A few weeks ago I finally had the opportunity to watch Greg Cahill’s docufilm about Cambodian vocalist, Ros Sereysothea, The Golden Voice. I was only mildly disappointed. Not for the quality of the film–it is beautifully done–but because there wasn’t enough focus on, well, the music (probably also the biggest issue I had with Olivier Dahan’s docu-film about French Chanteuse, Édith Piaf , La Vie en Rose).
I suppose I’m just a sucker for really “dry” (I quote it because to me they aren’t really that “dry”–hah!) and serious “documentaries” about music or musical genres. Something along the lines of, say, Nasser Taghvai’s documentary Dress Rehearsal: The Brave Hurr’s Ta’Zieh, a Ta’Zieh (Persian Passion Play/Opera), ; or Derek Bailey and Siân Busby’s documentary of the Lincoln Center’s production of The Peony Pavilion (Mǔdāntíng), a Kunju (Chinese Opera) piece.
It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the dramatized biographies–or that I actually enjoy the genre docs more. I do believe the former are much easier to watch, and likely more pleasurable. But there’s something intellectually satisfying, from a musician’s standpoint, about the latter. See, while the bio-docs focused on things that we all have in common with each other–at the expense of
erasing the differences, the genre-docs focused on highly developed Art music (Art theatre, maybe?) hat are so foreign to Western Opera/Musical that it takes no effort to accentuate the differences.
I understand that this is a very unfair comparison on many different levels, but I’m just trying to make some sense about what are the things about particular documentary[-like] films that work for me using a few examples I can think of off the cuff. I’ll definitely be coming back to this as I get more in depth with the documentaries that I have in various stages of [in]completion.