Rosa Goddard Fest: ‘Valerie and Her Week of Wonders’

Jaroslava Schallerová in the title role of "Valerie and Her Week of Wonders" (1970).

Jaroslava Schallerová in the title role of “Valerie and Her Week of Wonders” (1970).

It is safe to say you probably will not confuse Wednesday’s offering in the Rosa Goddard International Film Festival with the Kentucky Theatre‘s Summer Classics Series of primarily populist hits that ran Wednesdays for the past three months.

But in many circles, “Valerie and Her Week of Wonders” is a classic. The 1970 import is considered a prime example of the Czech new wave, which was a thing in the 1960s and boasted directors such as Miloš Forman, who won best director Oscars for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975) and “Amadeus” (1984)– both of which also won best director.

The man behind the camera for “Valerie” was Jaromil Jireš, whose 1963 film, “The Cry” was considered the first film of the Czech new wave.

“Valerie” tells the coming of age story of a 13-year-old girl, played by Jaroslava Schallerova, whose world is both sensually beautiful and horror film scary with vampires and predatory priests lurking in the corners of a fairy tale.

“In content, the film is a weird exercise, striking out boldly in the paths of Bergman, Fellini and Buñuel with characters in something of a clutter who shift into evil incarnate or plain tooth-chomping vampires,” New York Times critic Howard Thompson wrote in 1974. “One creepy sequence in a coffin-crammed lair is right out of ‘Dracula.'”

Thompson was one of many critics who felt Jireš was a bit overindulgent in his creation, but were willing to forgive it for the visual feast he offered set to a haunting score by  Luboš Fišer.

The movie shows at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Kentucky Theatre.

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Summer Classic: Federico Fellini’s ‘8½’

The Kentucky Theatre‘s Summer Classics series comes to a close today as it has in recent years with a foreign classic to sort of lead into the revived Rosa Goddard International Film Festival that will take over the Wednesday special slot for the balance of September.

And classic is a word that instantly pops to mind when you think of Federico Fellini’s “,” the masterpiece from one of the masters of the craft that plums the depths and passions of a filmmaker.

The brilliant, late Marcello Mastroianni — the only person who could make that nerdy sunglasses move look cool — is Fellini’s avatar in the film as Guido Anselmi, a famous Italian director simultaneously suffering writer’s block and marital difficulties that color his reality and fantasy.

“Here is a piece of entertainment that will really make you sit up straight and think, a movie endowed with the challenge of a fascinating intellectual game,” Bosley Crowther wrote in his June 1963 review for The New York Times. “It has no more plot than a horse race, no more order than a pinball machine, and it bounces around on several levels of consciousness, dreams, and memories as it details a man’s rather casual psychoanalysis of himself. But it sets up a labyrinthine ego for the daring and thoughtful to explore, and it harbors some elegant treasures of wit and satire along the way.”

Sounds wonderfully brainy for this tweedy time of year, when many of us are getting back to school.

Roger Ebert wrote that  “8½” and its 1960 predecessor, “La Dolce Vita,” established a style known as “Felliniesque,” a signature mix of fantasy and realism conveyed in a Mediterranean aesthetic. Fellini’s style is influential to this day in film and still photography and in this context raises his storytelling game.

This is probably the best reviewed of this year’s Summer Classics, though it may not be as familiar to those who did not grow up with the traditional art house environment. But if you love movies, “8½” on the big screen is a treat you owe yourself.

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New flavors in culinary coverage

For some readers, I know the most exciting thing in today’s Weekender will be the return of restaurant reviews with Jacalyn Carfagno’s take on Graze in Winchester. Over the years, our readers have told us they love reading about local restaurants with their feedback and their hits, so while the reviews went on hiatus while some personnel changes were underway this summer, we have always aimed to bring them back and are thrilled to make good on that this week.

Today is also the day we bid adieu to longtime — seems like an understatement when you’re talking about 40 years — food and restaurant writer Sharon Thompson. As we wish her a great retirement with her last Tidbits column, we are also making plans for continued coverage of restaurant news, including a new podcast, LexGo Eat! (See the video version at the top of this page.)

