Saturday, 22 November 2008

Sarah Van den Boom "Novecento Pianiste"

Sometimes I am surprised by the little attention paid to works of art. Sarah Van den Boom's 17 minute and startlingly well made Novecento Pianiste ( is a case in point. Based on the Italian novel by Alessandro Barrico, the story is of Novecento, abandoned as a newly born baby and growing to manhood on one of those stately and vast liners that crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the early part of the 20th century. He is discovered by a member of the crew on top of the piano that, alongside the ship, is to be his life for the duration of the movie. We follow the child to manhood, raised by his rescuer below decks, teaching himself to play and becoming a much loved fixture in the concert room on the transatlantic voyages. The hand drawn animation is wonderful throughout in shaded black and white though colour is subtly introduced at times for emphasis and punctuation. The detail of the drawings is achieved by a natural artist, one able to work at pace, full of delicate shading, perspectives and a capacity to tie ideas together: the shoes of the young woman on the stairs as she leaves her infant, those of the adult as he treads his way towards dry land; the sudden adoption of strong colour and a different style as Sarah's narrative encompasses the jazz era; humour and pathos, drunk in charge of a grand piano: a burial at sea. Although a favourite on the festival circuit, I have no idea, for example, why this quite wonderful movie has had such comparative little exposure on YouTube -Novecento Pianiste 1 & Novecento Pianiste 2. Perhaps the English speaking world's notorious unwillingness to deal with a foreign language is at the root though one need not fear: the dialogue is sparse indeed and the film entirely accessible to all. And an exceptional treat it is too. Sarah's Press Details provide background and her website provides links to her work, including her artwork. She has contributed glorious ads for the top USA company Acme Filmworks. I will return to the director's commercial work next week. I am presently allowing myself to consider my top ten films of the year and Sarah's 2005 movie is at the forefront of my mind at the moment in this respect.

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