DVD: Movie Music Man – A Portrait of Lalo Schifrin (1993)

December 15, 2014 | By


MovieMusicManPortraitLaloSchifrin_sFilm: Very Good

Transfer:  Very Good

Extras: Standard

Label: Image

Region: 1 (NTSC)

Released:  September 11, 2001

Genre:  Documentary / Film Music / Jazz

Synopsis: Hour-long portrait of film and jazz composer / musician Lalo Schifrin, taped during a 1993 concert in Cannes.

Special Features:  Film and non-film discography.




This TV production from France’s Channel 4 manages to integrate selections from a live concert in Canne with the Orchestre National de Lyon in which Lalo Schifrin performs material from his own repertoire and select classical pieces, and is caught in a series of brief interviews reflecting on his career, some of his best-known themes, and how the latter reflect his approach to scoring movies and TV.

Schifrin is not a verbose man – he speaks through music and an innately elegant yet complex musical style – but he’s a charming man whose smile and instincts won over a multitude of directors over a career that began in 1957.

An avid moviegoer as a child, Schifrin was impressed with the American and foreign films playing in his childhood home of Buenos Aires, Argentina, becoming especially impressed with Alex North (Spartacus) and Prokofiev (Alexander Nevsky), but his first interests were classical music, opera, film, and soon jazz, of which the latter eventually took him to the U.S. when a chance meeting with Dizzy Gillespie led to an invite to join his band as a pianist.

Schifrin eventually navigated through low budget films and episodic TV series to high-profile feature films, and remains best known for TV’s Mission: Impossible (1966) and Mannix (1967), and the ‘urban jazz’ within Bullitt (1968), but the emphasis in the concert extracts and Schifrin’s performance and discussions of themes gravitates to work not swirling in popular film culture, such as The Fox (1967), Cool Hand Luke (1967), and Berlin Blues (1988).

Soprano Julia Migenes performs a song from Berlin Blues and a piece by Heitor Villa-Lobos, whereas Dizzy Gillespie plays jazz accompanied by Schifrin on piano, Grady Tate on drums, and Ray Brown on bass, with support from the orchestra. Director Rodney Greenberg, long experienced in taping live classical and opera for broadcasters like the BBC, does a neat job in using concert extracts as references and illustrations to material discussed in the short interview segments, plus the odd film clip in 4:3. (Although released on DVD in 2001 and reissued in 2011 by Kultur, both the doc and the film clips were filmed / transferred in 4:3.)

The plus side is the doc is as long as it needs to be – it’s a good balance of music and commentary from a master composer, musician, and expert musicologist – but fans will certainly wish the DVD had offered longer concert extracts, if not a longer edit which interpolated more complete material with Schifrin’s interviews and the narration track.

The DVD includes stereo and a 5.1 remix, and while the music sounds fine, the audience applause has been tweaked into a faux stereo. The videography features some lovely compositions shot with tube cameras (hence subtle comet tails whenever there’s a panning movement across hot metallic surfaces), and a few arresting shots showing the composer in deep concentration performing solo material on piano, and conducting excerpts of music by Ravel (including “Bolero”).



© 2014 Mark R. Hasan



External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDB  —  Composer Filmography
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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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