June 29, 2018

Tomoko's Movie Life

When Tomoko was a teenager she went to the movies every week – for free – because of her father’s business connections. Tomoko continues to enjoy movies for several musical reasons.
Tomoko’s own history has impacted her movie watching. For instance, Tomoko was a child during World War II, which was a very hard time for her and her family. So she was very reluctant to see the 2002 movie “The Pianist,” even though her friends said the piano music was worth the watch. The final piece that the main character played was one of Tomoko’s favorite: Chopin’s Grande Polonaise brillante. That piece redeemed the movie experience, although Tomoko also thought that the movie plot itself was also moving.

The 1990 movie “Green Card” also hit home for Tomoko because it addressed issues of immigration, which Tomoko experienced coming to the U.S. from Japan.  However, Tomoko did not need a marriage to stay in America; her professional experience tipped the scales and speeded up her naturalization. However, the movie did feature the music of another favorite composer of Tomoko: Mozart. Mentioning a more contemporary composer for the film, Tomoko remarks: “Enya's scores for that movie captured the essence of a river, waterfall, and storms. Music can imitate the sound of nature."

Another time, Tomoko saw a movie about Chopin: “A Song to Remember.” Having read about Chopin, and visited the Chopin Museum in Warsaw, Tomoko saw several errors in the film biography. For instance, his home was shown near the ocean; “That wasn’t real,” she asserts. Next door to his place was a monastery, instead, because of his asthma, which was not mentioned in the film. But you can still enjoy the music.” On the other hand, Tomoko says, “When you see the countess in the movie, well-dressed and peaceful, she will remind you of Chopin’s etude 25 #1 melody.” As a side note, Tomoko played Chopin’s raindrop prelude on the museum’s piano.

“Movie makers can interpret a scene so eloquently with music. Take the movie Madame Sousatska with Shirley MacLaine.” Tomoko has a strong connection with this film because it centers on piano teaching and learning, and includes almost twenty classical selections. Tomoko names a couple of her favorites: the Spinning Song of Mendelssohn and Scriabian’s Etude in D sharp minor no. 12. “Rubinstein performed that etude in Russian,” Tomoko says. “Their choice of music for the specific scene is amazing, such as Beethoven’s last movement from his Sonata in C major when the piano student arrives. Schubert’s Fantasy in F minor is played during the funeral, and the movie ends with Chopin, which is most fitting.”

Movie music fascination has been handed down to Tomoko’s daughter Beata. She recalls: “I obsessed about the movie ‘Amadeus.’ It was my secret life.  I listened to Mozart every night under cover.”  As a teenager, Beata didn’t want to be known as liking classical music. However, as an ice dancer, Beata shines when she performs to classical pieces.

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