"In Search Of Mozart": Undoubtedly this film will be approached with much skepticism ("Haven't we already done 'Amadeus'?), and not a few yawns ("Can't we see this kind of documentary on the History Channel?"). And admittedly, the rewards for viewing this film are sublime, by Hollywood standards: no doomsday plot, no explosions, no chase scenes, no sex, no nudity, no foul language, no crude humor, no cute little animated figures, no computer-generated graphics, no battle panoramas, no sci-fi bedazzlement.
Just a calm, reasoned, brilliantly-presented biography of one extraordinary man, whom we will never meet. But we can't help but be affected by his remarkable legacy to us.
What makes this film so incredibly effective is the careful chronological sampling from the prolific compositions of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, beginning from his child prodigy days (yes, he actually wrote complicated pieces at age 6) to his untimely death at age 35. He was a rock star in his own time; a musical icon known to the nobility and royalty of many countries, and yet he knew much sorrow in his personal life, from estrangement with his father to the death of several children. He was called "genius" all his life, and yet many of his magnificent volumes of master works were cranked out hurriedly, even urgently, because of imminent financial catastrophe. He was well-traveled in an age where transportation was slow, difficult, and dangerous, and enjoyed facility in several languages, but his lasting skill of communication lies in the passion and the power of his music. He was an aficionado not only of orchestral score but of opera; he could harness the beauty and emotion of the human voice as well as all the instrumentation available to him. He's the kind of rare and unique talent who would have been an epoch-maker in any age, but in the century of Haydn and Handel, he emerges as a giant among a pantheon of titans. Director Phil Grabsky sifts through hours of interviews with musical historians, symphony conductors, and teachers, and vast amounts of live concert footage, to present us with a tightly-knit, awe-inspiring biopic of a man born once for the ages; a musician for all seasons.
"The Bourne Ultimatum": Readers of the Robert Ludlum books will find the shaky-camera direction of Paul Greengrass to accurately reflect the confusion, chaos, sudden violence, and split-second plot twists of the popular spy thrillers. Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is a lethal CIA agent who has gone rogue. He'd volunteered to participate in an extreme psychological experiment designed to erase his memory and identity. The good news is, it worked. The bad news is, he wants his former self back. His superiors at the Agency not only don't want to un-do all the painstaking torture they've done on him, they also consider his return to self-awareness potentially disastrous for their own careers, since their gothic methods and questionable ethics would then be brought to light. So here's our confused and hunted-down hero, master of deception and diversion tactics, unstoppable in personal combat and capable of death-defying physical feats, but all he wants is peace of mind. He's constantly being chased by enemy agents, and relentlessly pursued by his own "handlers," while urgently attempting to unravel the knotted-up skein of his own personal history. We root for him, even though he's a trained killer, because he is such an unapologetic underdog, and because his rage against the machine of unchecked covert ops strikes a resonant chord in a populace wary of governmental assurances and weary of official spin control.
In both movies, the main character's search for self-identity is continuous. In both, there is constant motion and a brooding kind of natural genius, which engenders in others both admiration and envy. In neither movie is anyone still for very long. And yet, at the end of the day, which is better, to have watched a breathless fictional thriller where dead bodies litter the landscape and our hero barely survives, or to hear some of the very best musical compositions in the history of the planet, and expert commentary about them? So many choices, so little time.
Questions For Discussion:
1) Which of Mozart's pieces are instantly recognizable to you?
2) If Mozart were alive today, what kind of music do you think he would produce?
3) Do you suspect that there is much we don't know about CIA operations? Do you also suspect that if some those covert activities were brought to light, they would be unconscionable and indefensible?
4) Should our spy network have agents with "license to kill"?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Terrell, Texas