Our Top European Musical Titles

May 5th, 2013 by May

May is the Month of Music in New Zealand. We have also noticed a recent increase in films dealing with music – most notably, Quartet and A Late Quartet (don’t get mixed up between them – one is a feel good comedy and the other an introspective drama.) So we decided to dedicate this post to musical titles. But wait! Europe Day is just around the corner (May 9th), as well as our favorite campy song contest – the Eurovision Song Contest (May 18th.)

So with all due respect to New Zealand, we’re tweaking this post a little bit, and giving our ‘Douze Points’ to the following 10 European musical titles.

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Little Voice (1998)
In this bittersweet comedy drama a shy small-town girl with an amazing voice is reluctantly pushed into showbiz by her domineering mother and the mother’s ambitious boyfriend. Michael Caine delivers a brilliant performance as the loathsome scout who pushes Little Voice to her limits.

Io, Don Giovanni (2009)
Everyone knows the great composer Mozart. but what about the people who worked with (and behind) this genius? This film focuses on the Italian lyricist Lorenzo Da Ponte, who collaborated with Mozart and wrote the libretto to the famous opera Don Giovanni. Director Carlos Saura uses a lush, stylized setting to picture the backstage intrigues of the period.

Le Concert (2009)
It’s not often we see a scene of almost 20 minutes of a classical music concert. Just music, nothing else. It happens in this film and unlike what one might think, it is absolutely fascinating and captivating. It may be true that the plot, revolving around a Russian orchestra coming to play in Paris, is a bit soap-opera-ish at times, but this remarkable scene and the likeable characters make this film a very worthy watch.

Vitus (2006)
In this engaging drama from Switzerland, a child prodigy finds a unique way of dealing with being different. Vitus is no normal child; with an IQ of 180, a huge appetite for knowledge, and a preternatural gift for playing the piano, he finds it hard to fit in with his peers. Like many parents of exceptional children, his parents are overbearing and eager to see their child succeed. Vitus feels he needs to find a way to be a child again.

La Vie en Rose (2007)
Marion Cottillard won an Oscar and became known to the American audiences for portraying Edith Piaf in this film. Piaf is a classic story of rising to stardom: born to poverty and having to practice prostitution, she managed to break through and become one of the most acclaimed and successful French chansonniers of all times.

Flamenco (1995)
This beautifully shot documentary deals with a style of music and dance unique to Spain – Flamenco. Using an old railroad station in Seville, fitted with mirrors for the unique setting, Carlos Saura (2nd time in this post) presents us with 300 singers, dancers and musicians. There are guitarists playing moving and mournful solos, women singing gypsy ballads and, of course, floor pounding and straight shouldered dancers who look right into the camera with those dark, smouldering, Spanish eyes. A must-see for flamenco fans.

The Chorus (2004)
The Chorus is an uplifting tale of a masterful teacher who put his heart into his work and changed the lives of his students forever. It takes place in a boarding school for troubled kids which is supervised by a very strict and difficult manager. All this changes when a new teacher arrives and manages to reach out to the children through music.

The Red Shoes (1948)
Honestly, I would not recommend this film to everyone. It is beautifully shot and has great dance sequences, but it was, after all, filmed over 60 years ago and contemporary viewers might find it too slow and overly sentimental. But this restriction vanishes completely if you have any affection or connection to ballet whatsoever, because for us ballet lovers it is simply a masterpiece.

Black Cat White Cat (1998)
Kusturica‘s complex, darkly comic film centers around the lives of a handful of gypsies and hustlers living on the Danube river. The story focuses on a small time hustler dealing with a bunch of gangsters, while the unique gypsy music plays a vital part in portraying their lives.

Schultze gets the blues (2003)
A retired miner falls into a boring routine, playing his accordion in a folk band. All of this changes when one day he hears Zydeco on the radio – a Louisianan folk/blues music – and gets instantly smitten. He then decides to travel from Germany to Louisiana to hear his new favorite music in its original habitat.

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