Friday, October 29, 2010

Inside Job

Yesterday, with an audience of about 12 other concerned citizens, I saw Inside Job, the talking-heads documentary about the financial crisis. To those following the news, there won't be any surprises here, though there are some delightful movements. John Campbell, chair of Harvard's Department of Economics, proves unable to form a sentence when asked about ethics. Glenn Hubbard, Dean of the Columbia Business School, displays shameless arrogance. I was so focused on not chuckling everytime I saw Eliot Spitzer on screen that I missed whatever he had to say. I believe I got the point of the graphic that charts diverging salaries over time for "Bankers" & "Everyone Else." I also enjoyed the beautiful opening footage of Iceland. The film ends a bit weakly, though, with only a vague call to action.

Produced, Written, and Directed by Charles Ferguson

Thursday, October 28, 2010

DIY Opera

I'm not sure I would care to hear the result, but the School of Life in London offers a 1-day workshop on November 20th called DIY Opera In A Day. No musical experience is required. Topics covered include "stopping the audience from killing you" & "upstaging." The day culminates in an improvised grand operatic performance, listed on the schedule as "Cocktails and final performance." Food & drink are included in the £110 price.

This establishment also hosts Listening to Music with Alex Ross on the evening of November 29th, which makes me totally wish I lived in London.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Yesterday afternoon I saw the Austrian documentary Pianomania at the Berlin & Beyond Film Festival at the Castro Theatre. The film follows Steinway piano technician Stephan Knüpfer as he tirelessly goes about selecting, tuning, tweaking & even reconstructing the instruments. One is reminded that the concert grand piano is also an Industrial Age machine. The strangely engaging Mr. Knüpfer comes across as both mild-mannered & happily obssessed, not quite able to conceal his impish delight.

The documentary largely focuses on his year-long preparation of a piano for Pierre-Laurent Aimard's recording of Bach's Art of Fugue, & this comes across as a true collaboration between 2 equally persistent artistic personalities. There are also glimpses of Mr. Knüpfer at work with Lang Lang, Till Fellner, Julius Drake, Ian Bostridge, Rudolf Buchbinder & the formidable Alfred Brendel.

The film has no commentary, so there were a few inexplicable moments, such as when Mr. Knüpfer demonstrates a machine that bounces a tennis ball against the piano strings. I was intrigued by the experiment of adding reflector panels to the piano, which reminded me of the lower lid invented by Daniell Revenaugh, which was subsequently banned by Carnegie Hall. The film ends with a wholly absurd sequence in which Mr. Knüpfer replaces a piano leg with a violin, to the wary astonishment of musical comedy duo Igudesman and Joo.

PhotobucketI walked into the screening exactly at 5pm, & the audience was not large, though there were also many late arrivals. Before the screening, festival president Rudolf de Baey demanded that the audience tell him why he was wearing red & white. It was in honor of Austria's National Day.

§ Berlin & Beyond Film Festival

Directors/Writers/Producers: Robert Cibis, Lilian Franck
Austria, Germany (2009)

Tuesday, October 26 at 5:00pm
Castro Theatre, San Francisco

Dresden Staatskapelle Orchestra

Following a BART ride straight from Jeremy Denk's Berkeley appearance, I was in Davies Hall to hear the Dresden Staatskapelle led by Daniel Harding. Schumann's Manfred Overture felt exciting, dark & a bit brooding. From the first rapid chords, the orchestra displayed a burnished, blended timbre. The ensemble playing is incredibly tight but without being pointed. Solos never pop out but instead stay within the overall texture. The 4 stands of double basses face forward, & their prominence gives the orchestra a grounded sound.

In Beethoven's 4th Piano Concerto, soloist Rudolf Buchbinder played with classical cool. His large hands never seemed to rise higher than the level of the keyboard. His playing does not move from climax to climax but instead maintains a smooth but taut flow. The 2nd movement was sustained & floating & very balanced. The strings provided a warm, uniform background. There was a smattering of applause after the 1st movement & an enthusiastic ovation by the audience at the end, with many people standing.

Maestro Harding conducted the Brahms 4 without a score. He is very active on the podium, staying ahead of the orchestra & giving lots of cues, though I imagine that this band could play just as precisely together without him. There were some froggy moments in the horns at the beginning, but I was still impressed by how well the brass blended with the rest of the orchestra. The final chord of the 1st movement just glowed. The strings played an astonishingly clean unison passage in the 4th movement. The symphony ended with the thrilling feel of energy under compression. The audience was impressed, standing, hollering & recalling Mr. Harding 3 times.

