DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
AFTER THE STORM--THE AMERICAN EXILE OF BELA BARTOK (director: Donald Sturrock; cinematographers: Keith Hopper/Janos Ille; editors: Malcolm Daniel/Andrea Dickinson; Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; Kultur DVD; 1991-UK)

 
"Affecting no-nonsense documentary that paints an honest portrait of Hungarian composer Bela Bartok's (1881-1945) last five years."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A first-class affecting no-nonsense documentary that paints an honest portrait of Hungarian composer Bela Bartok's (1881-1945) last five years when he left in the spring of 1940 war-torn Europe to live in poverty in NYC with his loyal wife. On the ship coming over his luggage was lost in a storm, but his precious folk collection was saved. The unknown laconic composer rarely smiled but as Sir Georg Solti said, "he had the aura of a holy man." The future great composer had to overcome an unfamiliar culture, not getting fruitful work, poverty and a fatal unnamed illness later said to be leukemia that eventually took his life. Despite those handicaps, the five years in exile proved to be the most productive musical years of his life. The film ends showing him nearly completing his Piano Concerto Number 3. Bartok's other great works from this period were the Sonata for Solo Violin and the Concerto for Orchestra.

The music is brilliantly performed by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ervin Lukacs and Sir Georg Solti, with György Sándori on piano and Laszlo Barsony on viola (playing excerpts). It's a coproduction with BBC and MTV Hungary. Bartok's unpublished letters, in possession of his youngest son Peter, is read by Bob Peck.

The biography is told through archive footage, Bartok's own recollections, as well as through the recollections of friends and relatives.
  
REVIEWED ON 10/10/2008        GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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