Tuesday 23 February 2010

Prova d'Orchestra (Orchestra Rehearsal) - Review

Maybe you are amongst the people who fall for Guido's introspection in ''. Or perhaps you belong to the group who finds playboy Marcello's meaningless affairs in 'La Dolce Vita' alluring. But when it comes to my favourite film by late Italian director, Federico Fellini, I know which one to choose: 'Prova d'Orchestra' (Orchestra Rehearsal). This lesser-known gem by Il Maestro is a joy to watch.

Made in 1978, 'Prova d'Orchestra' narrates the travails of a worldwide, famous conductor who arrives at a small oratorio to lead a rehearsal. From the outset he faces various challenges: the omnipresent union, the quarreling musicians and the impertinence with which he believes he is being treated by the members of the orchestra.

What makes the story so appealing to me is the quasi-documentary approach. The first thirty of forty minutes of the film involve a squabble between the union, a television crew - on site to film the renowned conductor - and the musicians. A union leader makes it clear to the performers that they will not get any extra money for talking to the reporters. Although his words act as a deterrent at first, little by little the musicians relax and the love for their instruments and the desire to talk and boast about them overcomes any apprehensions about payment. This is where the movie shines the brightest. Talking directly to the camera (that is to the viewer), each musician reveals what makes his or her instrument so special. Travelling the diapason of humour and melancholy, Fellini artfully crafts a tale where the love for music is palpably discernible. Here, is the first violinist bragging about his place at the heart of the orchestra. There, is the pianist looking bashful but shedding all vestige of coyness when she waxes lyrical about the black and whites. Banter ensues when the other musicians mention the bass tuba player.

Unlike the other two movies I mentioned before, in 'Prova d'Orchestra' Fellini avoids any type of aloofness and insouciance. Whereas in both '' and 'La Dolce Vita', Mastroianni is the epitome of cool and composure (though helped by Claudia Cardinale in the former and Anita Ekberg in the latter), in 'Orchestra Rehearsal' the roles are equally shared. Even Polish-born Balduin Bass, in the conductor's role, has to adhere to this democratic approach. Saying that, though, his time on screen is so captivating and magnetic that I couldn't take my eyes off him everytime he raised the baton and shouted out the famous - and dreaded amongst musicians - cri de guerre: Da Capo! His soliloquy at the end, where he mentions that nobody respects conductors anymore, could even be seen as a token of the even-handedness the film symbolises. At just 70 minutes long, this is one of those cinematic treats every one should watch, preferably on a cold winter's night with a cup of hot chocolate in hand.

Copyright 2010

Next Post: 'Food, Music, Food, Music... Ad Infinitum', to be published on Thursday 25th February at 11:59pm (GMT)


  1. Terrific post Cuban! As an avowed Fellini lover, no, adorer, I had never heard of this movie so I thank you for bringing it to my attention. I can't wait to rent it! I'm partial to 8 1/2 but actually adore La Strada, perhaps, the best. Something about Giulietta and Quinn in that role...

  2. oooohhhh.........there is NOTHING like Italian. Can't speak it or understand it when spoken but it doesn't matter. Fabulous language, and I'll definitely take your word for it on the film.

  3. When I was a mere eighteen year old slip of a girl, my then boyfriend wanted to take me to see Fellini’s Satyricon:
    ‘You can’t see a film like that,’ my
    mother said.
    ‘But he’s going with a group of friends
    specifically to see that film. I can’t say no.’
    ‘If you can’t say no now, when will you
    ever be able to?’

    I went to the film. My first introduction to Fellini and I've not forgotten.

    Thanks for this, Cuban. It looks wonderful.

  4. Superb post. I have had two bites at it and do not feel I am done yet!

  5. Many thanks for your kind comments. One of my favourite scenes from this movie is right at the very beginning when the copyist talks about the history of the chapel and his memories of the place. Then he dances off, thrilled at the impending rehearsal.

    Greetings from London.

  6. Oh my God... I LOVE Fellini and I LOVE the music of Nino Rota, but I didn't know this film! I must get it and watch it with Sebastian as soon as possible! Thanks, Cubano!

  7. I’ve seen Fellini films but not this one. You make it sound very interesting. I could do with a hot cocoa today.

  8. Cuban, I love anything by Fellini, and I love this movie, too! And your review of the movie is simply dynamic. While I read this review, I remembered another obscure Fellini movie, "Intervista". That's another one in the documentary style. Fellini is, well, simply a genius. And you're a genius too for having selected this movie for one of your awesome reviews. That's not to say you're not a genius outside of that... well, you know what I mean. :-) Thank you, Cuban!


  9. You had me at the title.

    But can I find this in Malaysia? Not to mention a cold winter night. Hot Milo got.

    Arrivederci Signore.

  10. I trust your taste and judgement so much that I left this post, went to Netflix, found the film, ordered it, discovered a page full of Fellini..
    See what you've done!! And now I came back to tell you THANKS!!

  11. I've seen all those Fellini films except this one. You make it sound fascinating. Off to add to my Netflix!



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