When I arrived at my seat at the beginning of the evening, I found Ced talking with the Opera Tattler, who gave us her positive report of that afternoon's Cyrano. I felt in good company, & none of us considered it unusual to attend 2 major performances in one day.

§ Great Performers Series
Daniel Harding and the Dresden Staatskapelle Orchestra

Dresden Staatskapelle Orchestra
Daniel Harding, conductor
Rudolf Buchbinder, piano

Schumann: Manfred Overture, Opus 115
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4
Brahms: Symphony No. 2

Sun, Oct 24, 2010 7:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall

Monday, October 25, 2010

Jeremy Denk at Cal Performances

I was impressed that pianist & blogger Jeremy Denk had planned to perform the Ligeti Etudes Books 1 & 2 plus the Bach Goldberg Variations. However, after a late start "due to the rain", Cal Performances Director Matías Tarnopolsky announced that Mr. Denk would play Liszt's Dante Sonata instead of Book 2 & not play Etude No. 3 from Book 1. The gentleman next to me was personally offended, saying that it was "disgusting" for Mr. Denk not to play the promised pieces, especially as Book 2 is better than Book 1. There was a further delay when the page turner discovered he had no place to rest the music; the music rack was missing from the piano.

Mr. Denk played the technically cruel Etudes with a surprising fluidity & looseness. He has nicely relaxed shoulders & neck, allowing him to move his head a lot & even look over his shoulder as he plays. The pieces have so much contrapuntal activity that they are difficult to absorb. Pushing things to the breaking point seems to be a common theme. A couple of the pieces have the pianist falling off the end of the keyboard. At the end, Mr. Denk acknowledged his page turner, who must have had a terrifying experience himself. The rest of the recital Mr. Denk played from memory.

Before playing the Liszt, Mr. Denk made a few humorous introductory remarks, & observed that with Liszt's depictions, "You're not sure if you want to end up in heaven or hell." The Dante Sonata is a loud & theatrical piece, & I felt like I was listening to the piano accompany a silent movie.

In the Goldberg Variations Mr. Denk's playing was pleasantly free & varied. I like how he found natural places to pause between some variations. He made the dance character of many of the pieces clear. Sometimes he even made a variation sound like Ligeti, such as when he played the cascades in No. 29 as a single meterless torrent of notes. He received a standing ovation & as an encore offered a repeat of Ligeti Etude No. 5, which in this context sounded like an extension of the Bach.

I was seated in front of John Marcher, & we ran into ced during the intermission, who was himself seated in front of composer John Adams. After the performance, there was an on-stage discussion between Mr. Denk & Mr. Adams. Mr. Denk demonstrated how the 2 hands in Etude No. 1 play in different modes & how they start in sync but shift apart. Unfortunately I could not stay for the entire conversation, as I had to catch BART back to the City for the Dresden Staatskepelle at Davies Hall.

§ Cal Performances
Jeremy Denk, piano

Ligeti: Etudes (Books 1 and 2)
Ligeti: Etudes Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, 6
Liszt: Dante Sonata
Bach: Goldberg Variations

Ligeti: Etude No. 5

Sun, Oct 24, 3 pm
Hertz Hall

10 Sorrowful Songs and a Crane

SF Community Music CenterI enjoyed the community atmosphere at the CMC on Capp St. for this 50 minute recital of songs in Russian & Armenian by Borodin, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Shostakovich & Komitas (Gomidas). Just before the start, there was a sudden rush of attendees, requiring the organizers to set up more chairs. The audience of 70 or so included several children. As advertised, the selections were all a bit slow & sad, & all had a strong folk song feeling to them. I especially liked the one Tchaikovsky song on the program, "I Bless You, Forests."

Before the concert, a laptop was sitting on the edge of the stage, streaming video of the Giants v Phillies game. Even during the music, it was clear that people were checking the game on their electronic devices. In a pause between songs, someone in the audience stood up & announced that the Giants had won the pennant, causing laughter & additional applause.

