The Sound & Silent screening of 1928’s classic The Wind with live score by Lola Perrin and the documentary about renowned pianist Martha Argerich are two events are Birds Eye View where the piano takes protagonism. Manish Agarwal invites you to find out more about them:
Essential for classical music fans yet just as enthralling for complete novices – in fact, it’s almost more fun if the viewer has no prior knowledge – Argerich is as intimate and illuminating as an arts documentary about mercurial genius can be. Part of its potency derives from the unique level of access: this film about piano legend Martha Argerich was directed by her daughter Stephanie, who will be joining BEV for our eagerly awaited UK premiere at the Barbican.
Stephanie was gifted a camera by mum after a Japanese tour decades ago. She’s been filming, observing and gently probing ever since. Interspersed with a judicious selection of concert archive and contemporary footage, these home video vignettes add crucial texture to her portrait of the artist as a prodigy, celebrity, parent and beyond.
The filmmaker’s decision to eschew linear convention is another masterstroke: instead of starting with her mother’s childhood in Argentina, Stephanie opens on herself giving birth! It may sound self-indulgent, but this intuitive approach to real-life narrative pays extraordinary dividends. For example, we get powerful insights into Martha’s thoughts on aging and self-image via a seemingly innocuous interlude of her three grown-up daughters sat on a picnic blanket trying to paint her toenails.
Biographical details reveal themselves when needed, the doc’s elliptical construction always serving its key themes of balancing motherhood with artistry, the freedom of flight versus a gloriously extended family’s stabilizing love. There are intriguing questions about Martha’s relentless globetrotting – at various times she’s lived in Buenos Aires, Brussels, Geneva, New York, Paris – and mysterious ancestry, Jewish and Latin heritages co-mingling. Darker undercurrents emerge, be it the recollections of a period when such a singular talent stopped playing altogether, or the quietly startling revelations about Stephanie’s eldest sister.
The feature debuted on the festival circuit last year under a different title, Bloody Daughter, referring to a wryly affectionate term used by Stephanie’s father, Stephen Kovacevich. An American living in London, he too is a virtuoso pianist of international renown, whose approach to both life and work provides a rich contrast with Martha (not to mention an unutterably poignant scene with Stephanie). Reminding us that gifts like these can’t really be explained, Argerich is a multilayered picture of a remarkable woman, assembled with humour, affection and honesty by one who knows her like nobody else.
If you’re in the mood for more transcendental ivory tinkling, then hurry to snap up the remaining tickets for our Sound & Silents performance by jazz-influenced pianist and minimalist composer Lola Perrin. She’ll be appearing at the Electric Cinema to present her evocative, elemental live score for 1928’s The Wind. Adapted from Dorothy Scarborough’s novel of the same name by trailblazing female screenwriter Frances Marion (who was the first person to win two Oscars), this visually sumptuous gothic drama stars ‘First Lady of the Silent Screen’ Lillian Gish in a classic American tale of suppressed sexuality and dust bowl longing.