We are certainly not going to replace the more than 40 years of service and knowledge that Sharon has given the Herald-Leader. But we are dedicated to continuing to relay much of the dining information you have come to expect from us. Staff writers Janet Patton and Cheryl Truman have been enthusiastically pitching ideas and doggedly pursing leads for how we can continue some traditions and create new ones on the culinary beat. So stay tuned, and send us any ideas you may have of what you would like to see in dining coverage at the Herald-Leader and LexGo.com.

 

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Do genres even matter anymore?

Taylor Swift rocking the red Les Paul, as the RED tour played Rupp Arena  on Saturday April 27, 2013 in Lexington, Ky. © Herald-Leader staff photo by Mark Cornelison.

Taylor Swift rocking the red Les Paul, as the RED tour played Rupp Arena on Saturday April 27, 2013 in Lexington, Ky. © Herald-Leader staff photo by Mark Cornelison.

Taylor Swift may have dropped the biggest piece of non-news this week when she announced that her new album, 1989, due out Oct. 27, will be an all-pop music effort; no country music pretenses.

For many, pretense was all it was. As one of my colleagues joked, “She’s a country artist. She plays an acoustic guitar and I think they sneak a banjo in the mix somewhere. Those are the only prerequisites.”

In recent years, Taylor looked a little weird sitting among all the cowboy hats and custom boots at the country award shows, except …

Another story that rolled across our wires this was the boys in Florida Georgia Line talking about the big beats and other genre-bending elements of their forthcoming album.

This, of course, drives country music purists crazy. Country, they say, is being turned into pop music, shedding the instrumentation, song craft and roots of the genre’s traditions to co-opt hip-hop and dance sounds that currently top the pops.

Now, this is nothing new.  You hear what happened back in 1965 when Bob Dylan plugged in an electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival?

In any genre of music, fans create a concept of what the proper sound is and cry foul when people start messing with it, even if the broader public doesn’t care a bit. Florida Georgia Line’s Cruise became one of the biggest hits ever in country music. Even when she was supposedly just a country artist, Taylor Swift’s Red tour was the biggest one by a solo artist to play Rupp Arena. I drove by the back of the arena that day, and it was comical how many Taylor Swift trucks it took to haul her show around.

And that Dylan song that drove folk purists crazy?: Like a Rolling Stone. Go on Spotify, and it’s his most popular song by several million plays.

Fans really don’t care if you are country, folk, classical, soul, hip-hop or rock ‘n’ roll enough if they like your music.

So do genres matter, particularly in these  days when music is so accessible and sampling is so easy?

You may think you don’t like, say, country music. But it is incredibly easy to get on your computer or phone, call up some Loretta Lynn or Garth Brooks and see how you really feel. Some of the most exciting music being made today is when genre lines are crossed, and no, I’m not talking about that Brad Paisley-LL Cool J thing. I’m talking about things like Goat Rodeo, where classical cellist Yo-Yo Ma teamed with Nashville artists like Chris Thile and Stuart Duncan. I’m talking about University of Kentucky graduate and Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche’s  adventurous solo compositions and the culturally illuminating hybrid projects of artists like Paul Simon and Talking Heads.

That doesn’t mean all cross over is good. I really find the whole bro country thing Florida Georgia Line represents kind of insufferable; kind of posing, more appropriation than exploration and the lyrical content is incredibly narrow.

And it doesn’t mean genres don’t matter. Country music, since that’s what started this discussion, was born as a genuine expression of the American South in the early 20th Century and produced iconic genre definers such as Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams. It has deep roots and traditions that are still practiced by artists such as Kentucky’s own Dwight Yoakam and deserves respect and preservation. Most genres have similar stories.

Maybe what Swift did this week was a sign of respect, acknowledging country is not what she is doing right now. But what she did before was nothing to get upset about.