After the recital, there was a reception, & people lined up for some unusually fine-looking finger food & sparkling wine. My concert companion & I then had to make our way down several blocks of Mission, surrounded by blaring car horns & boisterous merriment in the streets.

§ 10 Sorrowful Songs and a Crane
John Smalley, baritone
Janis Mercer, piano

Capp Street Concert Hall
Saturday, October 23, 2010
8:00 pm

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Extreme WOW Suites at W

W San FranciscoOn Thursday evening I was invited to preview the renovated "Extreme WOW" suites on the 31st floor of the W San Francisco. We needed a special magnetic card just to get the elevator to take us to the top floor. Attendees were served appetizers & drinks in one of the suites, which are decorated in a style called "1930’s Shanghai Glam." The oriental touches include porcelain lions, a wall-sized reproduction of a Chinese painting, orange & blue silk couch pillows & a table inlaid with symbols from mahjong tiles (an actual mahjong set is available upon request).

W San FranciscoThe suite has 2 bedrooms & 3 bathrooms & is naturally much more spacious than most San Francisco apartments. I liked the variety of seating available in the main room. The panoramic views look out toward AT&T Park, Yerba Buena Park, the Financial District & the Bay Bridge. The "Fantastic Suites" are on the floors just below, so "WOW" is better than "Fantastic."

Bliss BagI was accompanied by a friend, who was glad that 2 of the suite's 3 huge HD TVs were tuned to the Giants v Phillies game, & he kept disappearing into the bedroom to check the score. My friend also observed that the frosted glass door of the guest bathroom does not entirely obscure the occupant. Later in the evening, he managed to get one of his friends into the suite. While good company, this fellow was not entirely well-behaved. He apparently tried to requisition my Bliss spa goody bag, finding it unattended.

fortune cookieThe hotel managers who attended the event were quite entertaining. All of them did a masterful job of not reacting when the caterer spilled a glass of champagne on the clean carpet. I learned that the curvaceous figure atop the hotel is named the Pneumatic Dreamer, & the general manager of the Bliss spa did a convincing impression of Justin Bieber. Plus I finally discovered how the giant frosted fortune cookie, hand-delivered by hotel staff, had made its way into my mail box the previous day.

§ “Extreme WOW” suites at W San Francisco
Thursday, October 21
6 – 8 p.m.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Leah Crocetto at the Rex

I felt privileged to be among the 80 or so people at soprano Leah Crocetto's sold out appearance in the intimate Salon at the Rex. Instead of giving us a printed program, Ms. Crocetto announced all her selections. She was very genuine as she told us the stories behind why these were her favorite songs, & she frequently cited her father as an important influence on her musical taste. She sang in 5 languages (plus a vocalise) & moved easily from art songs & opera to jazz & musical theater.

Ms. Crocetto discretely scaled her large voice to the room. At the end of Rachmaninoff's "How Fair This Spot," she pulled a floating high note out of the air as easily as if she had plucked a piece of ripe fruit from a tree. She gave some of the low notes in Faure's "Apres Un Reve" a lovely dark color. Her "O Mio Babbino Caro" was taut & just pouty enough. Her singing of the popular selections was completely natural & idiomatic, & she did not sound like an opera singer at all when doing these. Indeed, by the time she got into "The Man That Got Away", I felt like I was in an Upper West Side apartment at 1am, crying into my 3rd scotch.

Many times Ms. Crocetto mentioned her close connection with her accompanist Tamara Sanikidze, saying that they are almost like the same person. Ms. Sanikidze has a way of getting deep into the keys, & Strauss's "Morgen" song inspired exceptionally sensitive playing. She deserves a page turner, though, so that she does not have to whip the pages so violently herself.

The salon is right next to the kitchen, & the noise bleeds through. After we heard a lot of clanging cutlery during the Strauss, Ms. Crocetto noted, "We had a little rhythm section for that!" The audience was vociferous in their appreciation for Ms. Crocetto, even resorting to whooping. The Opera Tattler & John Marcher were in attendance, & I joined them for a drink afterward, where we were treated to an impressively irritable performance by the hotel's bartender.

