Nominally focusing on Hong Kong pianist Margaret Leng Tan, docu is really interested in the piano as a locus for developments in 20th-century music, drawing a line back through Tan to John Cage, George Crumb and Philip Glass. Austere elements and style make this a tough sell to general auds, but there's lots of red meat for music buffs.

Nominally focusing on Hong Kong pianist Margaret Leng Tan, this wide-ranging docu is really interested in the piano as a locus for developments in 20th-century music, drawing a line back through Tan to John Cage, George Crumb, Philip Glass and other modern innovators. Austere elements and repetitive style make this a tough sell to general auds, but there’s lots of red meat for serious music buffs.

Some of the grainy digital filmmaking from Evans Chan (“The Map of Sex and Love”) is rather amateurish, however, and the biographical information, when he occasionally comes to rest on his subject, is often more interesting than the musicological stuff. Most importantly, her playful approach to all keyboards, including wonderfully ludicrous toy pianos, helps get across material that would be otherwise inaccessible.

Sorceress Of The New Piano

U.S.-Singapore-Hong Kong

Production

A Hong Kong Arts Center production. (International sales: Hong Kong Arts Center). Produced, directed, written by Evans Chan.

Crew

Camera, (color, BetaSP) Chan; music, John Cage, George Crumb, Henry Cowell. Reviewed at Vancouver Film Festival (nonfiction features), Sept. 24, 2004. Running time: 91 MIN.

With

Margaret Leng Tan, John Cage.
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