Really, when it comes to music, if you like it, listen to it. And if you don’t, don’t listen to it, regardless of genre. A long time ago, when people asked me what kind of music I like, I settled on this answer: good music.

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Chamber Music Festival of Lexington opens with game-changing performance

Flutist Garrett Hudson, violist Burchard Tang and harpist Allegra Lilly opened both halves of the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington's concert Aug. 20, 2014, at the Fasig Tipton Pavilion. © Herald-Leader staff photo by Rich Copley.

Flutist Garrett Hudson, violist Burchard Tang and harpist Allegra Lilly opened both halves of the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington’s concert Aug. 20, 2014, at the Fasig Tipton Pavilion. © Herald-Leader staff photo by Rich Copley.

Photos: See a gallery from Wednesday’s concert.

Even if you missed all of the prelude concerts in this year’s Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, it was fairly obvious there were some big changes this year from the downbeat of the first main stage concert at the Fasig Tipton Pavilion, Wednesday night.

First, you were there on Wednesday.

In a major shift, the Fasig Tipton shows are now three concerts spread out over five days, instead of on consecutive days. Second, there were a lot more faces on stage, representing the integration of the previous two seasons’ prelude concerts and the Fasig Tipton shows anchored by the fest’s core quintet of violinists Nathan Cole and Akiko Tarumoto, violist Burchard Tang, cellist Priscilla Lee and pianist Alessio Bax.

Tang was the first of the group to take the stage, accompanied by guest artist Allegra Lilly, harp, and flutist Garrett Hudson of ensemble-in-residence WindSync. That trio gathered at the beginning of both halves of the concert to play an illuminating combination of works: Fear of Falling in Love by Los Angeles based composer — there is a theme here — Jeff Beal and Claude Debussy’s Sonata for flute, viola and harp.

Beal, whose credits include music for the Netflix series House of Cards, clearly has an ear for story-telling music, Lilly’s harp opening the piece in dreamlike flourishes while Hudson’s flute went on an adventure and the viola wound up the tension. It was an intriguing piece and stood in contrast to Debussy’s also picturesque but much more melodic work that opened Part II.

Lilly was busy most of the night, playing on L.A. composer — theme? — David Lefkowitz’s rhythmic Berceuse as well as the show closing Introduction and Allegro by Maurice Ravel, a piece that put the most musicians ever on the Chamber Fest stage with all the core string players, Lilly and WindSync’s Hudson and clarinetist Jack Marquardt. That unified the first and second half finales as dazzlers, the big piece showing a range of chamber music from a huge sound to Lilly’s intricate solo harp. Cole and Bax closed the first half with Franz Schubert’s Sonata for violin and piano in A major in a performance that was particularly delightful in Bax’s embrace of the dancing melody.

WindSync got its own moment in the spotlight with Samuel Barber’s Summer Music, which epitomized the charm of this concert and set the stage for the weekend to come.

Friday’s concert will focus on the core quintet and more Los Angeles music with the world premiere of composer-in-residence Adam Schoenberg’s Go. Sunday afternoon will put Bax in the spotlight with a few solo turns along with yet another new voice: Lexington-based soprano Karen Slack, who will be making her local debut as a soloist with a 21st century work by Drew Schnurr and some George Gershwin delights to close out the festival. (Read more about Go and Slack in Friday’s Weekender.)

And by the time it is over, it should be abundantly clear that this is an event that has grown and changed.

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Summer classic: ‘Harvey’

Jimmy Stewart as the whimsical and alcoholic Elwood P. Dowd admiring his friend and companion,  /><p class=Jimmy Stewart as the whimsical and alcoholic Elwood P. Dowd admiring his friend and companion, Harvey, a six-foot three-inch invisible white rabbit. Associated Press

If you are going to hang an entire movie on a central character who is an alcoholic and firmly believes he hangs out with a six-foot, 3-inch white rabbit, you need to have an actor who can pull it off. And the golden age of filmmaking certainly had that in affable Jimmy Stewart.

