Thursday, March 28, 2019

Breaking Down Conceptual Binaries: Maborosi (1995)

Makiko Esumi in Hirokazu Kore-eda's Maborosi (Maboroshi no Hikari / 幻の光, 1995).

Grief is a many-faceted thing. I’ve often felt that mainstream portrayals treat it like an illness to be gotten over, rather than what it really is: a new state of being. It becomes an indelible part of one’s life, not necessarily a bad thing or a good thing, just another thing. (The explosion of the good/bad experience binary is one of the groundbreaking aspects of Inside Out [2015].) This is one of my biggest issues with First Man (2018) and, in retrospect, Manchester by the Sea (2016). Maborosi (Maboroshi no Hikari / 幻の光, 1995), the Ozu-tinged fiction feature debut of current art-house darling Hirokazu Kore-eda, is a detailed and deeply empathetic portrayal of one woman carried along by the passage of time, bringing her grief with her.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Musical Evenings: I Married an Angel, Choir Boy, Spamilton

Sara Mearns and Mark Evans in I Married an Angel. (Photo: Joan Marcus)

I Married an Angel is the sixth musical by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart to be revived by Encores! The original production opened on Broadway in 1938 at the midpoint of an amazing string of hit R&H shows between 1935 and 1942 that came on the heels of their half-decade at M-G-M: Jumbo, On Your Toes, Babes in Arms and I’d Rather Be Right preceded it and The Boys from Syracuse, Too Many Girls, Pal Joey and By Jupiter followed it. (Only Higher and Higher, in 1940, was a disappointment at the box office.) I Married an Angel had initially been planned for M-G-M, an adaptation of a Janos Vaszary farce about the union of a man and a (literal) angel. (This was the era when Hungarian plays found a home in Hollywood, and some of them, like William Wyler’s The Good Fairy and Ernst Lubitsch’s The Shop Around the Corner, were wonderful.) Jeanette MacDonald, who had just had a success with Love Me Tonight , with its ebullient R&H score, was set to play the earthbound angel. But the project was abandoned, and by the time they resurrected it for Broadway they had taken on a new collaborator, George Balanchine, who’d staged the dances – and ballets – for both On Your Toes and Babes in Arms. So the role of Angel was reconceived for a dancer, Vera Zorina, whom Balanchine himself married during the New Year’s Eve performance.