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Laramie Movie Scope:

Ten short segments from ten directors in a tribute to 300 years of opera

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by Patrick Ivers, Film Critic
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(1987) Ten short cinematic segments (varying from four to 14 minutes) from ten directors, produced by Don Boyd, associate images to musical themes in a tribute to 300 years of opera.

Set in 1931 Vienna, director/writer Nicholas Roeg sets Giuseppe Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera to the story of the small, effeminate King Zog (Theresa Russell), accompanied by his large military bodyguards, in love with a beautiful baroness (Stephanie Lane), targeted by three assassins as he attends an operatic performance (no dialogue, focus on the eyes) with an unexpected turn of events. Also relying only on the libretto of Verdi's "La Virgine Degli Angeli" from La Forza Del Destino, director/writer Charles Sturridge films in black-and-white a contrast of religious iconography with automobiles as three teens in London steal a car.

Two attractive girls in robes clean furniture and equipment in a gym as large bodybuilders pump iron working out, appearing oblivious to the females (who wield knives in their love/hate of the men) even when they disrobe and touch the bulging muscles of bodies built for love in writer/director Jean-Luc Goddard's surreal depiction of desire and denial to Jean-Baptiste Lully's Armide.

In a bedroom farce of a producer Preston (Buck Henry) leaving his supposedly ailing wife Gilda (Beverly D'Angelo) in bed for the night to romp with an actress Phoebe (Anita Morris) at San Luis Obispo's Madonna Inn where he (unable to keep his hands to himself) films their lovemaking, writer/director Julien Temple has Gilda promptly join her lover Jake (Garry Kasper) at the same location doing much the same in an adjacent room to Verdi's Rigoletto, including an Elvis impersonator lip-syncing the aria.

An ephemeral event of the past in Bruges, Belgium, writer/director Bruce Bereford in "Spirits of the Dead City" brings alive virginal Marietta (Elizabeth Hurley) with her inamorato Paul (Peter Birch) in an idyllic, turn-of-the-19th-century, once-upon-a-time cantabile prelude to coition, the lovers vocalizing Erich Korngold's "The Lute Song" from Die Tote Stadt.

Inmates of an insane asylum during the 18th century attend a performance (regarded then as a chic event) of Jean-Philippe Rameau's Les Boreades as writer/director Robert Altman focuses his camera exclusively on the craziness taking place in the audience, including fornication in the balcony. A young couple (Bridget Fonda and James Mathers) drive through the Southwestern landscape into the gaudy lights of Las Vegas for writer/director Franc Roddam's orgasmic/suicidal rendition of Richard Wagner's "Liebestod" from Tristan and Isolde.

In a scene more suggestive of Holst's The Planets, a scantily-clad young white woman (Linzi Drew) stands with Saturn-like rings encircling her head as black-skinned people, a male holding a mirror in a star-shaped frame and several veiled females, apply jewels and other decorations to her body in writer/director Ken Russell's " and none shall sleep," visually adapting Giacomo Pucini's "Nessun Dorma" from Turandot, revealing she's actually a critically-injured patient in a hospital operating room surrounded by an African-American surgical team of nurses and a doctor following an automobile accident.

As feathery flakes fall, an aged woman (Amy Johnson) with a fan reflects upon remembrances of her youth as a girl (Tilda Swinton) frolicking in the foamy waves of the shore with a boy - the glittering sunlight on the water simulated in the sparkles off her fan - in writer/director Derek Jarman's ocular manifestation of Gustave Chapentier's "Despuis Le Jour" from Louise.

The final scene by director Bill Bryden (script collaboration with Don Boyd) has the actor (John Hurt) who briefly appears during interludes, framing those preceding, as a white-suited clown with cone hat standing alone on the stage sorrowfully singing "Vesti La Giubba" from Ruggerio Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci to a lone female in the balcony of the otherwise empty opera theatre. A montage of stills from the decamerous collection concludes the presentation.

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Copyright © 2011 Patrick Ivers. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Patrick Ivers can be reached via e-mail at nora's email address at juno. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

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