An exercise, a theoretical excursus, an explicitly intellectual undertaking, nonetheless pulsing w/ aesthetic rewards, of which Bach's music itself constitutes the core element. Indeed what this movie demonstrates is music performed not only in recreated social space, but in an explicitly social context. Even the most transcendent art is produced within an explicable context, generally somewhat oppressive.
Cinematic minimalism at its most extravagant. It's kind of a mystery why this movie's as good as it is. Maybe it shouldn't be. Yet it's as audacious and experimental a musical bio-pic as Todd Haynes' later "I'm Not There"--perhaps even more so--without ever announcing itself as such.
Revolutionary in its ascetic art. Eyes constantly eschewed from ours only to become revelatory later when they become spontaneous expressions of the definitive ambiguity of the music, the past that is still present. Straub's figures, nothing more than moving statues, create distance as his stubborn direct sound firmly plants a presentness of history, an ability to understand the past but not to feel it.
I admire this movie very much for its total abstention from counter-revolutionary bullshit of any kind, but I would like to listen to The Stooges now, if that's okay. (rating provisional--watched the fuzzy Netflix copy, can tell this thing needs complete visual clarity to be fully appreciated)
This is being released on February 22 by New Wave Film, which I guess is connected to Artificial Eye. It's coming with Sicilia and another film for about 20 U.S. dollars. A big score for those of us who were just about to pluck down 70 or 80 bucks for the out of print New Yorker disc of this single film on Amazon.
You don't need to make a life's story "cinematic". The only fiction needed is some dramatic scenes and a fictitious diary. Let the composer's music be played in full. Place biographical information in when felt necessary. The result here is an exceptional film.