captures the sheer musicality and plaintive quality of Hindemith’s music.
Tüür: Strata (ECM) – Estonia, a small country rich in musical traditions, claims Arvo Part as its most famous composer; one of the most accomplished of the next generation is Erkki-Sven Tüür, a 51-year-old composer who has written much acclaimed orchestral and choral music. (His composition Aditus has its New York premiere by the New York Philharmonic in February.) This disc contains two of his most distinctive works: Symphony No. 6, Strata; and Noesis, a concerto for clarinet and violin. Sympathetic readings by conductor Anu Tali and the Nordic Symphony Orchestra play to Tüür’s strengths, as oases of near-stillness irrupt on more skittering, skittish sound worlds. Ingenious structural arrangements give Tüür a unique thumbprint in contemporary music.