Not only did he make Elwood P. Dowd’s illusion — or is it? — utterly charming, he managed to make everyone else in his family look completely ridiculous in the process. Harvey was Henry Koster’s 1950 adaptation of Mary Chase’s stage play, which we saw revived earlier this year at the Woodford Theatre, with charming Central Kentucky actor Eric Johnson taking on the lead role.

The story centers around Elwood, and his social-climbing sister and their niece’s attempt to have him committed to a sanitarium so they can have a normal life, without Uncle Elwood popping up and offering to introduce everyone to his invisible giant rabbit. Elwood is nothing if not polite, constantly making introductions and offering to buy people drinks.

But the commitment plans go off the rails and the comedy ramps up when the doctors conclude that Elwood’s sister, Veta (Josephine Hull), must be the crazy one.

As I watched Woodford’s production earlier this year, it occurred to me that an ideal modern Elwood would be Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons, who has made the significantly more socially awkward Sheldon Cooper a beloved character for eight seasons now, and lo and behold, Roundabout Theatre has already done that.

But Wednesday at the Kentucky Theatre Summer Classics series, we get to see the original, Jimmy Stewart, in a performance that is hard to beat for its charm and its wisdom.

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Chamber Music Festival of Lexington blows into town

Members of WindSync, including saxophonist Tracy Jacobson, front, percussionist Garrett Hudson and clarinetist Jack Marquardt, played a pop-up concert last August across from A Cup of Common Wealth at Main Street and Eastern Avenue. The Houston-based quintet played a series of pop-up concerts throughout Lexington as part of the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington. The ensemble is back this year for similar performances. Go to ChamberMusicLex.com for more information. Photo by Rich Copley | staff.

Members of WindSync, including saxophonist Tracy Jacobson, front, percussionist Garrett Hudson and clarinetist Jack Marquardt, played a pop-up concert last August across from A Cup of Common Wealth at Main Street and Eastern Avenue. The Houston-based quintet is scheduled to give a similar performance on Monday. Photo by Rich Copley | staff.

The Chamber Music Festival of Lexington started Thursday, embarking on the biggest overhaul of the event since it started in 2007.

Two years ago, the festival began to be preceded by impromptu concerts by a chamber group in addition to the festival’s core ensemble, led by Lexington native Nathan Cole, first associate concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. This year, the prelude is being morphed into the festival proper to create an 11-day multi-venue event that starts Friday night on the lawn of the Loudoun House, with beer, barbecue and music from ensemble-in-residence WindSync. Beer, barbecue and classical music: that’s how we roll in the Bluegrass.

Instead of running on consecutive days, the festival’s centerpiece concerts at the Fasig-Tipton Pavilion on Newtown Pike will be spaced out Wednesday, Friday and the following Sunday, with other performances by the festival’s longstanding core ensemble and WindSync surrounding those events.

As it did last year, WindSync has a series of performances set throughout Lexington in the coming week, including a rush-hour performance at A Cup of Commonwealth Coffee Shop and Thoroughbred Park at 8:30 a.m. Monday and a fund-raising performance for the group at 11 a.m. Sunday at the Green Tree Tea Room. A schedule of all performances can be found at the festival website.

The Houston-based quintet also will be part of events at the Fasig-Tipton Pavilion when things get rolling there next week with the festival ensemble — Cole, violinist Akiko Tarumoto, cellist Priscilla Lee, violist Burchard Tang, and pianist Alessio Bax.

Windsync will be part of the opening concert, which Cole, the festival’s artistic director, says works well because of this festival’s focus on music of Los Angeles, from early 20th-century master Maurice Ravel to 21st-century star Jeff Beal, known for his work on the Netflix series House of Cards.

The catalyst for the L.A. focus was SoCal-based composer-in-residence Adam Schoenberg plus Cole and Tarumoto, Cole’s wife and a fellow L.A. Phil violinist, who are based in Los Angeles and got to know the scene there firsthand. We’ll have more on Schoenberg and LA this weekend in the Herald-Leader and at LexGo.com.

