Saturday, August 13, 2011

In the garden of good and evil



As usual, this started out as something else: I got thinking of a documentary film I saw years and years ago, in French and overdubbed with English narration - I think it was called Once Upon a Time - all about the European influences on Disney's animation. In other words, how much he stole from other sources: other animators, literature, music, etc. etc. And never more so than in Fantasia, his high-toned, high-falutin' animation of "classical" music. This was the kind of movie that kids squirmed through, bored, or scared (the dinosaurs in Rite of Spring; the scary creatures, ghosts and skeletal horsemen in Night on Bald Mountain).

I tried to find the original documentary, came up empty (it barely exists on DVD, and only in Europe and only in French. I shall have to wait.) Then I thought about Night on Bald Mountain, one of the most celebrated pieces from Fantasia, and how many images Disney "borrowed" from Murnau's creepy classic from 1926, Faust.

The hideous horsement (whom I saw on TV many years before, an isolated clip that only made sense to me 25 years later); the big scary guy wit' da wings, and lots of other stuff. But I didn't want to post a 9-minute clip from Fantasia, so then I got watching the Ave Maria that follows after: try as I might, I can't diss this, as the animation is so utterly otherworldly. Yes, Disney is strutting his animated stuff, saying, look, have you ever seen animation like this? No. And we never will again.

But THEN I found this rendition of Ave Maria by Barbara Bonney, and I have to say it is the finest I have ever heard. I heard her sing Peer Gynt many years ago (in fact I still have a recording of the complete work, with Norwegian dialogue) and loved her voice, but I have to say I never cultivated her properly, so it's good to hear this.

The visuals in this are crummy, but that makes you shut your eyes and really listen. THIS kind of good really could defeat Faust's evil forces.

(Sorry this came out in such awkward order. The video kept disappearing or half-appearing or otherwise getting screwed up, so it's under the post A pool of stillness: Barbara Bonney's Ave Maria.

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