§ Salons at the Hotel Rex
Leah Crocetto, soprano
Tamara Sanikidze, piano

Wednesday, October 20 6:30pm
Hotel Rex

FLOYD: "Ain't It A Pretty Night" from Susannah
RACHMANINOFF: Twilight, Op. 21, No. 3; How Fair This Spot, Op. 21, No. 7; Vocalise, Op. 14
STRAUSS: Morgen, Op. 27, No. 4
FAURE: Apres Un Reve, Op. 7, No. 1
PUCCINI: "O Mio Babbino Caro" from Gianni Schicchi
BARBER: Sure On This Shining Night, Op. 13, No. 3
GREGORY PEEBLES: From Shamus (Who Wanted To Be Hospitable)
MARTIN & BLAINE: "The Boy Next Door" from Meet Me In St. Louis
ARLEN: "The Man That Got Away" from A Star Is Born
HARNICK & BOCK: "When Did I Fall In Love" from Fiorello!
HOWARD: "Fly Me To The Moon"
KERN: "All The Things You Are" from Very Warm for May
TESORI: "Girl in 14G"

RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN: "You'll Never Walk Alone" from Carousel

Friday, October 22, 2010

Longplayer Live

LongplayerThis past Saturday I was awake for 20 hours straight, to attend the 1,000 minute excerpt of Jem Finer's Longplayer at YBCA. Longplayer is a conceptual piece of music that takes 1,000 years to unfold. It is currently being performed by a computer at a lighthouse in London, but it is also possible for musicians to perform it live, which is what I witnessed on Saturday. The instrument consists of curved tables arranged in 6 concentric rings, representing a sort of planetary system. The instrument covered almost the entire floor of the YBCA's Forum room, leaving only a narrow space along the walls for the audience. The players strike & rub singing bowls arranged on the tables according to an algorithm that cycles, with slight shifts, every 2 minutes. The bowls are in a range of sizes, & the lowest ones you can feel vibrating through the floor. The bowls were amplified, which unfortunately flattened out the sound. The motion of the music is stately & slow. Sometimes several bowls resonate at once, creating elaborate, beating overtones. Patterns of chimes move in & out of phase. In the late evening a drone began on one of the lower pitches, & it continued until the end of the performance. Perhaps the most natural response to the music is to sit on the floor & meditate, which I saw one woman do for over an hour in the late afternoon.

The purpose of Longplayer is to explore issues of long-term continuity. Because of the performance aspect, Longplayer probably does an even better job than the Clock of the Long Now of raising questions about sustainability. 18 musicians played in one-hour shifts to keep the piece going for the 1,000 minutes. The act of one player handing his stopwatch & mallet to another player was a metaphor for the passing down of cultural traditions.

My ticket for this event allowed me to wander in & out of the performance, as well as to attend the Long Conversation, a 6 hour marathon of talks at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. I had hoped to hear Danny Hillis speak, but he had to cancel due to illness. I did get to hear Stewart Brand, though, who made an interesting connection between Longplayer & the practice of change ringing. I also took advantage of entrance to the CJM to view the happy Maira Kalman show.

I was present when the music began at 7am, when there were more performers than audience. Altogether I heard about 4 hours of the piece. I was curious to see how they would end it, so I was back for the final hour, when there were about 40 audience members. The composer was in the rotation, & at 11:40pm he struck a pair of hand cymbals twice, at which point the musicians dropped out one by one as the lights dimmed. The ensuing silence was so pure that the only sound was the hum of the sound system. After perhaps 2 minutes, someone broke the spell by starting applause. When someone jokingly yelled, "Encore!", one of the musicians replied, "Come back in a thousand years!"

As I was about to leave, someone put a glass of champagne in my hand. I may have been mistaken for a staff member of Longplayer. So I stayed around to hear the director of the Long Now & the composer give their thanks to the assembled participants. I also chatted briefly with one of the musicians, who introduced himself as "Mole." I was glad to hear that the experience of playing the piece does not feel rote or mechanical & that the musicians do plenty of listening while they perform.

§ Longplayer Live
Saturday October 16, 02010 - San Francisco, CA
Longplayer 7am-11:40pm at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Long Conversation 3pm-9pm at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

APE 2010

APE 2010I was at both days of the Alternative Press Expo this weekend, which has expanded significantly. Someone told me there were at least 50 more vendors than last year. There seemed to be a lot more illustration art, professionally printed books & stuff that I would file under "too many art schools." Almost the first thing I saw was a copy of Adam Levin's audacious 1,000+ page novel The Instructions, which is thicker than any book I've seen except for a dictionary.

