Monday, May 15, 2023

2023 Cannes Marathon: Orchestra Rehearsal


(Played Out of Competition at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival)
Directed by Federico Fellini and screenplay by Fellini and Brunello Rondi from a story by Fellini, Prova d’orchestra (Orchestra Rehearsal) is the story of an orchestra being filmed for a documentary as they deal with their conductor leading to a strike but also chaos within the orchestra about what to do. The film serves as a political commentary towards some of the political turmoil that was happening in the late 1970s as it is told in a documentary style set inside a dilapidated 13th Century church that is to be demolish. Starring Balduin Bass, Clara Colosimo, Elizabeth Labi, Ferdinando Villela, Franco Javarone, David Mauhsell, Francesco Aluigi, and Andy Miller. Prova d’orchestra is a riveting and fascinating film from Federico Fellini.

Set in 13th Century church that is in ruins, the film revolves around an orchestra rehearsing for an upcoming performance as they’re being filmed by a documentary crew as they deal with each other and their tyrannical composer who demands perfection from them. It is a film with a simple premise as it is told in the span of a day as screenwriters Federico Fellini and Brunello Rondi explore this orchestra getting ready for a performance though the rehearsal space they’re using is in a decayed state as well as growing tension among the orchestra. Leading the whole thing is the conductor (Balduin Bass) who is demanding perfection which becomes much for some of the people in the orchestra as many of them talk to the camera crew as they talk about their roles in the orchestra. A union organizer (Claudio Ciocca) is watching over things as he is aware of the tension among the orchestra going into different factions relating to age, social classes, and leftist ideals.

Fellini’s direction is largely intimate as it is shot at the Cinecetta Studios in Rome where there’s very few sets with much of it being in this dilapidated church from the 13th Century that has cracks and mold. While there are some wide shots including some moments in the film’s finale, much of Fellini’s direction emphasizes on close-ups and medium shots as well as lot of dolly-tracking shot that pans around the area where the orchestra is rehearsing. Fellini opens with an empty room in the church as an elderly copyist (Umberto Zuanelli) places music sheets for all of the musicians to read while a few of them arrive with one of them holding a radio listening to a soccer game. The first half of the film is about the members of the orchestra being interviewed individually including a young piano player (Elizabeth Labi), an oboe player (Andy Miller), and many others as they deal with their conductor who likes to have the music be presented a certain way.

Fellini does play into these factions among the orchestra where many of its younger members have leftist ideals with elements of socialism and communism while the older ones prefer to just play with some not happy with the conductor whom they see as this conservative figure that is tyrannical though he is far from this conservative figure when he’s alone in his room and talking to the camera. Still, he endures this sense of chaos that is going on in the church while there is a lot of things happening outside of the church as if it is being destroyed as it does serve as this metaphor for the problems of late 1970s Italian politics. Though Fellini doesn’t make things clear on where he stands nor does he explain where some of the individuals are coming from politically. He does say something about its many fallacies where the film’s ending is about the need for everyone to come together on one thing no matter their differences. Overall, Fellini creates a compelling and engaging film about an orchestra rehearsal going into turmoil.

Cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its emphasis on low-key lighting as the film is shot largely in interior settings along with the usage of candle lights and lights in the latter for some scenes involving the documentary crew. Editor Ruggero Mastroianni does excellent work with the editing as it plays into some of the chaotic elements of the film with its jump cuts along with some stylish cuts to play into the rhythm of the music. Production designer Dante Ferretti and set decorator Bruno Cesari do incredible work with the look of the interior of the church hall in its decayed state where it looks like it is from the 13th Century with its cracks and mold as well as the hallway and a bar that the characters go to during a break. Costume designer Gabriella Pescucci does fantastic work with the costumes as it is largely casual with everyone wearing something of style with the older people wearing suits and the younger people wearing more stylish clothes of the time.

The special effects work of Adriano Pischiutta is terrific for a few scenes relating to sounds outside of the church including a big moment in the film’s climax. Sound effects editor Fernando Caso does superb work in creating sound effects for many of the scenes outside of the church as well as sparse sounds inside the church. The film’s music by Nino Rota is phenomenal as it is not just a major highlight of the film but a key proponent that helps drive the film with its orchestral flourishes and arrangements that features suites and pieces with strings, brass, woodwinds, and percussions all playing their part as it is one of Rota’s great scores in one of the final contributions he created before his death in 1979.

The film’s ensemble cast is wonderful as it features some notable small roles and appearances from the quintet of Heinz Krueger, Angelica Hansen, Luigi Uzzo, Francesco Aluigi, and David Maunsell as violinists, Filippo Trincaia as the orchestra head who is trying to get everyone in place, Daniele Pagani as the trombone player, Franco Mazzeri as a trumpet player who is the victim of a prank, Claudio Ciocca as a union organizer trying to help the musicians with whatever they’re dealing with, Andy Miller as the oboe player who expresses his love for the oboe, Ronaldo Bonacchi as the bassoon player, Franco Ivarone as the bass tuba player who believes the tuba is an important part of the orchestra, and Ferdinando Villella as an old cello player.

Umberto Zuanelli is terrific as an elderly copyist who is trying to write down notes for the conductor as well as assist him any way he can while Sibyl Amarilli Mostert is fantastic as a flute player who is promiscuous but also spouting a lot of feminist and leftist views. Elizabeth Labi is excellent as a young pianist who is eager to be interviewed as she feels like she is important to the orchestra while Clara Colosimo is brilliant as a veteran harp player who feels underappreciated by the other musicians as she believes the harp carries something special. Finally, there’s Balduin Bass in an amazing performance as the conductor as a man who is a perfectionist as he wants everything to not just be right but also in its feel as he is filled with frustrations as well as bearing the responsibility in being someone who wants to present the music to the people in the way he feels.

Prova d’orchestra is a marvelous film from Federico Fellini. While it is a film that has a short running time of 72 minutes and doesn’t do enough to explore many of the political allegories in the film. It is still a film that carries gorgeous visuals, amazing performances from its ensemble, and a tremendous music score by Nino Rota in his final collaboration with Fellini as the film was released in Italy months before Rota’s death in early 1979. In the end, Prova d’orchestra is a remarkable film from Federico Fellini.

Federico Fellini Films: (Variety Lights) – The White Sheik - (L’amore in Citta-Un’agenzia martimoniale) – I Vitelloni - La Strada - Il Bidone - Nights of Cabiria - La Dolce Vita - (Boccaccio ’70-Le tentazoni del Dottor Antonio) – 8 & 1/2 - Juliet of the Spirits - Spirits of the Dead-Toby Dammit - (Fellini: A Director’s Notebook) – Fellini Satyricon - (I Clowns) – Roma - Amarcord - Casanova (1976 film) - City of Women - And The Ship Sails On - Ginger & Fred - (Intervista) – (The Voice of the Moon)

© thevoid99 2023


Brittani Burnham said...

Ohhh adding this to my watchlist. It sounds like something I'd really like.

thevoid99 said...

I got the film from a recent Blu-Ray sale from Arrow which is a great label that is more devoted to cult and genre films in comparison to the more arty Criterion.

This is a minor Fellini film but I really enjoyed this and I'll take a minor Fellini film over everything else. Plus, it's only 72-minutes.