In addition to Schoenberg, who was in town this spring for a world premiere with the Lexington Philharmonic as part of the Saykaly Garbulinska Composer-in-Residence partnership between the orchestra and chamber fest, the festival welcomes two other guest artists this year. Harpist Allegra Lilly has wrapped up her first year as principal harp of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and soprano Karen Slack is the first Lexington-based artist on the festival program. Read more about her next week.

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Summer classic: ‘The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek’

Eddie Bracken and Betty Hutton in the 1944 Preston Sturges screwball comedy "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek," which plays Aug. 13, 2014 on the Kentucky Theatre's Summer Classics series.

Eddie Bracken and Betty Hutton in the 1944 Preston Sturges screwball comedy “The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek,” which plays Aug. 13, 2014 on the Kentucky Theatre’s Summer Classics series.

After a day of mourning his death, Robin Williams would probably be the first person to tell movie lovers they could use a good laugh. The Kentucky Theatre Summer Classics series has just the thing for us in the Preston Sturges screwball comedy The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, which shows at 1:30 and 7:15 p.m. today.

The film’s plot reads like something out of a modern day comedy along the lines of The Hangover or Knocked Up: Small town party girl Trudy Kockenlocker (Betty Hutton) wakes up after a drunken send off for the troops married and pregnant. But she has no idea who her husband is. It gets crazier from there in typical Sturges style.

Sturges was regarded as ahead of his time, particularly for his touch with dialogue, taking home an Oscar for best original screenplay for The Great McGinty (1940) and earning two other nominations, including Miracle.

The film co-stars Eddie Bracken as Norval Jones, a local guy who’s been in love with Trudy and tries to help her, which adds to the hilarity. Bracken, who died in 2002, visited the Bluegrass a few years before his passing to film The Ryan Interview for KET as part of the network’s American Shorts series. Ashley Judd co-starred in that film as a reporter interviewing a man on his 100th birthday in the short play by Arthur Miller.

In the film, the reporter realizes Ryan is a repository of stories from a bygone era. And presenting movies like Morgan’s Creek, the Kentucky keeps films and filmmakers past fresh in our memories. And we can also get a much-needed laugh.

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Appreciation: Robin Williams, 1951-2014

Robin Williams in character as disc-jockey Adrian Cronauer in director Barry Levinsons comedy drama, "Good Morning Vietnam." © AP/Touchstone Pictures photo.

Robin Williams in character as disc-jockey Adrian Cronauer in director Barry Levinsons comedy drama, “Good Morning Vietnam.” © AP/Touchstone Pictures photo.

Most of us first met Robin Williams as Mork from Ork, who arrived on Earth in a giant egg and charmed the planet, particularly a fetching earthling named Mindy. In the years after Mork & Mindy’s run on ABC from 1978 to 1982, we got to know Robin Williams as one of the most human of comic talents in show business, as well as one of the funniest people alive.

Robin Williams died Monday at age 63 of an apparent suicide, leaving behind a loving family, colleagues and public as well as a treasury of masterful comedic and dramatic performances.

Robin Williams on the set of ABCs "Mork and Mindy." © AP/ABC file photo.

Robin Williams on the set of ABCs “Mork and Mindy.” © AP/ABC file photo.

While many comics get their laughs from cynicism and a view from above it all, Williams always seemed to be hyper-engaged with being part of this human race, from his stand-up to his conversations to the roles he selected. Look at the characters he played: Adrian Cronauer, the military DJ in Good Morning Vietnam; John Keating, the inspirational teacher of Dead Poets Society; the title role in Mrs. Doubtfire; his Oscar-winning turn in Good Will Hunting and even the Genie in Aladdin and Teddy Roosevelt in the Night at the Museum series. Robin Williams filled his resume with characters that worked against dehumanizing forces and tried to make this world a better place.

Robin Williams holding his Oscar high backstage at the 70th Academy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles after won Best Supporting Actor for "Good Will Hunting." © AP file photo by Reed Saxon.

