Friday, May 16, 2008

Cyrano de Bergerac

Jean-Paul Rappeneau, 1990
137 minutes, color feature, subtitles
Ages 8 & up (battle scene at end with explosions and some blood)

With musketeers, witty word play, a confederacy of poets, and a story about who and why we love, the story of Cyrano de Bergerac is great for kids. This production features a spirited, soulful performance by Gerard Depardieu. Another great actor, José Ferrer, made a version in 1950 and there are numerous other versions. My 8-year-old had a little trouble keeping up with the subtitles, but there is plenty of action to keep a non-reading viewer interested, and those who don't follow the subtitles can still listen to the music of the rhyming couplets in French. Girl power alert: Roxanne, love object to two men, has little to do but in Act IV does dress up as a man during a fight with Spanish soldiers and sneak food to the French cadets.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037

Ben Niles, 2007
81 minutes, color documentary shot on tape
All ages

Anyone old enough to sit through a documentary, and that could be anybody, should be rapt at this account of the process and people behind a Steinway grand piano, from the multinational craftspeople who painstakingly ply their trade in a Queens factory, passing their art down from one generation to the other through hands-on training, to the musicians who appreciate in their own way the personality differences between one piano and another. "It was nice to see the Steinway being made—spray-painted and having its strings straightened," said a 10-year-old viewer.