Flight of the Airship Norge over the Arctic Ocean

July 31, 2012 at 8:43 am | Posted in Documentary Review, Film Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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The 41st Wellington Film Festival is on; I went to “Flight of the Airship Norge over the Arctic Ocean” – Luftskibit Norge’s flugt over Polhavet.

This was silent black-&-white documentary movie made in 1926 of Roald Amundsen, Lincoln Ellswort and Umberto Nobile’s flight in the airship Norge from King’s Bay (Ny-Alesun) on the island of Spitzbergen over the North Pole to Teller Alaska, using footage shot by the expedition – including footage from the flight itself.

This was the only 35mm film shown at the Festival; and it used the only print in the world – by kind permission of The National Library of Norway (Nasjonalbiblioteket). Who are most generous in letting such an excellent print out of their care. The film was continuously accompanied by a piano – played by Nikau Palm; and the norwegian titles read out by a volunteer from the local Norwegian community. Both did very well – considering the showing lasted 99 minutes!

By modern standards the pace was a bit slow. But it was just fascinating – it was like going back in time to see how people lived in 1926. We saw not just the leaders of the expedition but the many men (and women) involved.

The expedition was like something out of an modern Norse saga. Sixteen adventurers set out in a frail airship to embark on a 46 hour flight from King’s Bay to Teller via the North Pole. We see the careful preparation – a hallmark of Amundsen was his preparation – a temporary airship hanger is built at King’s Bay, out of thousands of metres of wood and square metres of canvas. An entire base in the snowscape must first be established. We see the flight and the subsequent crash landing in Teller. Then the crew is feted everywhere they go – as they journey back to Norway.

The film also shows Admiral Byrd’s flight to the Pole – just days before Amundsen sets off. [There is controversy as to whether Byrd actually reached the Pole or not.]

The film also exhibits two techniques of film making: special graphical effects and editing footage to portray another meaning. An example of the first is the building and progression of the hanger is done by a series of drawings progressively showing more and more of the vast wooden frame walls. An examples of clever editing is the re-use of the same sequence taken from airship cupola to portray different stages of the flight.

I am very glad I went. I got to go back in time in two ways: the film itself, and the experience of a live piano and ‘talker’.


Crazy Horse

July 28, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Posted in Dance Review, DVD Review, Film Review, Musical Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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The 41st Wellington Film Festival is on; I went to Federick Wiseman’s Crazy Horse – a film about the Paris nightclub of the same name.

The film is made in the same style as Wiseman’s La danse: fly-on-the-wall over a few days, apparently without much editing.

This particular screening was very fly-on-th-wall: there were no sub-titles! The audience got to experience the French, a tiny bit of Russian (at least one of the dancers is Russian), and a short burst of English, unassisted. The disconnect created by not understanding the dialogue made for a surreal experience; the slow bleed of people leaving the film and the staff announcements about ‘technical difficulties’ added a performance art nuance.

The dancers are technically very proficient – though the sway back, bottom accentuating posture must make their former ballet teachers grind their teeth. And of course the dancers are very good looking. There is lots of nudity; the dancers are clearly comfortable with their bodies and being unclothed, the practical needs of quick costume changes means that they wonder around backstage without much on.

The Crazy Horse nightclub visual esthetic is not at all raunchy – the naked body is so clinically presented and adorned that the naked aspect of the performance is not the focal point. (Or maybe there was so much nudity I became accustomed to it!)

Most of the film is of the dancers on stage or of dancers rehearsing or new sequences being put together – so no aural comprehension is required. There are meetings of the back office staff; by the body language, especially the hand waving its not all plain sailing at the nightclub – we just don’t know what the disturbance are about.

So even without sub-titles it is a good watch. If you are watching in a theatre that serves drinks, order champagne – it will be just like being in Paris at the club!


July 15, 2012 at 10:09 am | Posted in Musical Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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… with the BeatGirls (and Jason Chasland) … a clever parody of 60’s and 70’s music (produced and influenced by Phil Spector) … a history of 60’s and 70’s music (using Phil Spector to connect the songs) … the story of Phil Spector … the wall of sound – (one of Spector’s many innovations).

I went to the opening night of this new BeatGirls show.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, having been to a number of BeatGirls gigs – where they sang some wonderful covers. But this was a show – a story, drama, … . This was also a departure for the Girls – having a male guest performer.

Some of the audience were dressed in 60’s and 70’s outfits. Some of the audience looked like they caught some of the music first time around – they clearly enjoyed the show and the music. Not being a baby-boomer, I missed many of the references.

Spector is a ‘show of two halves’: 60’s music leading up to the intermission, and 70’s music after. The first half was restrained and tidy; the second was psychedelic and a loss-of-innocence (was there really that much sexual goings-on?). In the first half, the Girls were dressed as tidy inspirations for Amy Winehouse – very ‘Mod’; in the second, the Girls were in 70’s flower child outfits (complete with John Lennon headbands). The first half was a music history lesson; the second was a riot of events – culminating in where Spector is currently living (prison) and how he got there (2nd degree murder of Lana Clarkson). In the first half, the wall of sound was explained and demonstrated; in the second it got out of control – I can see why Paul McCartney eventually released Let it Be … Naked – the wall tended to overwhelm the lead singer.

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