Post by sirotter on Feb 3, 2020 10:04:46 GMT -5
I woke up early this morning, and unable to go back to sleep, set about checking the classical music blogs I frequent. I came across a post about Manuel de Falla's 1924 ballet, El Amor Brujo (often translated as The Bewitching Love), which was based on his 1915 flamenco piece of the same name. It occurred to me that I'd heard the music many times, but I'd never seen the ballet performed. I perambulated in a virtual way over to YouTube in search of a filmed performance.
What I found was a twenty-minute section from the 1959 Michael Powell film, Honeymoon, that was the entire ballet performed in a cave in Andalusia for an audience that included an Australian couple on their, you guessed it, honeymoon in Spain. As Honeymoon is one of Powell's films I was not acquainted with, I checked it out on the Internet Movie DataBase. Not one of his more highly regarded efforts, except for the ballet sequence. I was familiar with a fair amount of his work, particularly The Red Shoes, The Tales of Hoffmann, the 1940 version of Thief of Bagdad, and, of course, Peeping Tom. Peeping Tom is the classic horror film that was so hated by the critics of its day that it destroyed Powell's career. Today, it's considered a classic of the genre, and rightly so. It ranks alongside Hitchcock's Psycho and Franju's Les Yeux Sans Visage as the other best horror film of 1960. But Honeymoon had so far eluded me.
A shame, because the ballet is an exquisite piece of film-making. Powell, having already mastered the craft of filming ballet in The Red Shoes, directs with a skill expected from an MGM musical, but hardly anywhere else in the industry.
The plot of the ballet is thus: Candela has been widowed by the murder of her husband. She is ready to move on with her life and her new love, Carmelo, but her late husband's ghost haunts her. She is advised to engage in a ritual fire dance to rid herself of the spectre. In the process, she transfers his attentions to Lucia, with whom he had been having an affair and whose husband murdered him. He takes Lucia away with him, leaving Candela to pursue her new romance.
During the performance, one begins to notice the plot of the surrounding film intruding on the ballet. The male dancer has fallen in love with the visiting bride, Anna. As the ballet nears its conclusion, his attention shifts gradually from his co-star, Candela, to the true object of his affection. As it ends, Anna's husband practically drags her away, but she tosses her corsage to the dancer, who kisses it and tosses it back. The transfer of focus from Candela to Anna is handled subtly enough, I think, that it is not especially jarring despite being out of context with the ballet sequence. I might not have even noticed without having read the synopsis.
That's how good Powell was. His career after Peeping Tom is pretty minimal, which is a damn shame. What wonders he might have created.