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9/17/2005
Film Review by Laurel Kenner: "Music from the Inside Out"

Director Daniel Anker spent three years filming the 105 members of the Philadelphia Orchestra to answer the question, “What Is Music?” A definitive answer would need more than a lifetime. Anker gives a brilliant, uplifting approximation by interweaving interviews with the musicians with footage of their performances, their practice sessions, the music they play outside the orchestra, their other pursuits.

He has good subjects. The Philadelphia musicians featured in "Music from the Inside Out" are full of intelligence, good nature and fun. Nobody is pompous or snobbish.  Some of the best scenes:

Synesthesia, a subject of discussion on this Web site in the past couple of days, is mentioned in passing; one of the musicians who paints on the side explains that she has always experienced music and feelings such as pain "in color."

The film omits interviewing the conductor, Charles Dutoit – on the surface, a strange decision, but a wise one, I think. Conductors are interviewed all the time -- not so orchestral players.

I can think of few films that have made such great use of the medium's possibilities. The sound, cinematography and editing were masterful. “Music From the Inside Out” doesn’t try to dumb down classical music for a supposedly dumb audience, as so many of the packaged classical recordings found in the record stores do nowadays.  It is 90 minutes long, and while there are many funny moments, much of it is pretty intense. It has gravitas. But it was so beautiful and uplifting that when the lights came on in the Greenwich Village theater last night, the audience had joy on their faces.

I’m a lapsed pianist who spent 20 years studying the instrument and earned a degree in performance from UCLA. I’ve always loved playing. But this is a great film for anybody who wants an idea of what all the fuss about music is.