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Early Music Film Festival

BAMPFA (Berkeley Art Museum Pacific Film Archives) hosts a thematic film series as part of the Berkeley Festival & Exhibition. The selected films explore these historical periods and figures. Included are Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, Milos Forman’s Amadeus, and Sergei Paradjanov’s tribute to the 18th-century Armenian poet and monk Sayat Nova in The Color of Pomegranates. Staged operas by Monteverdi, Handel, and Mozart showcase the talents of early music specialists such as Rinaldo Alessandrini, René Jacobs, and Emmanuelle Haïm, as well as the creativity of stage directors Robert Wilson and Krzysztof Warlikowski and film auteur Ingmar Bergman, for whom early music represents a source of great inspiration.

The Early Music Film Festival runs from June 2–16, with most (though not all) films showing during the Berkeley Festival. Copresented with the Berkeley Festival. All events at BAMPFA (Berkeley Art Museum Pacific Film Archives), 2155 Center St., Berkeley. Buy tickets online.

The following films will be screened this year:

Saturday, June 2

7 PM
Barry Lyndon
Stanley Kubrick (US, 1975) Digital restoration
“A film is—or should be—more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later,” Stanley Kubrick said. The Oscar-winning soundtrack of Barry Lyndon features Irish traditional music and military marches, along with baroque and classical themes by Mozart, Vivaldi, Bach, Handel, Schubert, and Paisiello. Kubrick’s impressive historical drama of the travails of a young Irishman (Ryan O’Neal) who is determined to make a life for himself as a wealthy nobleman is a beloved cinematic fable made with extraordinary attention to visual and aural design.
Written by Kubrick, based on the story “The Luck of Barry Lyndon, Esq., A Romance of the Last Century” by William Makepeace Thackeray. Photographed by John Alcott. With Ryan O’Neal, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee, Hardy Kruger. (184 mins, Color, DCP, From Warner Bros. Classics)

Sunday, June 3

2 PM
Facing Agrippina
Nayo Titzin (Bulgaria, 2010)
A behind-the-scenes look at a production of Handel’s 1709 opera performed at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden by the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin conducted by René Jacobs. Our heroine, Agrippina (soprano Alexandrina Pendatchanska), is wife of Claudius and mother of Nero, and the baddest of Handel’s bad girls: a Machiavellian mother figure obsessed with power and politics who ruthlessly shapes her son’s future. Capturing the electric and audacious musical spirit and psychological sophistication of Handel’s Venetian opera, Facing Agrippina documents a firstrate production designed by Christian Lacroix and directed by Vincent Boussard.
Photographed by Titzin. With Alexandrina Pendatchanska, Marcos Fink, Neal Davies, Sunhae Im. (56 mins, In Italian and English with English subtitles, Color, DigiBeta PAL, from Spotlight Productions)

Wednesday, June 6

1:30 PM
L’Orfeo
Emanuele Garofalo (Italy/France, 2009)
A wonderful minimalist interpretation by the American avant-garde stage director Robert Wilson of Claudio Monteverdi’s seminal first opera from 1607, which tells the dramatic story from Ovid’s Metamorphosis of the descent of Orfeo (Georg Nigl) into the underworld to recover his beloved wife Euridice (Roberta Invernizzi). In this 2009 production for La Scala, Wilson based the visual design on paintings by Titian. The opera receives a powerful and inspiring performance by the Orchestra of Teatro alla Scala and Concerto Italiano under the direction of much-admired Italian early music specialist Rinaldo Alessandrini.
Libretto by Alessandro Striggio. Photographed by Riccardo De Poli. With Georg Nigl, Roberta Invernizzi, Sara Mingardo. (116 mins, In Italian with English subtitles, Color, Digital, From Rai Teche)

