Friday, 18 March 2011

Frocky Horror Show

Tony Palmer's Parsifal on TV last night was a Blast From the Past as they say on pop radio. Supposedly made in 1998 but more like a time capsule from the 70's, The Decade That Taste Forgot. It's not really a documentrary about Parsifal but a random stringing together of clips from various movies, pop shows, news items, etc, thrown together in a self consciously "groovy" way. It's even more shallow than those Bad Taste LP covers that make you howl. This isn't film making, it's schoolboy crib minus a point of view.

Palmer lucks out when he finds good talking heads, like the Orff wives or Ursula Vaughan Williams, who was a masterpiece in her own right. No-one could talk about RVW's sex life better than she and she did it with such wit that it enhanced the image of the man. In Parsifal, Palmer could get no-one but David Gutman and Karen Armstrong, who used to be a nun and became a very minor celeb talking about religion to people who aren't actually interested in the subject.

The real Mystery of this Parsifal is how Palmer got the Holy Grail that is Plácido Domingo. Perhaps Domingo thought he was making a legit opera film. He's a great communicator and knows what he's talking about. It's a tragedy that the film he could have made wasn't made. On the other hand, the production that's featured in this film is so corny, it's embarrassing.

Instead we have a coy Dance of the Seven Veils with bits of Raiders of the Lost Ark and obligatory Nazi footage to disguise the fact there's nothing on underneath. There's so much to think about in Parsifal and what Wagner might be getting at. But don't look for it in this film. It's so superficial and self indulgent that it makes Stephen Fry seem coherent in comparion. And using images of war and the dead exploits suffering for cheap thrills. It's simply not acceptable.

Before the RVW film was released, Palmer claimed to have been rejected by the BBC on the grounds that "Mr Williams" didn't merit coverage. Big fuss! Then it turned out that Palmer himself had concocted the fake message to get sympathy. Such immaturity. But anyone who sees this film won't be surprised.  On the other hand, maybe this film is another infantile publicity stunt that promotes nothing but Palmer's ego.  Don't be fooled. Please read what Mark Berry at Boulezian said about the screening last year.

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