"Mr. Pachelbel's Canon" (1945) Heartwarming tale of a frustrated music teacher fired for alleged Communist sympathies, and his constantly-interrupted efforts to write his 'great symphony' while working a series of odd jobs. Johann Pachelbel: Charlie Chaplin, Iris Pachelbel: Agnes Moorhead, Principal Roger Stiffbutt: Gale Gordon. (B/W, 72 min.)
Sometimes I wish a film like that could pop up on Turner Classic Movies. To say I loathe the Canon in D is putting it mildly. I fail to see how it ever became one of the workhorses of classical music! Sure, Peter Schickele (a/k/a PDQ Bach) thumbed his nose at the Canon on his 1991 album, "WTWP Classical Talkety-Talk Radio" (WTWP = Wall To Wall Pachelbel) ..... however, I'm still waiting for a punk band or other angst-ridden group to grab this piece of musical horse phlegm by the gonads and rework it into a rage-filled masterpiece. C'mon! It can be done.
Okay, the inspiration for this post came yesterday evening when I was doing some channel-surfing. On one of the Encore channels, the 1995 movie Mr. Holland's Opus had just come on. I hadn't watched that thing in years, so down went the remote. Seraphim woke up from a short nap and joined me.
This movie is significant in our life in that it was the second movie we watched together -- Seraphim had come over to Troy from Columbus for our second date, and we watched Mr. Holland's Opus on video. [side thought: Seraphim and I have been together for a long time. When I first met her and we'd just begun dating, I had yet to hear of something called a DVD.]
It's funny, Richard Dreyfuss figures into our first two movies .... on our first date, we watched Krippendorf's Tribe at the theater. Maybe we should have a Richard Dreyfuss film festival on our next anniversary. Yes, even Jaws.
But -- yet again -- I digress. Mr. Holland's Opus is a favorite movie of mine; always has been, and always will be. I appreciate the film even more today because of a good friend of mine, whom I met since I last saw Opus, is a middle school band director. Looking at the movie, I wonder what influence Birdman will have on his students.
Yes, the movie is a Hollywood treatment (duhhhh ... it's called A MOVIE!), and some music teachers have taken offense to what they perceive as a distortion of their jobs. Yes, the movie does have faults. Several of them bug me to no end. Yet, all in all, the movie's heart is in the right place and it portrays the struggles of a man's life fairly well.
BUT, snarky soul that I am, I have to proffer several questions. And I would advise anyone who has never seen this movie to stop right here and now, for there are some spoilers. Don'wanna ruin this for anyone, mmm-kay? Allright, then, my questions:
1) I cannot believe the writer and director left the issue of Roweena unresolved (the young lady who blew everyone away at the Gershwin play audition with her beautiful rendition of "I Got Rhythm"). She had the hots for Mr. Holland, and even propositioned him to leave his family and go to New York with her. But at the big hoo-hah at the end, she was nowhere to be found. Why didn't she return as a big Tony-award-winning Broadway diva? Roweena was just left hanging. Glaringly dumb move. (then again, I have this on lowly VHS; maybe on the extra features part of the DVD, the Roweena question is addressed).
2) If The Little Red-Haired Girl -- a/k/a Miss "Play The Sunset" -- grew up to be guvnah of their great state, why come she didn't champion Mr. Holland's livelihood?? The reason for the big retirement party, after all, was because Mr. Holland was forced out of his gig because of BUDGET CUTS. The school was deep-six'ing the entire music program.
If the governor had a brain, she would think back and realize that Mr. Holland provided the spark of inspiration. She lacked self-esteem, but it was A FRIGGIN' MUSIC TEACHER whose words ("Play the sunset") caused a little girl to turn the corner. You'd think the woman might be a major advocate for school music programs, that she'd fight any attempts to kill those programs in her state. True, it's state legislatures who ultimately pass budgets ... but the governor has the power of the bully pulpit and the power of the veto pen. Where was the governor?????
Or maybe she was a Republican like Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, who used so-called "liberal" programs to get where they are, and - once at the top - proceed to advocate for their dismantling.
3) The city parade scene, the one where Iris suspects baby Cole may be deaf (the fire truck horn drives 3/4 of the town into raging tinnitus, but little Cole sleeps unfazed through the whole thing), features Mr. Holland's fledgling marching band. They march down the streets in a 1965 parade playing "Louie Louie."
Ummmmmm, small problem: nothing coming close to rock and/or roll was played by marching bands back then, and certainly not in a public performance of that nature. I think Cliff Nobles' 1968 hit "The Horse" was just about the first contemporary song heard during marching band performances (Birdman might be able to clarify here .... or Seraphim? Anyone? Anyone?)
In any case, "Louie Louie" was more than a little controversial in its day. Ain'noway a young, non-tenured band teacher was gonna lead a bunch of students in what was considered by many to be an obscene song.
Whooookay, those pickings-of-nit aside, I give the movie a strong 8 quarter-notes out of 10. It shows how teachers can inspire students, and how some of the more talented ones can take creative paths to reach students who might not respond via more conventional means.
It's a good movie. And goes to prove that on occasion there IS something good on Encore. :-)
Ciao for niao.
--Talmadge "This one time, at band camp..." Gleck
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