Thursday, June 7

1:30 PM
Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno (HWV 46A)
Stéphane Metge (France, 2016)
(The Triumph of Time and Truth). Handel’s first oratorio, with its virtuosic arias, brilliant concertos, and powerful ensemble work, was first performed in Rome in 1707. Based on allegorical concepts, Il trionfo was never intended to be fully staged. Yet for this interpretation, stage director Krzysztof Warlikowski adapts the work to a contemporary setting with a nuclear family at its center. With Emmanuelle Haïm conducting her ensemble Le Concert d’Astrée, a standout cast features soprano Sabine Devieilhe as the vulnerable yet bold Beauty; Franco Fagioli as her ne’er-do-well brother, Pleasure; and Sara Mingardo and Michael Spyres as benevolent parental figures, Truth and Time.
Libretto by Cardinal Benedetto Pamphili. Photographed by Denis Guéguin. With Sabine Devieilhe, Sara Mingardo, Franco Fagioli, Michael Spyres. (136 mins, In Italian with English subtitles, Color, Digital, From EuroArts Music International)

Friday, June 8

2:30 PM
The Color of Pomegranates
Sergei Paradjanov (USSR, 1969) Digital Restoration
(Sayat Nova, a.k.a. Red Pomegranates). Sergei Paradjanov’s paean to his Armenian heritage is an exotic mosaic of the mystical and historical that achieves a surreal effect. In tracing the life of the great eighteenth-century Armenian poet and monk Sayat Nova through his writings, Paradjanov weaves a metaphorical short history of the Armenian nation, telling of Turkish genocide, Persian invasions, and a vast migration to the Russian section in the early twentieth century, all through daringly symbolic imagery. Beyond this the film is an extraordinary artistic rendering of ceremony and ritual, architecture, iconography, and period music that, even for the uninitiated, works its extraordinary magic.
Written by Paradjanov, based on the writings of Sayat Nova. Photographed by Souren Chabazian, Martyn Chabazian. With Sofiko Chiaureli, Melkon Alekian, Vilen Galestian. (75 mins, In Armenian with English subtitles, Color, DCP, From Janus Films)

Saturday, June 9

8:15 PM
The Color of Pomegranates (see above)

Wednesday, June 13

7 PM
Amadeus
Milos Forman (US, 1984) BAMPFA Collection, Director’s Cut
Peter Shaffer rewrote history in his “black opera” Amadeus, then rewrote the play for Milos Forman’s color extravaganza. It takes the form of a confession by Mozart’s supposed murderer, Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham), a mediocre composer who alone perceived the sublime genius of Mozart’s music. Seen through Salieri’s eyes, Tom Hulce’s Mozart is a cartoon portrayal of the “obscene child;” he is indeed an unlikely if not unworthy vessel of divine inspiration, yet paradoxically, one whose talent could only be explained by divine intervention. Music conducted by Neville Marriner and performed by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields; Ambrosian Opera Chorus; and the Choristers of Westminster Abbey.
Written by Peter Shaffer, based on his play. Photographed by Miroslav Ondricek. With F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge, Simon Callow. (180 mins, Color, ’Scope, 35mm, BAMPFA Collection)

Saturday, June 16

4:30 PM
The Magic Flute
Ingmar Bergman (Sweden, 1975)
(Trollflöjten). Love triumphs over all, as a young man seeks to rescue a beautiful princess from the hands of an evil sorcerer. Mozart’s playful Magic Flute is brought to joyous cinematic life by Bergman, an acclaimed organist and musicologist who once declared that he would have become a conductor if film had not claimed him first. “Shot in sumptuous color by Sven Nykvist, and featuring some of the finest Nordic singers of the day . . . Mozart’s magic has been neither betrayed nor merely reproduced by Bergman, but rather filtered through the Swedish maestro’s own metaphysical vision in a remarkable act of homage” (Peter Cowie).
Written by Bergman, based on the opera by Mozart, libretto by Schikaneder. Photographed by Sven Nykvist. With Josef Kostlinger, Irma Urrila, Hakan Hagegard, Elisabeth Eriksson. (135 mins, In Swedish with English subtitles, Color, DCP, From Janus Films)