Robin Williams holding his Oscar high backstage at the 70th Academy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles after won Best Supporting Actor for “Good Will Hunting.” © AP file photo by Reed Saxon.

The movie I most want to watch right now is Williams’ hauntingly beautiful performance in Terry Gillam’s The Fisher King (1991), in which he plays a homeless man, Parry, who helps a radio shock jock played by Jeff Bridges find redemption for the pain he inflicted on Parry years before when a misguided rant led a gunman to kill his wife. Parry suffers from delusions but possesses a well-reasoned life philosophy — “There’s three things in this world that you need: Respect for all kinds of life, a nice bowel movement on a regular basis, and a navy blazer” — and a beautifully simple story about the object of his conquest: the Holy Grail. It was the story of a king who sought it all his life, and when a fool inadvertently brought it to the king when he asked for a drink, and the king asked how the fool could have found this unattainable object, “the fool replied, ‘I don’t know. I only knew that you were thirsty.'” It was that philosophy of looking past puffery to the real needs of people, and creating something beautiful, that defined so many of Williams’ best roles. He has been slagged for some of his choices such as Patch Adams (1998). But I have always been inclined to forgive him, feeling he probably saw a message there he wanted to convey and looked past the weak material. If you are going to err on the side of being a good person, good for you, and don’t apologize.

There were roles like Patch that brought out performances that were overly self indulgent and sentimental. But at his best, Williams shined in roles that showed sharp wit, comic genius and a humanity that made him a much better dramatic actor than many would have suspected when Mork called Orson.

Robin Williams, left, and his daughter, Zelda at the premiere of  "Happy Feet Two" in Los Angeles. © AP file photo by Katy Winn.

Robin Williams, left, and his daughter, Zelda at the premiere of “Happy Feet Two” in Los Angeles. © AP file photo by Katy Winn.

I am often the first person in the room to caution people about making judgments about celebrities based on their public personas. But Williams was a man I was always inclined to believe in based on the work he did like founding Comic Relief, promoting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and supporting the United States armed forces through the USO. Celebrity is a currency, and Robin Williams spent it well.

All this makes the fact that apparently something so tormented him he took his own life all the more sad. Of any comedian, he seemed to take the most joy in making people laugh, and the world was a better place with him.

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Lexington 12-year-old guides film to Louisville fest


It took 12-year-old executive producer and storyteller Nicholas Skidmore and a drone to get the short film Sargento’s Saddle into competition at Louisville’s 48 Hour Film Project.

The 5-minute noir drama was shot in Louisville, Georgetown and Lexington and included footage of Lexington’s Calvary Baptist Church shot with a drone-mounted camera. It’s the story, according to a trailer, of a wealthy horse farm owner “whose life goes on a journey of twists and turns.”

Skidmore conceived the story, co-wrote the script and assembled the team of 26 adults, including director Samantha Hack, to write, shoot, edit and submit the entire film in 48s from 7:30 p.m. July 25 to 7:30 p.m. July 27 on the last weekend in July. According to the rules of the 48 Hour Film Project, filmmakers were required to use a character (a professional athlete named Lefty Ellsworth), a prop (a slice of pizza), a line of dialogue (“How was I to know?”) and a genre (film noir) in their film to ensure that it was made within the time period.

Sargento’s Saddle will be screened in a group of films at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 6 and 7 at the Village 8 Theaters in Louisville. There are 30 films in competition. The winning entry will go on to Filmapalooza, the nationwide 48 Hour Film Project finale, with the winning film receiving $6,000 and the top 15 films eligible to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival.

Drone operator J.D. Wright, actress Sally Evans and writer-producer Nicholas Skidmore outside Calvary Baptist Church in Lexington, during the "Sargento's Saddle" shoot for the Louisville 48 Hour Film Project. Photo by Jason Matlack.

Drone operator J.D. Wright, actress Sally Evans and writer-producer Nicholas
Skidmore outside Calvary Baptist Church in Lexington, during the “Sargento’s Saddle” shoot for the Louisville 48 Hour Film Project. Photo by Jason Matlack.

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