Fortunately there are still plenty of scrappy characters around. As always, it was a treat to catch up with that phenomenon known as Justin Hall, who proudly gave me a peek at full-color pages of his up-coming Glamazonia collection. It was also fun to buy a copy of Phase 7 from Alec Longstreth, whose beard is much more impressive in person than in his drawings. The creator of Buttersafe practically jumped over his table to make sure I did not walk by without a copy of his comic. I enjoyed chatting with Neil Brideau, who works at Quimby's in Chicago. He is someone I need to start following.

I sought out Nick Mullins to pick up the latest installment of his intricate & freaky Carnivale story. There are at least 3 more parts to come, & I am trying to be patient. I also could not resist Reid Psaltis's creepy drawings of cryptids. Jakc Designs sold little smiling hamburgers & steamed jiaozi made of felt, whose cuteness can only be described as criminal.

Alternative Press Expo
October 16 - 17
Concourse Exhibition Center

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Social Network

Arcade Game at the MetreonI was surprised that when we got to the Metreon to see the facebook movie on Friday night, the 8:35pm show was sold out. We saw the next show an hour later, & it was quite full too. I was kept busy following the talky plot & its barrage of events, but I found the movie uninteresting. I was not convinced by the attempt to make this a love story in the final moments. The only scene I got caught up in was when I was rooting for Eduardo to put out the wastebasket fire set by his crazy Asian girlfriend. I've been more impressed by the inescapable publicity surrounding the film. Every media stream I consume, even those not focused on movies or the tech industry, has mentioned it.

§ The Social Network
Director: David Fincher

Friday, October 15, 2010

Alex Ross at Cal Performances

Alex Ross
I was happy to catch New Yorker music critic Alex Ross last night on the Berkeley campus. In what he warned us would be a "slightly massive" talk, Mr. Ross discussed chaconnes, laments & descending bass lines through 4 centuries of music. The material comes from the 2nd chapter of his new book, Listen to This, though in the live talk Mr. Ross plays musical clips to illustrate his points. He often juxtaposes musical examples in surprising & revealing ways. To demonstrate the resurgence of Baroque-style chromatic descending bass lines in popular music, he has an amusing 1960s medley that makes the point without further explanation. The well-culled selection of clips includes performances by Carlos Kleiber, Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson, Bob Dylan, Segovia & Nina Simone. It sometimes felt like Mr. Ross was an old friend spinning up some of his favorite disks for us. He even snuck in a recording of his cat's mew.

Wheeler Hall was nearly full & the audience contained many baby boomers for whom the 1960s selections no doubt had special significance. After his talk, which lasted over an hour, Mr. Ross stuck around to chat with people. I'm afraid I was a demanding fan, asking him to sign my copy of his book, complaining that I finished reading it far too quickly, & then blaming him for being the catalyst for my acquaintance with certain bloggers.

To round out the evening, I had the pleasure of meeting The Standing Room at long last. In the past we have managed to avoid one another even when in the same place. He was charmingly disappointed that The Opera Tattler was not in costume, though she reported that she was nearly denied entry into Disneyland recently due to an outfit which was deemed a "costume" by the park staff.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Fleet Week

Fleet WeekAfter hearing sonic booms over my neighborhood for the past 2 days, I accepted that if you can't beat 'em... So I walked to the Marina Green & joined the crowds at this afternoon's air show. It has been clear & cool this weekend, so one could not ask for better weather. I have to admit that I still get a thrill when I watch the Blue Angels roll in formation or fly so close that they look like they are going to fall on top of me. Stunt pilot Sean Tucker was one of their warm-up acts & performed spectacular maneuvers in a bright red, Oracle-branded bi-plane. There is something very human about his routine & the way he makes that plane corkscrew, somersault & tilt. At several points the plane hovers vertically, in defiance of gravity, & it seems to be a man with outstretched arms. I was close enough to the loudspeakers to hear the music & commentary that goes with the show. It was a bit freaky when they switched to Mr. Tucker's cockpit & he told the audience, through excited laughter, that the air show celebrates our American freedoms.

Fleet WeekOne end of the Marina Green had big inflatable structures for kids to play in. The weirdest attraction, though, was one in which an eager child is sealed in a large clear plastic balloon, which is then inflated & tossed into a wading pool. The kids flopped around in them like hamsters in a ball.

