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Stravinsky in Hollywood - A film by Marco Capalbo
Aspect ratio 16:9; NTSC; Region code 0 Worldwide;
PCM Stereo; Languages: German and English
C MAJOR 716308 DVD [53:00]

I must start off straightaway by saying that I found this DVD strangely unsatisfying. Its a peculiar piece of work, admittedly professionally produced but lacking any real depth. A technique is used throughout deploying real archive footage mixed with boring, lengthy recreations of scenes with actors playing the roles of Stravinsky, Robert Craft and Mrs Stravinsky. This whole hotchpotch is distracting, confusing and rather pointless. The actors bear little or no resemblance to the real people involved in the narrative.

The film opens with Stravinsky heading for Hollywood in 1939 at the time of Walt Disneys Fantasia, which used sections of The Rite of Spring to accompany the dinosaur sequence. Copyright laws allowed Disney to modify Stravinskys music as he wished without any input from the composer. Stravinsky was, however, drawn into the Hollywood dream and set out to make an impact in the world of film music. Unfortunately, none of his efforts were accepted by the film producers and much of the music he had submitted was later recycled and used in his orchestral scores. There are attempts in the documentary film to show film footage with Stravinskys music added to it just to show what it would have sounded like. To be brutal the music just doesnt suit the footage at all. Maybe Stravinsky wasnt cut out for film studio work. Despite the failure to make his fame and fortune in this particular genre he did stay in California for around forty years with his talents engaged elsewhere.

By far the most illuminating part of the film involves the relationship between Robert Craft and Stravinsky. Craft was the composers assistant and he lived with the Stravinskys for twenty years. The relationship is reminiscent of that shared by Fenby and Delius in many ways but far deeper. Robert Craft - a very youthful looking ninety year old - adds some insight and gravitas to the proceedings during his short appearance. Its a shame that more time wasnt spent in delving deeper into this episode in the composers life. Craft was also assisting Stravinskys great rival Arnold Schvnberg at the same time and an extended interview with him would have been fascinating. What a missed opportunity.

There is not enough content in the film to justify a running time of 53 minutes. Real archive footage is limited. More of Robert Craft and less of the actors may have tipped the balance for me but as it stands the whole thing doesnt really deliver. Did I really learn anything new about one of my favourite composers? Unfortunately the answer is no.

John Whitmore

Previous review (Blu-ray): Ian Lace