Celebration of the four seasons in four different nations through the eyes of a brilliant violinist of that country, playing the relevant movement from the Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi. Spring, Tokyo - Sayaka Shoji; Summer, Australia - Niki Vasilakis; Autumn, New York - Cho-Lang 'Jimmy' Lin; Winter, Finland - Pekka Kuusisto.
Review by Louise Keller:
Four countries, four seasons and the timeless music of Vivaldi's classic concerto is the concept behind the documentary, simply titled 4. It's a nice idea that is well executed as the film juxtaposes different cultures, lifestyle and emotions on this unique musical backdrop. Violinists at each destination play not only the music, but talk about its imagery, their life, thoughts and philosophies. The result is more than you might expect, marrying a cultural travelogue saturated in music with life-affirming richness.
The splendid finale of Winter in Finland is my personal favourite, where the surreal, icy landscape with snow-tipped fir trees seems as warm as a hot toddy. Finnish violinist whiz-kid Pekka Kuusisto and friends journey to Lapland where the Winter Concerto is performed in a rustic private home. Autumn in New York, with its amber hues contrasting the starkness of its skyscrapers is also satisfying, as we meet Taiwanese-born New York violinist Cho-Liang Lin and his musician friends, performing and interacting at Barney Greengrass' delicatessen on the Upper West Side. From dogs-of-all-sizes being walked in Central Park to the hubbub of the centre, we are energised in this thriving metropolis heart.
Surprisingly, the weakest segment is Summer in Australia, when musicians travel to Thursday Island to perform. The sweltering heat and harshness of the Australian landscape is mentioned, rather than felt, and the ambitious integration of the Torres Islanders confuses. Cherry blossoms in Japan, where our journey begins, are picturesque as they herald the promise of Spring, and musicians express their sense of harmony. It seems apt that the final shots of the four violinists from the four corners of the world are edited together effortlessly, as their bows describe Vivaldi's musical phrases with ethereal beauty.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
An elegantly simple idea is developed into something charming and surprisingly engaging - and cinematic. Taking Vivaldi's fabulously famous Four Seasons as the magic carpet, the filmmakers introduce us to each of four solo violinists in turn, as we travel the world, following the seasons. It's spring in Tokyo, and as the cherry blossoms bloom, Tokyo goes out to welcome spring. A snapshot of Sayaka Shoji introduces this gifted young violinist as she takes her masterclass through its paces. Her masterclass members are even younger than she is; average age might be 10.
The structure is the same for each of the four movements; with Greek Australian Niki Vasilakis, the film travels to Thursday Island for the concert. En route, we see part of the journey, meet some of the locals and hear Summer played with gusto.
Likewise Autumn in New York, the city becomes a player in the film, not only as backdrop but as the energy source for the musos we meet as they share a meal at their favourite local deli, Barney Greengrass, famous for smoked fish. The setting for each movement becomes an integral part of the various 'chapters' of the film, ending in Lapland, with bravura violinist Pekka Kuusisto. Here, in the magical white wonderland (beautifully shot by Pieter de Vries, as is the rest of the film), the local Fins talk about life inside the Arctic Circle - and host a concert in an atmospheric private home. This is the exotic end of the cycle, and the most entertaining.
The music is wonderful, the locations memorable, the violinists thrilling and the idea unique: well done.
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CAST: Documentary featuring violinists Sayaka Shoji, Niki Vasilakis, Cho-Liang Lin, Pekka Kuusisto
PRODUCER: Joanna Buggy, Tim Slade
DIRECTOR: Tim Slade
SCRIPT: Joanna Buggy, Tim Slade
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Pieter de Vries ACS
EDITOR: Lindi Harrison
MUSIC: Antonio Vivaldo
PRODUCTION DESIGN: n/a
RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Vast Productions
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 16, 2007- Cremorne Orpheum, Sydney; Nova, Melbourne; other venues to follow