San Francisco Fleet Week
October 7 - 12, 2010

Saturday & Sunday: Full Air Show beginning at 1:00 and ending with the Blue Angels at 3:00-4:00pm. Excellent viewing along the waterfront from Marina Green to PIER 39.

Toy Theaters

The Burning of TroyYesterday afternoon I went to see a small exhibit of paper toy theaters at the Museum of Performance & Design. The MPD's gallery space is the hallway going around the atrium on the 4th floor of the Veterans Building. The galley space feels peripheral in more ways than one. A law library occupies the central atrium.

Toy Theater BackdropThe exhibit consists of modern toy theaters models plus original lithographic sheets containing sets & lively figures to cut out & place in the theaters. The exhibition notes that the layering of planes that create the illusion of depth in these toys is the same technique used by the multiplane camera on display at the Walt Disney Family Museum. Despite their size, the models have a lot of pictorial detail. The plays performed on them were sensational & exotic, as evidenced by scenes from "The Burning of Troy" & "The Explosion of the Mill" on display. A contemporary model depicts a scene from Turandot performed by pigs. The gallery provides a useful reference sheet for the exhibit, which includes links to wackily impressive fan sites.

I also took a quick walk through the other exhibits, which focus on the Bay Area performance scene. I learned that San Francisco's first performance of Wagner's Ring took place in 1900 at Morosco's Grand Opera House on Mission St. It was a touring production from Grau Metropolitan Grand Opera, & San Francisco gave them their greatest advance sale outside of New York. We were mad for opera even then.

Museum of Performance & Design
Toy Theatres: Worlds in Miniature
The exhibition is scheduled to run through the end of 2010

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Walt Disney Family Museum

Walt Disney Family MuseumThis weekend the Walt Disney Family Museum in the Presidio has been celebrating its one year anniversary. I've been wanting to check out the museum, so I attended their Saturday Night Soiree, mainly to take advantage of the half-off admission. Apart from the evening hour, the only other thing that made it feel like a soiree was the sale of beverages in the lobby.

This boutique-like museum is not affiliated with the Disney company, & its focus is on Walt Disney the man, though it is impossible to separate him from his studio. The collection is extensive, including everything from Walt's baptismal certificate to cartoon tributes upon his death. A bench from Griffith Park somehow made its way into the museum as well. The 1st rooms focus on Walt's early life & first animation studio in Kansas City, Missouri. To get to the next galleries, one takes an elevator decked out like a train car, the elevator ride representing the Disney brothers' move to California. Subsequent galleries contain a wealth of documentation about the Disney studio, its films & projects. Video screens & interactive kiosks make available tons of additional material. There is really far too much to take in on one visit. Just when you think you're at the last gallery, you turn a corner to find even more. A spectacular room near the end features a model of Disneyland as Disney last envisioned it.

There were perhaps 40 people lined up when the doors opened for this event. Many of the attendees were Asian, & there were some families, though the museum is not really for children. The museum staff, in purple bellhop uniforms, all seem to be Disney fanatics themselves & have clearly received exemplary customer service training.

6 PM to 9PM on Saturday, October 2

Friday, October 01, 2010

A Film Unfinished

I saw this eerie holocaust documentary this afternoon. The basis for the documentary is a silent film shot by the Nazis on location in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942. At first, this film appears to document life in the ghetto, some of it looking comfortable, most of it brutal. A reel of outtakes reveals that it is actually staged, even street scenes showing SS men dispersing a crowd.

A Film Unfinished presents the raw documentary footage plus the outtakes, thoughtfully intercut with interviews of former ghetto residents watching the film & excerpts from an evasive post-war deposition by the cameraman Willy Wist. As one would expect, the images are visceral & powerful, especially the piercing, emaciated faces of the ghetto residents. Just as powerful is the modern-day footage of a ghetto survivor averting her eyes from the film at its most horrific moments. Because the ultimate purpose of the Nazi film is unclear, this documentary unfolds like a mystery story without a solution.

This is not something that is going to cheer anybody up, but it treats the content with an almost surgical calm & gives you room to think as well as to react. I like that the ghetto survivors are listed as "Witnesses" in the closing credits. Many of the people who attended the screening came in supplied with popcorn, snacks & soft drinks. I would not recommend this, as the film is replete with images of starvation.