August 7th, 2001

West Side Boring

Last night I was persuaded to watch the movie West Side Story. It's a classic, people say, and I've never seen it before, so I figured it's an opportunity to fill up that little cultural hole in my education. We rented a videocassette and watched the movie.

It was terrible. I kept moving on my seat in physical discomfort at the movie's crudeness. I should confess that I'm rather uninspired by dance, and thus was indifferent to the numerous dance scenes the movies is known for. It turns out this was the chief reason my friend wanted me to watch it -- she appreciates the dance parts in the movie.

I do like music, though, so I expected to at least find good music in the film, no less famous for its music and its songs than for its dancing. Leonard Bernstein composed the soundtrack and the songs. The incidental music throughout the film is boring and drips with saccharine. The songs are mostly nothing to write home about. Some are cute ("America", notably, as well as "I feel pretty").

The story is very bad. It is clear that the writer (Arthur Laurents) sought to create a modern version of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. The concept of equating Capulets and Montagues with Puerto-Ricans and whites in 1960s America is valid and promising, but the execution is embarrassingly full of holes. The characters often behave very unreasonably and fail to inspire the necessary suspension of disbelief. The story is one-dimensional, and the characters are stereotypical.

The movie is long (151 minutes), and I had to exert my willpower to weather it all. It won ten academy awards (Oscars) at the time.
  • Current Music
    Wagner's Lohengrin, Barenboim and the Berlin Opera Orchestra and Choir


A friend came back from vacation in a Greek island, and brought me a gift: a book in Greek by a contemporary Greek author named Antonis Samarakis. She knows perfectly well I can't read Greek, but she also knows I plan to study Ancient Greek at St. John's College next year, so the gift subtly alludes to my famous appetite for languages.

  • Current Music
    Radiohead - OK Computer


[Typographical note: I can't seem to produce the c-caron ('hacek') that should go instead of the regular 'c' in Bregovic's name on this machine. Forgive my computer, it knows not what it does]

Last Saturday, I went to see Goran Bregovic and his "Wedding and Funeral Band" in a music concert in my home town of Ra'anana. Bregovic and his band were supported by an orchestra from Poznen, Poland, three women singers from Sofia, Bulgaria, and a men's choir from (I think) Croatia.

I was given two invitation tickets by my father, who received them but did not intend to go. The ticket said "Spring (and summer) Rite - Goran Bregovic". I didn't recognize Bregovic's name, and figured it's some Yugoslavian conductor come to perform Stravinsky's Spring Rite.

When I got to the Ra'anana amphitheater, I realized I figured wrong. The place had signs proclaiming a "World Music Festival" that is apparently in progress. The concert was absolutely wonderful. Bregovic makes music that's a heartwarming blend of ethnic Serbian, Croatian, and Gypsy music. The concert alternated between energetic, happy pieces and more melancholy tunes, as well as some music Bregovic had composed for soundtracks. It was only after the concert that I learned that Bregovic is rather famous, and that he has composed the soundtracks for some of Emir Kusturica's films, such as Black Cat, White Cat, which I really liked.

The piecemeal ensemble performed remarkably well, and I could not spot a single fault in their coordination and timing. The musicians were apt and played vivaciously, and there was great rejoice. The audience (the place was packed end-to-end) was very enthusiastic, and a good time was had by all.

I highly recommend Bregovic's music, if you can stomach so-called "world music" at all. His live performance was significantly more exciting than his recorded music on the collection CD I purchased at the concert, though.
  • Current Music
    Tom Lehrer