Review: ‘Aria’

Aria, a string of selections from 10 operas illustrated by 10 directors, is a film that could not have happened without the advent of music videos.

Aria, a string of selections from 10 operas illustrated by 10 directors, is a film that could not have happened without the advent of music videos.

Producer Don Boyd, who orchestrated the project, instructed the directors not to depict what was happening to the characters in the operas but to create something new out of the emotion and content expressed in the music. The arias were the starting point.

Result is both exhilaratingly successful and distractingly fragmented. Individual segments are stunning but they come in such speedy succession that overall it is not a fully satisfying film experience.

Selections also represent a variety of filmmaking styles from Bruce Beresford’s rather pedestrian working of a love theme from Korngold’s Die tote Stadt to Ken Russell’s characteristically excessive treatment of an idea distilled from Puccini’s Turandot.

Structurally, the most ambitious of the selections is Jean-Luc Godard’s working of Lully’s Armide which he transposes to a body building gym where two naked women try to attract the attention of the men.

The most striking clash of images is achieved by Franc Roddam who moves Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde to Las Vegas. As the lush strains of the music blare, the neon sea of the casinos has never looked more strange.

Aria

US - UK

Production

Lightyear/Virgin. Director Nicolas Roeg, Charles Sturridge, Jean-Luc Godard, Julien Temple, Bruce Beresford, Robert Altman, Franc Roddam, Ken Russell, Derek Jarman, Bill Bryden; Producer Don Boyd; Camera Harvey Harrison, Gale Tattersall, Carolyn Champeti, Oliver Stapleton, Dante Spinotti, Pierre Mignot, Frederick Elmes, Micke Southon, Gabriel Beristain Editor Tony Lawson, Matthew Longfellow, Jean-Luc Godard, Neil Abrahamson, Marie-Therese Boiche, Robert Altman, Rick Elgood, Michael Bradsell, Peter Cartwright, Mike Cragg

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1987. Running time: 98 MIN.

With

Theresa Russell Nicola Swain Buck Henry Julie Hagerty Tilda Swinton John Hurt
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